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4 Steps to Restoring Your Old Leather Handbag decent leather handbag can cost us upwards of $100. At that price, it can be difficult to talk ourselves into investing in a new one, causing us to instead carry the same beat-up old bag everywhere we go. But, what if you could turn your old leather purse into a new one?

With the right tools and tactics, you can restore your old leather handbag to like-new condition – and possibly even give it a fresh look while you’re at it. While leather handbags are lauded for their durability, they fade, scuff, and stain just like any other material.

There are just a few tools you’ll need to bring your leather bag back to life:

  • Toothbrush
  • Lint-free cloth/towel
  • Leather cleaner
  • Leather conditioner
  • Leather dye
  • Hair dryer

Clean the purse

The first thing you’ll need to do is remove any dirt buildup from the surface of your purse. The most effective way to do this is to invest in a leather cleaning kit, which will come with all the necessary tools you need, including a water-based cleaner, soft cloth, and sponge.

If you don’t have these handy, some warm water, soap, and a lint-free microfiber cloth will do. You’ll want to immerse your bag in the tub of warm water and soap. NOTE: This might be a little painful to watch!

Use the toothbrush to really scrub between the seams, and get all the nooks and crannies. Once you feel like you’ve tackled all the dirt on the surface, you can dry the bag off with a towel. A little bit of the dye may come off in this process, but don’t panic.

Remove imperfections

Next, you will want to address any nicks, cuts, scrapes, and scuffs on the surface of your bag. Many nicks and scratches can simply be smoothed out. Just take a hair dryer and point it over the problem area. At the same time, work your fingers over the spot to melt any surrounding dye over it.

If this doesn’t work, using an oil-based leather conditioner may help. Simply rub it over the spot with your fingers, and it could work to smooth away the scratch. If you plan on dyeing the bag, you may want to save the conditioning process for afterward, as the dye may work to cover up the scuffs. If you are not dyeing and are only rehabilitating, this may be the end of your process.

Dye the leather

Now comes the moment you’ve been waiting for. This is an opportunity to change up the look of your bag, if that’s your aim. Keep in mind that changing the color of your leather bag can be limited, as you’ll likely only be able to settle for darker or similar hues. So, if you have a brown leather bag, you can probably swing for oxblood or black.

Purchase a leather dye kit, which should come with an applicator. If not, a small paintbrush will do. Paint along the edges and seams, and gradually work your way inward. Give this some time to dry.
Once the dye has had some time to absorb, take a makeup sponge and spread another thin layer of dye across the bag. Even coats are essential. It’ll likely take a couple of coats for the new color to really show, so be patient. Allow for drying time between coats.

Once your handbag is fully dry, you’re set!

Care and maintain

To extend the amount of time between restorations, the best thing you can do is keep your leather handbag in good shape. This means you should wipe it down with a lint-free cloth and warm, soapy water once a week. Wipe in the direction of the grain, and avoid harsh chemical products, as these will strip the surface of the dye and conditioner.

Also make sure to address ink or oil stains right away. Use rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or nail polish remover to tackle these as soon as they occur.

Finally, store your handbag properly. Keep it away from windows and bright sunlight, as this will cause fading. Keep it in a dust bag, in a cool, dry, dark place, such as a closet. The better care you invest into your leather handbag, the less you’ll have to undergo this restoration process, and the longer you’ll be able to enjoy it.