Answering Your Leather Bag Care Questions

Answering Your Leather Bag Care Questions

Good morning Urban Southern, it’s Gina here in the heart of Tennessee. It’s a lovely rainy Saturday morning here. It’s the perfect day to just simply stay inside, get on Netflix and brew some coffee or tea, whatever you like. This morning I’m going to answer your questions about how to take care of your leather bags.

We get a lot of questions about leather bag care.

What’s okay to do with a leather bag?
What’s the best way to take care of it?
What should I do and what shouldn’t I do with it?


Let me say this first, the best thing to do with a brand new leather bag is to use it. The more you use your leather bag, the softer and more beautiful it will get.

So don’t worry about hurting it, just go for it!


Answering your questions:


“Hey girls, my bag was really cold and stiff when I opened my box. Is this normal?”


Since we are in cooler winter months right now, it’s likely that your bag may feel unusually stiff when you get it. If you want to soften it up really quickly, just take it and massage it with your hands. Don’t worry about it, just go for it! Honestly — you will not hurt it. Rub and roll and squeeze it in your hands. It’s actually a lot of fun.

In the video at the end of this post, I compare the difference between a brand new Crossbody Wallet and the one that I’ve been using for over six months. You can see how the new bag looks stiffer while the leather on my used bag is much more relaxed.


“My bag has all these markings in it. Is that normal?”


Yes, this is normal. Your leather bag will have unique markings in it because we use only real full-grain leather. We just cut our designs straight from a leather hide. Sometimes there will be markings and we work around any markings that aren’t complimentary to the design. We love the natural markings that are on in leather.

We try to showcase beautiful markings when we can. You can be confident that you are getting an authentic leather bag. The markings you see come from what happened throughout of the life of the hide. As your leather bag accompanies you on your journey through life, it will absorb pieces of your story and become truly unique to you.

Enjoy the unique markings in your bag. Celebrate it. But if you really don’t love your markings, you can also contact us and we can try to work something out for you!


“I heard you should never use regular oil on your leather. Won’t regular oil turn rancid?”


Yes, sometimes a vegetable oil or a canola oil will turn rancid. That’s why we don’t use them or recommend them. What is safe to use is a regular olive oil. Olive oil does not turn rancid like other oils. Olive oil does darken the leather. So you want to use it super sparingly.

If I use olive oil, I put just put a tiny bit on my cloth at a time. Then I rub it in all over my bag so I don’t get a blotch of oil in one area.



“Do I ever have to be concerned about the leather conditioner getting on my clothes?”


Leather conditioner is oil based, so you will want to keep it away from your clothing as you are conditioning your bag. As for carrying your bag after conditioning, the oils penetrate into the leather fibers and there should be no residue left to rub off onto your clothing. Only use a small amount and you will be fine!

The conditioner we recommend using is Smith's Leather Butter, it won’t permanently darken leather or come off on your clothing.


“What happens when leather gets wet?”


When leather gets wet, it dries out the leather. So if your leather would get wet a lot and you would never condition it again, the leather would actually start to dry rot which would just make it really weak. It would break easily, that kind of thing.

It doesn’t actually hurt leather to get wet as long as you also keep it conditioned by using a leather conditioner or regular olive oil.

The Day Jenn’s Water Bottle Spilled Inside her Leather Bag

My friend Jenn was horrified one day to discover that her water bottle had burst open INSIDE her Urban Tote and water had been sitting in there for some time. She quickly dumped it out and let it air dry. After it was dry she rubbed it with a conditioner.

She told me that it’s as good as new, now, and not a bit worse for wear.

What about other spills on your bag?

If you actually spill something on your bag like, oh, I don’t know, let’s just say that your toddler squeezes a tube of baby food or toothpaste all over your bag. Just take a soft, damp cloth to clean it well. You don’t ever want to use soap besides a saddle soap on your leather because that will dry it out. After you allow your leather bag to air dry, use a soft dry cloth with a little bit of leather conditioner and condition it. It should be good as new!

I'll say it again. It's really simple — to keep your leather bag beautiful, use it... a LOT. Click To Tweet


“It was raining yesterday so I didn’t go anywhere with my new Urban Southern bag because I was so worried it would get wet. I stayed at home all day.”


My answer for your question comes from a story about rain and my own leather bag.

One evening we were at someone’s house. I had my phone in my Crossbody Wallet. I set it in the console of my car and left the windows down.

It was a lovely summer evening. We all went over to someone else’s house with our friends and while we were there, it started absolutely pouring. I was so worried about my phone inside my leather bag. I just knew it was getting soaked because of the downpour.

We were driving a Jeep which didn’t have a top on so we couldn’t just run back home right away. We had to wait for the rain to stop and it didn’t stop.

Finally, we got back to the car. I quickly ran to it and immediately saw that there was a lot of water everywhere in the front of the car. I found my soaking wet Crossbody Wallet.

Breathlessly I opened my bag, pulled my phone out, and it was completely dry!

The moral of this story.

Properly conditioned leather has a finish on it which repels water. It won’t soak up water unless you actually soak it in water.

Don’t worry about going out in the rain with your leather bag. Your leather bag will be just fine.

If it does get really wet, don’t dry it in front of a hair dryer, or an automatic hand dryer, or anything like that. Just let it dry naturally. After it’s dried completely, you can condition it with a conditioner or a bit of olive oil again.

What about dark spots on my leather from water or rain?

If you see dark spots in your leather from rain or a water spill, know that they will eventually disappear back into the leather so to speak. They are nothing to worry about!


“How often should I condition my leather bag?”


We only condition our bags a couple times a year or whenever we feel like the leather looks a bit lackluster. Conditioning your bag with regular olive oil or a leather conditioner will really hide the little scratches and marks that your bag gets as you carry it around every day.

Over time, scratches and natural wear on your bag will develop into a beautiful natural sheen called 'patina'. Click To Tweet

Those initial scratches can feel really scary though, I know. Don’t be afraid of the process of “breaking in” your leather bag. Trust me.

What leather conditioner do we recommend?

We use Smith's Leather Butter. You can buy it right here in our shop!


How to Condition Your Leather Bag

Step One: Apply conditioner in small amounts with a small cloth.

Rub a small amount of leather conditioner into your leather bag with a soft cloth. Use a soft cloth so you don’t scratch your leather. Put a small amount of the conditioner on your cloth. Rub in gentle, small movements all over the surface of your leather.

Step two: Condition the entire surface of your bag.

You can just see how the conditioner shines your leather. You will always want to condition the whole bag all at once so that it looks consistent throughout the whole piece. It really is just that simple!

More questions?

If you have a question, go ahead and leave it in a comment below. Meg and I will go through and answer every single one of them!


The post Answering Your Leather Bag Care Questions appeared first on Urban Southern.

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Hi. My leather bag is starting crack. Can putting leather oil now save it? Thanks.


Interesting read! I agree that markings in leather are normal as I was also worried before that there are also visible markings in the baldric belt that I bought. I was reading this article about baldric belts and I just discovered that they are made of leather or fabric so I was relaxed about it then. Would you also suggest using conditioner for my baldric belt or there’s no need since I would just place it for decor?

Grommet's Leathercraft

Will conditioning my leather backpack purse soften the very stiff leather?

Kriss r

A handbag carried during the day is usually larger than the one that you’ll be taking to dinner. No matter what the occasion, it is never appropriate to put one’s handbag on the table-it is considered extremely rude no matter how expensive or beautiful it is. We often place our handbag on the kitchen counter, a bench, and some even momentarily meet the floor so for hygiene reasons alone, it is not acceptable.


I have a leather messenger bag that leeches oil. I took my bag to a shoe repair shop and was told that it was not cured properly. How do I fix this?

Mamie Cheew

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