One of my most popular posts on my blog has been my post on removing a water stain from a leather bag. I recently bought a beautiful leather Madewell bag, and it made me think about writing a post on how to care for the bag before an accident happens!
When I first received my bag, I loved the color of the pale pink leather but I was concerned about the potential of how dirty it could get. I couldn’t remember Madewell’s stance on using leather protectants, so I reached out to them to confirm. Their response was that they encourage guarding against stains by suing a leather protectant and to visit a leather specialist or cobbler once a year to clean away buildup.
I use a product called mink oil for most of my leather goods– it works really good for boots that get exposed to salt and snow in the winter. I ALWAYS test a little section of the bag before wiping product all over it in case it causes discoloration or staining. My bag has a leather pocket on the inside that I tested before using any product on the outside.
The mink oil is basically a wax that covers the surface of the leather to protect it from wear and to prevent liquids from being absorbed into the leather (causing a stain). One of the best ways to keep your bag looking nice is to prevent stains in the first place. As I outlined in my post about removing a water stain, the protectant does also trap water inside of the leather if it gets under the surface. If your bag gets saturated with water, its best to use a leather cleaner to remove the mink oil, and then let the bag air out and dry before re-applying.
If your bag is stained by something other than water, such as grease or pen, I would highly recommend taking to a cobbler to talk to them about how to try to clean it, instead of trying to fix it yourself. Leather is cow skin, so cleaning it is very different from cleaning other fabrics and you could turn a pen mark into a giant stain if you aren’t careful!
For regular maintenance, I re-apply mink oil every 6 months or if I notice the leather looking dry in certain spots like the bottom corners. I also try to be careful to not put my bag in harm’s way by not setting it on the floor and always double check surfaces before setting it down. At the end of the day, it’s a natural material and will wear down and break in over time, but that is also the beauty of the material.