How to Care for Your Leather Bag
Beautiful leather bags, the end product of painstaking, ritualized craftsmanship, deserve to be treated with care. Here's how to protect your investment piece in five easy steps
A leather bag is a unique, beloved possession, appreciated by bon-vivants of both sexes, who cherish the supple hand, understated burnish and heady aroma that can only emanate from the premium quality skin.
Remember, however, that your favorite Quarzovivo or Pelletteria Veneta aren't wrought from metal or ceramic. They are organic artifacts, and as lustrous as your new purchases are, they may, when left to their own devices, become desiccated and dull. That is why maintenance of your leather bags and other small accouterments is so crucial if you want to enjoy them for as long as possible. Here’s how beginning with a glossary of terms you should know if you're going to take proper care of your specific leather carrier.
Know Your Skins
- Most leather bags are vegetable-tanned with tannin. Downside: vegetable-tanned leather bags discolor and shrivel when drenched in water.
- Chrome-tanned skins are more water-resistant and are referred to in trade-speak as "wet blue" for their steel-gray tinge.
- Full-grain is premium-grade hide that has not been buffed, to showcase the skin’s natural “grain” or texture.
- Top-grain: less dear on your wallet, this is thinner and has had its natural grain “corrected’ by sanding away scars.
- Coveted exotics from the non-cattle skin and patent leather, with its high gloss achieved by oils and resin, are just two other examples of the different finishes and leather types available on the market today.
Items made from crocodile skin are particularly susceptible to water damage, and should ideally be maintained by brand specialists.
All alligator skins come from the American Alligator, classified by CITES as a non-endangered species. The difference between alligator and crocodile is subtle, but when examined carefully, alligator scales are free from the pits present in genuine crocodile.
The untreated leather referred to as vachetta develop an even "tan" or patina. Vachetta can also stain very easily. Oil stain might be permanent. However, don’t risk experimental solutions. Contact Selleria Veneta; We can provide you with a professional service.
The leather is animal hide, usually sourced from cattle, that has been tanned to make it flexible and durable. The color in leather, such as that of these document holders, typically involves an aniline-dye, which saturates the skin in pigment while retaining its beautiful natural grain.
The exception to the full-grain rule: the so-called Saffiano leather, produced using Prada's proprietary method of embossing corrected-grained skin to achieve its distinctive diagonal pattern.
Nubuck is top-grain hide sanded on the grain or hair side to achieve a "nap," short fibers that yield a soft, velvety texture. Scratches are evident, and care involves regular brushing of the nap to remove dirt.
Suede is often confused with nubuck but is made from the underside of the hide, resulting in a long nap. Easily stained and matted, treatment options for suede are much the same as for nubuck.
How to Clean
- The general principle is simple: remove dirt build-up by wiping down with a cleaner made specially for the leather in question.
- Meltonian leather cleaning has a broad line of different leather care products: http://www.meltonian.com/
- Remember the hardware. Some bags have precious metal-plated buckles or chains. Always ask the boutique assistant for care recommendations.
- Every few days, give your bag a quick sweep with a soft dry cloth—this won't take more than a few minutes but will go miles towards preserving the appearance of your leather.
- At the “end of the season” when you will store your product, make sure to clean it and moisturized. Every handbag should have a dust bag to protect the bag until next season.
How to Condition
- Think of conditioning as a moisturizer for your leather, which will dry out over time. To prevent flaking and wrinkling, dab a dollop of conditioner on a soft cloth and rub gently all over the bag.
- Try mink oil, neatsfoot oil or the suggested Meltonian cream, which simulate and supplement the natural oils of leather. Leave on for 10 minutes, then wipe off the excess. Dry thoroughly in an airy room.
- Condition every month or so to keep your leather looking its shiny best.
Note: When applying a conditioning treatment for your veg tanned leather products, take note that the leather would slightly darken in color after application. Fun fact: repeating the conditioning treatment a few more times can result in a darker shade of the leather, which most users find more beautiful to look at. Popular leather conditioning treatment formulations available today include
How to Weatherproof
- The leather is permeable and can never be entirely waterproof, so avoid toting your favorite leather bag in bad weather. Nonetheless, there are beeswax creams which function as a barrier against water. - Word of caution: beeswax may alter the hue of dyed leather, so test first on an inconspicuous corner.
- A more breathable but less effective alternative is a spray protectant, which is virtually invisible on your bags.
I used Meltonian weather proofer for suede or fine leather products. If you are uncomfortable weatherproofing your bag, Selleria Veneta can offer this service done professionally through a leather technician.
How to Store
- Stash your bag in its original dustbag and fill it with stuffing—use butter paper, never newspaper, which will smear— to maintain its shape.
- Keep the dust bagged product in its original box, along with packets of silica gel, so your bag doesn't get damp.
- Air once every two weeks to halt the growth of mold.
- Rotation is key. Everyday use of your bag will wear it out, so switch things up every month.
Some Final Tips
- Let water spills dry naturally. High-heat measures like using a hairdryer will only cause the skin to wrinkle beyond salvage.
- Prevent color transfer by consciously resisting the urge to rest your bag on your jeans. Bring it back to the boutique immediately if your bag gets stained.