There are plenty of reasons to love a full-grain leather bag. Its high quality, durability, and buttery-softness, which make it such a pleasure to carry every day. Or it’s unique markings and the way it develops a natural patina, telling the story of where its unique journey.
But, while a full-grain leather bag tends to become more beautiful with age and use, it still needs a little bit of help to stay its most gorgeous self. That’s why we created this simple guide to showing your leather the love it needs to look its best.
We want you to love your leather bag for a lifetime. Follow these 3 easy-peasy steps and we promise your bag will only get prettier the longer you carry it.
What You’ll Need
- Leather cleaner and conditioner (we recommend our Leather Care Kit which is formulated from all-natural, plant-based ingredients and made in the USA)
- 2-3 soft cloths
- Old clothes (oil-based products are great for leather but not so great for your clothes, so you’ll want to be careful about accidental stains!)
Step 1 – Make It a Routine
We recommend cleaning and conditioning your leather about once every 4-6 months. We like to kick off the year with a good leather care sesh because it makes it easy to remember when our bags are due for the next one. If we always clean our leather bags at the start of the year then we know they’ll need a checkup about halfway through the summer.
If you live somewhere with a lot of dry heat or you’re just generally hard on your leather, you may want to bump your routine up to 3 times a year. It doesn’t have to be exact, as long as it’s somewhat consistent. And while this strategy works well for us you may prefer another tracking method, like marking it in your planner or setting a reminder on your phone. Whatever works for you!
Step 2 – Cleaning Your Leather Bag
Whether you’re giving your bag a complete once over to remove several months worth of dirt or just spot-cleaning after an accidental spill, the process stays the same. Dampen a soft cloth with our all natural leather cleaner and rub in gentle circles wherever it’s needed. Then let the leather air dry naturally (this usually takes between 8-24 hours).
Water and traditional soap will dry out your leather so you should always use a leather specific cleaner from a brand you trust. We also recommend testing any new products on a hidden spot before applying them to more visible sections of your bag.
Attempting to speed up the drying process with heaters or blow dryers is damaging to your leather and can cause it to become overly dry. The slower process of air drying protects the leather’s collagen structures, keeping it healthy and strong. So do your best to be patient!
And while we strongly advise against intentionally drenching your bag, don’t fret if it accidentally gets soaked. If you get caught in a sudden downpour or your water bottle leaks in your bag just let it dry naturally (spot clean first if it’s wet from something other than water) and then follow Step 3.
Step 3 – Conditioning Your Leather Bag
Using a soft cloth (or your hands, if you prefer), apply very small amounts of leather conditioner evenly over your entire bag. Rub in gentle circles, working the butter into the leather in a thin, even layer. Allow to set for at least 2 hours and then buff with a clean, soft cloth.
Remember that with conditioner, less is more! You can always repeat step #3 if your bag feels extra dry or brittle but that doesn’t mean you should slather your bag with butter right off the bat! Allow your bag to set and give it a good buff in between each light, even, coat of conditioner.
Leather can only absorb a certain amount of moisture at a time. If you flood it with more than it can handle, the excess moisture can and will cause problems. Just like with air drying your bag after cleaning it, the trick is to be patient.
For conditioning we recommend using our Leather Butter but you may also apply regular olive oil very sparingly as an alternative leather conditioner. Never use other cooking oils, like vegetable or canola oil, as they can turn rancid over time. If you’re using our Leather Butter, or another brand of leather conditioner, keep in mind that it’s oil-based and could stain your clothes!
A Couple More Tips for Loving Your Leather
By making regular cleaning and conditioning a part of your leather bag’s normal routine, you’ll guarantee it can stand up to whatever you throw at it. We just have a few more quick tips for keeping it in tip-top shape:
First, the best thing you can do for your leather bag is use it. Full-grain leather truly gets better the more you wear it, becoming softer and more supple and developing a natural sheen. So don’t be afraid to put your bag to work!
Secondly, if for some reason you do decide to put your leather bag away for a little while, make sure you store it properly! That means protecting it with a dust bag (made of cloth, since plastic won’t allow air to circulate), choosing a dry location away from direct sunlight or extreme heat or cold, and continuing to condition it regularly.
A little bit of love a couple times a year is all it takes to keep your full-grain leather bag looking its best. Follow our simple routine and easily love your bag for a lifetime!
What did you think of our easy, step-by-step leather care guide? Do you have a leather care routine or tips of your own? Tell us about it in the comments!