How to clean your leather handbag at home

How to clean your leather handbag at home

At Tilley & Grace, all our handbags are 100% Italian leather, meaning you can expect the highest quality accessories when you shop with us. However, we've all had that moment when the inevitable happens, you spill something on your bag, are caught in the rain, or your makeup bag explodes in your handbag, so you're forced to tackle the tricky task of cleaning a leather handbag. 

In this guide, we'll take you through all the tips and tricks of how to clean your leather handbag and how to protect it from future wear, tear and accidental damage so your Tilley & Grace handbag will look as good as new for as long as possible.

Table of contents

  • Tools you will need
  • How to clean the inside of a handbag
  • The difference between leathers
  • How to clean different stains
  • How to remove odours
  • Preventative care

Tools you will need

  • Lint roller
  • Vacuum
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Cotton swabs
  • Leather soap
  • Two cleaning cloths, one for dry and one for damp
  • Leather conditioner
  • White magic eraser sponge

How to clean the inside of a handbag

  1. If you need to clean the inside of your handbag, remove all your bag contents from the main compartment and all the side pockets. 
  2. Next, turn the lining inside out and tip all the dirt and debris into the bin. 
  3. Then, take your lint roller or vacuum with the fabric attachment to clean any dirt remaining inside.

If there is a stain on the lining, such as a makeup or pen leak, wipe the lining with a damp cloth. Depending on how severe the stain is, you may need to wash the lining with a foaming cleanser. Leave the lining to dry for several hours before putting it back inside.

How to clean different leathers

The difference between leathers

All leather is not equal. Before you clean your handbag, find out what material it is so you don't damage it while trying to clean it.

Untreated leather

Untreated leather is soft, supple and vulnerable to the elements. The open pores can soak up liquids easier, so there is more chance of permanent staining. Avoid using abrasive cleansers as this can damage this leather also. 

Treated or finished leather

Treated or finished leather is usually coated, providing a protective layer over natural leather. These are more scuff and stain resistant but still require care if dirty.


Oil and water can badly stain suede, so you should be extra careful with suede leather handbags. If your suede bag has a bit of dirt, let it dry and brush it off with a soft-bristled brush. Remember to brush in the same direction as the fibres first to loosen the dirt particles and then brush with a back-and-forth motion. You can also use a damp cloth to expel dirt. 

You can also use steam to loosen dirt and the soft-bristled brush to buff. Or, you can use a white magic eraser sponge, which you can find in the cleaning section of any supermarket. 

For stubborn stains, you can use vinegar or rubbing alcohol on a cloth, as these don't stain, and buff with the soft-bristled brush. You can opt for a dedicated suede cleaning solution if it is still persistent.

How to clean different stains of a leather handbag

How to clean different stains

Oil and grease stains

Leather can easily absorb day-to-day oil and grease from sweat, hand cream or food. However, you can remedy this at home with cornstarch or cornflour. First, apply the cornstarch to the affected area and leave it overnight to absorb the grease. In the morning, brush off the cornstarch with a soft-bristled brush. 

Denim stains

Dye from denim or new jeans can, unfortunately, transfer onto light-coloured leather bags. The best thing to do is use leather cleaner on a white cloth. Don't massage the leather. Instead, dab to avoid the dye bleeding and then buff with a dry cloth.

Ink stains

Treat ink stains straight away using ink remover products. Or, you can use rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to blot it out, be gentle to avoid the ink spreading. Then dab dry with a dry cloth. Ink stains are some of the most challenging marks to get out, so if the ink stain is longstanding, consult a professional.

Mud marks

For mud marks, wipe them off immediately. Or, if you have a suede handbag, wait for the mud to dry and then use a soft-bristled brush to loosen the dirt.

Wine stains

For wine stains, use equal parts cream of tartar sauce and lemon juice to make a paste. Lather on and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then, wipe off the paste with a damp cloth and dry it using a clean cloth.

Blood stains

You can expel blood stains using mild unscented soap and warm distilled water. Then, dry your leather handbag with a dry cloth.

Water stains

If you spill water on your leather handbag, blot as soon as possible with a dry cloth or tissue to remove the excess water. If the water stain is already entrenched, use a damp cloth with warm water. Blot from the outside and work inwards to avoid the water stain spreading. Then blot dry with a dry cloth. Leave to dry in a warm room and don't expose to direct heat. 

Wax or gum 

If you get wax or chewing gum on your bag, place your handbag in the freezer for a few hours, which will harden them so you can more easily peel them off.

How to remove odours

Lingering bacteria causes odours inside or outside your handbag. If your bag smells on the inside, clean the lining. If this doesn't work, place a pot of baking soda in your bag and leave it overnight. The baking soda will absorb any moisture or bacteria causing the unpleasant odours. 

Sometimes the odour might originate from a patch created by sweat and grease if you've taken the bag on holiday, such as the handles. You can use the cornstarch method to absorb the dark oil stain. 

Preventative care

The best way to protect your leather bag from dirt and damage is to practise preventative measures. Protecting your handbag will reduce your need for cleaning and make it last longer. 


If you use protection cream, conditioner or spray when you first get your handbag, you can avoid a lot of daily scuffs and stains. Apply protective cream regularly to ensure the protective barrier remains. Use a dry cloth to buff in the cream or moisturising conditioner to keep your handbag shiny and supple. 


Storing your bag correctly when you're not using it will help keep it clean. All our Tilley & Grace handbags come with dustbags, so you can keep them dust-free when you're not using them. Use an old pillowcase if your other handbags don't have dustbags. 

Never store your leather handbags in plastic bags, as these can trap moisture, causing mould and mildew, damaging your bags. A plastic bag can also stick to the leather and leave unpleasant marks.

Regular cleaning

Regular cleaning prevents the build-up of dust and dirt. If you use a particular handbag more often, you should clean this every two to three months. But for weekend bags you use less regularly, you should clean them every six to nine months.

Tips and tricks on how to clean a leather handbag at home

Tips, tricks and things to avoid

Here are our top tips and tricks when it comes to cleaning your handbag and also the things to avoid.

  • Always do a test. If you're ever trying any new cleaning product or homemade remedy on your handbag, always test it first on an inconspicuous part of the bag to know it won't damage your bag permanently.
  • Never handle your handbag after applying hand lotion, as this can create dark stains on the leather.
  • Never use abrasive substances to clean your handbag, like baby wipes, ammonia or bleach.
  • Use water to clean sparingly. Only use a damp cloth and never submerge a leather handbag.
  • Never dry your bag with direct heat, like a radiator or a hair dryer, as this can cause the leather to dry out. It can also leave water marks.
  • Never leave a leather handbag in the sun, as this can discolour it. 
  • If the stain is too challenging, we recommend consulting a professional dry cleaner or leather cleaning specialist.
  • Speed is key. Act as fast as possible if your bag gets a stain before it absorbs into the leather.
  • Always keep your makeup in a separate zipped bag and your pen in a pencil case to avoid any ink or makeup explosions. 
  • Keep your metal hardware looking fresh with metal polish. 
  • You should never machine wash, tumble dry or iron a leather handbag. 

Find the perfect women's leather handbag at Tilley & Grace

There you have it! The complete guide on how to clean your leather handbag effortlessly at home. Don't have a Tilley & Grace handbag in your wardrobe? What are you waiting for? Explore our luxurious range of leather handbags in our online collection today. From totes and backpacks to cross-body and shoulder bags, we have every kind of bag a woman needs in a diverse range of bright and stylish colours to brighten up your day-to-day wardrobe.

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