Step 1: Remove Contents of Bag. For an overall or internal cleaning of your leather bag, it’s best to removal all contents from the start. Time to dig out those old receipts, gum wrappers, loose change, etc. If you are just doing a spot cleaning, you may not need to empty your bag.
Step 2: Cleaning. First, choose a leather cleaner that will help preserve natural oils instead of stripping them. The leather cleaner should not leave any residue, which can leave the leather susceptible to bacteria and break down the stitching. Before applying the leather cleaner, test on a small area that is not visible. Once you’ve confirmed the leather cleaner is acceptable to use, go ahead and apply it to your bag, and then remove with a slightly dampened cloth. Another leather cleaning product to consider is a nubuck cleaning cloth, which can help clean and restore leather to its original look.
Step 3: Conditioning. Leather conditioners are meant for occasional use. They contain fats and oils that help lubricate leather and replenish the suppleness. Look for a product that will penetrate the strong fibers in leather, but beware of any that include petroleum or mineral oils. While petroleum by-products won’t damage leather immediately, they can over a period of time. Again, just as with cleaning, avoid thick and greasy conditioning treatments.
Step 4: Protection. Moisture barriers are vital in preventing rain or other liquids from damaging your leather bag. Stiffness and sprouting will happen if leather isn’t protected beforehand. There is a drawback in protecting leather with a moisture barrier product. They tend to fill in the pores with a greasiness that makes cleaning, conditioning, and polishing difficult, but it’s a necessary process if you want to ensure leather is not destroyed. Periodically apply a moisture barrier and allow it time to penetrate and dry before using your leather bag or accessory.