How Care for Your Leather Tote Bag

nc efi placeholder

You’ve invested in a beautiful leather tote bag and your life is forever changed. We totally get it we feel the same way! When we got our first original leather tote bag we were over the moon excited. Your Instagram photos pop, you feel more put together, you may even have a skip in your step, because everything seems more organized now that you have your tote bag. But maybe you are wondering what’s next? How do you actually care for the new tote bag? Believe it or not, it’s actually a lot easier to care for genuine leather than you may realize.

The daily wear and tear on leather tote bags can leave them dirty, especially if you carry your handbag around all day, every day. A fine leather handbag, one made with full grain, is an investment, so you’ll want to take good care of it.

Cleaning your leather tote bag isn’t a chore but actually a fun way to care for your investment, as it makes the bag last longer in return. By cleaning your bag, you can retain the timeless, classic look.

Good-quality leather bags will keep their shape for years if you properly care for them. By taking care of your leather tote bag, you will prevent it from drying out and cracking, plus it protects it from excessive moisture that can cause the skin to swell or even mildew.

This easy step-by-step process guide will provide you with tips to ensure your leather tote bag will last for a long time.


You will need:

  • Leather cleaner
  • Leather conditioner
  • Bubble wrap
  • Dust bag or pillowcase
  • Tissue paper
  • Soft cotton cloth
  • Suede brush
  • White chalk powder

Step 1: Wash your hands before handling leather bag.

Don’t forget that is susceptible to absorbing grease and oils. This means from everything, including your hands, wash them with soap and water before beginning this process. First, wipe the surface of a leather tote with a damp white cotton cloth, no need to use too much water, because the leather will take time to dry. Never allow water to soak into your bag. Also, if the bag gets wet, do not use a hair dryer on it, this could condense the leather and cause cracking.  Instead, absorb as much water as possible with a thick microfiber hand towel and allow the bag to air dry. Then, condition it again and store it or use it.

Step 2: Apply a specially made for leather cleaner.

There are many leather cleaners available on the market. Get one that is specially made for leather. When picking out your cleaning solution know that waxes or silicone products clog up leather pores and may render them unable to be cleaned in the future. Avoid cleaning products with alcohol, turpentine or other mineral spirits as they will discolor and dry out leather.

Look for one that is suitable such as a “soft soap.” Apply it to the leather bag using the cloth with a circular motion and wipe off the cleaner with a slightly damp cloth. This ensures you don’t clog the leather pores of the fabric. You only need to apply this soap one or two times a year for a clean and handbag.

Step 3: Remove stains as soon as you notice them.

Leather naturally ages well, especially when it is full grain leather like the folks at Portland Leather Goods uses.  Organic stains from food can often be removed with chalk powder. Take the chalk powder and crush the white chalk, dab it on the stain on the leather tote, you can even let it sit on the stain overnight for maxim benefit. In the morning dust it off with a clean cloth. Think about using a leather-specific protective spray for brushed or finished leather if you use your bag frequently. Test this product first in an inconspicuous area to see if the finish darkens.

Step 4: Restore and hold its shape with Bubble Wrap.

To retain the natural shape of your leather tote you can use many things, but we prefer bubble wrap. If you’ve just cleaned the bag, allow it to air dry completely before storage. You can take the bubble wrap and stuff it inside of the bag. Store the bag for a few days or weeks to let it sit with its shape. If you’re storing long-term you can ease open the buckles and straps, so impressions are released. This helps to avoid rubbing or permanent creases in unwanted area.

Step 5: Clean Leather with a suede brush.

You can always wash your leather tote bag with a suede brush. Double check the manufacturer’s suggestions for other cleaning solutions. Sometimes, a clean pink eraser can remove small spots from leather totes as well.


We sat down with the team at Portland Leather Goods to get insider tips for cleaning and caring for your leather tote bag. Here is what they have to say.

Our U.S.-sourced oil tanned leather is incredibly easy to care for. With time and use, the natural oils in the leather will rise to the surface, developing a beautiful patina and smoothing any scuffs or scratches that may have accumulated.

Full grain leather is the strongest and most durable available. It is really leather and the unique texture and natural imperfections from the cow’s life have not been sanded, cut or shaved off. Full grain leather is SIX times stronger than buffed, upholstery, or ‘genuine leather’. Rather than wearing out, full grain leather will naturally condition with use, developing a much sought-after patina and unique character over time.

More common ‘genuine leather’ products available from large department stores have been stripped down and rebuilt with resins, waxes, and chemicals to make all 100,000-look identical. The best these mass-made products will ever look is the day you buy them! In contrast, a full grain Portland Leather Goods tote bag will be stunning when you use them for the first time, and only increase in beauty with every day, becoming something you will treasure for a lifetime.

Protecting Your Leather

  1. Your leather product is made from Full-Grain, Oil-Tanned American Cowhide. The leather has been oiled and conditioned imbuing it with natural water repelling properties. With use, your product will condition itself from the inside out, developing a beautiful patina and unique character over time.
  2. The tanning process has already treated your leather product and most scratches & scuffs accrued in the first few months of use will easily rub out or disappear with time. Seriously, it will amaze you! Its best DO NOT use conditioner for the first 6 months to a year.
  3. After many months (or years) of use, the natural oils in the leather will begin to dry. Now is the time to use a leather conditioner! Always test any conditioner on a small, inconspicuous part of your leather item. Please note that conditioning with oil or an oil-based product will darken the color of your leather, so proceed with caution.

This article brought to you by Portland Leather Goods. We make award-winning handmade leather products in Portland, Oregon, from the finest full-grain hides, creating personalized products to showcase your personal style.