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How to clean a leather handbag?

Material that is both robust, chic and particularly resistant, leather is certainly the most popular for making luxury handbags. Due to its quality and ease of maintenance, leather brings real added value to your fashion accessory. Moreover, unlike velvet and other materials used in leather goods, leather is often easier to clean. Even better, the smooth vegetable-tanned leather, like that of Valet de Pique bags, will even acquire a patina and become more beautiful over time.
Nevertheless, to ensure that your leather pieces retain all their shine and color over the years, discover our guide to properly maintaining vegetable-tanned full-grain leather.


When should you maintain and clean the leather of your handbag?

how to clean leather handbag? infographics

By opting for Valet de Pique's leather handbags, you can benefit from an accessory that is 100% made in France, entirely handmade. As the leather of your piece has been worked in the best conditions, it benefits from a certain number of qualities, especially in terms of cleaning. Although the models of luxury bags are made with good quality leather, it should be noted that most are not made in France, unlike our collection.

Everything you need to know about leather care

To begin with, know that leather is a "living" material and this is a characteristic that it owes to its vegetable tanning; an all natural treatment. This is also why the way the material ages will be particularly unpredictable.

Indeed, the nature of the signs of wear appearing on the leather will depend mainly on the user, his habits and his environment (climate of the region for example). Thus, if your handbag may need cleaning after only 6 months, the same model will spend several years with another user before requiring special maintenance.

The environment influences the condition of the leather

leather clean

On some excellent quality leathers, such as those offered by Valet de Pique, the material does not really need any specific attention since it acquires a nice patina over time and retains its lively hue. This is indeed what happens when the quality of the leather is combined with a favorable environment.

Be aware that by handling your handbag, your hands (and what is there) interact with the leather. As a result, contact can cause an accumulation of grease, dust or grime, while vegetable-tanned leather will tend to absorb everything. Added to this are other elements such as the ambient air full of cooking oil, the hair of your pet or the fabrics of your coat.
Anyway, all these elements come to feed and are often nourishing for the leather. Thus, the leather develops a patina, will darken (coppery appearance) and present a smooth surface. If so, you don't have to clean your handbag yet.

Signs of wear indicating the need for leather cleaning

When vegetable tanned leather is poorly stored or neglected, several signs of wear will begin to appear:
- Absence of the pull-up effect (reaction of the leather which becomes lighter when you fold it) due to the drying out of the leather;
- Tint of the leather lighter than when the handbag was new (general lightening and not a change in localized tint);

- Less uniform appearance of the leather: duller (with some stained or slightly whiter areas), less rough to the touch, irregular changes in texture and color;
- Signs of dryness: cracking, crumbling or beginning.
Important, if your leather handbag has been rarely used, it may be damaged by humidity. In this case, it is important to let the material dry before maintenance.


What steps to clean your leather bag?

practical guide to washing leather

Like genuine or natural leather, vegetable tanned full-grain leather is easy to maintain. In principle, you should clean stains and the entire surface with care products, then enrich it with a nourishing product. Indeed, the idea is not only to remove dirt or a stained area since maintenance is essential to prolong the life of your handbag.
In any case, the actions to be taken are quite simple for its cleaning:
- Remove dust and dirt with a towel or cloth moistened with water;
- Let the leather dry before applying a cleaning product with a soaked cotton ball;
- Polish the bag with a treatment that is both cleansing and nourishing;
- Repeat the operation twice a year at most, because a high frequency can make the leather more fragile and supple.

After the rain, run a damp cloth over your handbag to avoid leaving marks on the leather. When you dry this material, it must be kept away from any source of heat (radiator or sun) so that it loses its properties.


Some grandma's tips for cleaning leather

More often than not, leather care products can get quite expensive, but luckily there are a few simple recipes for polishing your leather bag:
- Use a Nivea cream to nourish the leather (and to waterproof and nourish the leather: Jack of Spades nourishing milk );
- Use a homemade stain remover made from egg white and lemon juice to clean a stained area;
- Apply a cloth moistened with oil-limestone liniment (vegetable oil-based preparation).
Stains are generally difficult to remove provided you use the right products:
- Blood stain: take a damp cotton ball soaked in white vinegar and dab it on the affected areas;
- Ink stain: apply a usual stain remover with a cotton swab (lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, black soap, etc.), pass a moistened cotton ball after each operation and let it dry naturally;
- Greasy stain: put talc on the stained area and let it act for several hours before wiping with a soft cloth or rubbing lightly with a soft brush.


Understand leather well in order to clean it

Leather is animal skin

The maintenance of the leather is essential to keep them as long as possible. If leather is a noble material that can last a lifetime, it is not without treating and maintaining it correctly.

This material is alive and as such, it must be taken care of and maintained so that it retains its suppleness and shine. But also so that it resists the friction and humidity to which it is exposed on a daily basis.


The different types of leather and tanning

The family of leather is so numerous that it requires care adapted to the nature of each one.

There are several do's and don'ts to take care of your leathers. Already, it is necessary to make the difference between 2 large families of leather:

  • The family of smooth leathers
  • The family of suede leathers (velvet, nubuck, suede)

 The two are not at all maintained in the same way since suede leathers have a velvet/peach effect which makes their properties very different from smooth leathers.

leather clean

Then there is the tanning. You may not know it, but it is one of the processes used to make the skin of the animal usable and to make it rot-proof. That is to say, it cannot rot.

There are 2 types of tanning:

  • Mineral tanning
  • Vegetable tanning (Jack of Spades only uses this type of tanning for several reasons: ecological reasons and aesthetic reasons. Leather with vegetable tanning will patina more quickly.)

Our 1st advice Internet is not the friend of your bag

Be very careful about what you hear on the internet about magic tricks that allow you to feed leather with milk, to name a few. To nourish your leathers, treat them and maintain them, always turn to professional products made for this purpose.

Some example not to follow to wash and maintain your leather bag!

  • wash it down with plenty of water
  • Treat the leather with paraffin (candle) to waterproof it (yes, some do that)
  • Leather cleaning with white clay stone
  • Clean leather with ammonia
  • Use a banana peel to make it shine (watch out for smells)

All these processes can be found on the Internet as tricks, grandmother's techniques. They are all to be avoided!

In the best case, they will be useless but in the worst, they will simply destroy your parts.


The right gestures and products to use on smooth vegetable-tanned leather

Leather care is a work of anticipation.

The more and better you maintain your leather, the more you protect it from becoming cracked or torn leather.

A first basic step is to regularly dust your leathers. To do this, take a slightly moistened microfiber cloth (avoid large amounts of water!) This can be impregnated with a mild soap-type product (eg: Marseille soap or product recommended by the brand). With light circular movements you will dust the surface of the leather. This operation can be done 2 to 3 times a month (the more often you do it, the less dust can accumulate). Once this step is done, the bag must be left to dry in the OPEN AIR (I insist on the open air, no heating device).

 For more in-depth maintenance, it depends on the parts in question. You can find protective nourishing products in specialized cobbler-type shops. For the application each product is different so we advise you to follow the user guide provided with the product.

It will be necessary to carry out this operation 3 times per year however it will be necessary to argue the frequency according to the state of the bag.

Each year it is advisable for vegetable tanned leather to apply a new layer of a waterproofing product.



At Valet de Pique we offer you a colorless nourishing milk that will give shine to all the brand's bags and accessories.

If you still have doubts after reading this article, the simplest solution would be to see a specialist or to follow the seller's recommendations to the letter and to use the product ranges sold with your bag.


How to clean the inside of the bag?

Most leather handbags will not feature a fabric lining. They will generally be:

  • Lining with leather. These types of bags are often produced by luxury houses. (Ex: Chanel, Dior, YSL bags.). For the maintenance of this category of bag, it is sufficient to maintain the interior in the same way as the exterior without applying the waterproofing layer;


  • No lining just the back of the leather. This is the case for bags from the Valet de Pique brand. To wash this part of the leather, simply remove the dust with a microfiber cloth as for the exterior. It is very little recommended to feed the inside of the bag because some milk compositions have the effect of irregularly staining your leather.


Once your bag has been washed, all you have to do is put all your things back inside. This step is also the right time to sort and finally throw away your receipts, candy wrappers, etc.

How to take care of a leather bag?

A leather bag can accompany you throughout your life. Indeed, if you want to keep your leather bag or any other leather goods creation for the long term, it is essential to maintain it with care. In fact, leather being a natural and living material, it must be the subject of careful attention and maintenance. Wondering how to maintain your leather bag? At Valet de piques, we offer you quality French artisanal products and we are keen to share some tips with you in order to best maintain your leather bag.

Carry out an applied cleaning of your bag

Despite its resistance, leather still needs to be cared for and a light cleaning can help your leather bag keep its shine. To do this, simply wipe the outer surface of your bag with a damp cloth or sponge. Be careful, the sponge or fabric should not be completely soaked, just damp enough to remove any dust residue. After drying, you can then come and apply a moisturizing milk on a clean cloth. This will have a nourishing effect on your leather and will restore its shine from the first day. In the same way as for cleaning, the fabric should not be completely soaked in moisturizing milk. The latter should of course not be too greasy.

If, however, it seems to you that there is excess grease on your Josephine leather handbag, for example, don't panic, it is quite possible to use a dry cloth or paper towel on the area in order to remove the fat. Wait a few minutes and repeat the operation until the leather looks healthy.

It is important to specify, however, that this cleaning should not be carried out too often, because an overabundance of grease could clog the pores of your bag and deteriorate the quality of its leather, whether it is a travel model like the Prosper travel bag or any other model. We recommend cleaning of this type two to three times a year.


The right reflex in the event of a stain

The nourishing step is not only beneficial for the appearance of your leather bag, but it also allows products that could stain your bag to "slide off". However, it is not effective every time and small accidents can occur. If this is the case, there are of course solutions to get rid of the dirt. For grease stains (mayonnaise, vinaigrette, oil, etc.) Sommières clay is ideal because it absorbs and neutralizes grease. However, it must be applied as quickly as possible to the mark. Indeed, it is always preferable to intervene as soon as possible in order to remove a stain whatever its origin.

For other types of stains, a small amount of soapy water can be a good remedy. It is also important to remember that the products should be used sparingly and carefully. In addition, waxes and greases should be avoided on your leather bag, as these products are too greasy and could "suffocate" the material.

Finally, for the most stubborn stains, white vinegar is a good option. All you have to do is moisten a clean cloth with white vinegar and gently rub the area to be cleaned. You can then pass a cloth dampened with water to rinse off the vinegar.

Little tips to preserve your leather bag

First of all, it is important to keep in mind that leather is a "living" material. Consequently, it can become deformed if it is not preserved optimally. Also, if you don't use it for a while, you can fill it with paper, for example, to keep its original shape. It is also better not to hang it if it is a backpack. Indeed, gravity can have a detrimental effect on the handle attachments and on the general appearance of your Alphonse leather backpack.

Then, it is also recommended to store your bag in a dry place in order to avoid the appearance of mold and away from daylight.

Finally, like all of your luggage, a little regular dusting of the inside of your bag is a reflex that can only be beneficial for the latter.

As we have mentioned, your leather bag can follow you for many years if it is well maintained. Maintenance is therefore essential, but also the preservation of your bag when not in use. In addition, thanks to the few tips we have presented, you can optimally extend the life of your leather bag.


For more advice, do not hesitate to contact us directly.

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