When you choose to purchase a leather bag or briefcase from Carl Friedrik, we want you to be as pleased with your new briefcase or laptop case in five years as you are today. Therefore, we have created this guide on how to take care of leather bags.
Leather is a natural fibre in that it is not man-made. As it is an organic material, it needs occasional care and conditioning to keep it looking its best throughout the years. This guide applies to most leather types. And for leathers needing specific attention, we have a whole section too.
How to treat a leather bag
Depending on the bag and the leather that has been used to create it, there are certain things to think about when you’ve bought your bag.
Most bags require some infrequent care such as occasional conditioning but other more sensitive leathers do need attention before you go on to use them.
For most leather bags, applying a leather cream or wax is a good idea, as it adds a layer of protection to the bag’s finish, repelling superficial scratches and scuffs.
Choose a cream containing natural waxes: they give a rich look and act as a barrier against dirt and moisture.
Some finishes such as suede and nubuck require immediate waterproofing before you debut your new purchase in public and a waterproofing spray is the most effective tool against moisture. The spray needs time to bond to the leather before it goes out into the elements, so give it plenty of time to dry and a quick once-over before you head outdoors. For sensitive or natural leathers, such as Carl Friedrik’s Vachetta leather, use an organic waterproofing spray.
If your bag is lighter in colour, such as our Cognac and Fango shades, treatment is recommended for greater protection against water and dyes.
Caring for a leather bag is quite similar to caring for your own skin as both benefit greatly from a good moisturiser, especially as we age. After you've worn your bag for a month or so, it's going to lose some of its original lustre.
A good rule of thumb when caring for any of your leather goods; reapply leather cream or oil every few months, or as needed.
A high-quality cream like Carl Friedrik’s Leather Cream was formulated specifically for vegetable-tanned leathers like the Vachetta leather that we use to make our products. And don’t forget about the hardware. Polish it with a soft cloth when you condition it. Do it often and you won't need a chemical polish.
What can happen to leather?
Even if you care for your leather regularly, this doesn't prevent it from encountering everyday issues such as scratches, water damage or stains. There are, however, some preventative measures that you can take, above and beyond regular cleaning and weatherproofing.
Dealing with scratches
Unfortunately scratches are inevitable when you take your briefcase or bag out with you but don't despair, if and when you come across a small scuff. We have a full article on removing scratches which will give you more detailed information.
But here are some quick tips for dealing with scratches;
- Clean the leather
- Smooth it out with conditioner
- Repeat, if necessary
Dealing with stains
Stains all have different chemical compositions, which is why they require different treatment methods. Regular conditioning provides a great buffer against deep penetration of a dye or oil. If these home remedies do not work, take your bag to a leather care specialist for professional treatment.
Hand cream on the handles of your briefcase can often be the culprit but city life in general does mean that a random splotch may besmirch your bag one day. Experts recommend blotting the spot with cornstarch but sadly most of us won’t have that to hand. Leather conditioner will act as a preventative barrier for the grease.
Don't try to remove it yourself as it will often only make it worse. Take your bag to a leather repair shop and they may be able to remove it. Regular maintenance, such as monthly conditioning, will help to repel ink.
Light-coloured bags and denim are a recipe for leather disaster. Denim dye is similar to hair dye and it tends to rub off of jeans and jackets. Prevention is key here as conditioned leather repels the dyes in denim.
Sometimes you and your bag will get caught in a deluge and despite your best efforts, your bag will get soaked. Thankfully water spills tend to dry naturally without much assistance but if not, buff out any residual spots with conditioner.
Fortunately, we have a complete guide to wet leather rescue and rehabilitation. Be sure to check that out so you know what to do if and when the worst should happen.
As time passes full-grain leather, especially if vegetable-tanned, will develop a natural patina, whereas lower grades will not. This is not something that can, or should, be avoided, and rather is part of the natural ageing process making the bag more beautiful. When choosing what bag to buy, make sure to ask and consider what leather type it is, so that you get what you expect.
This makes your piece even more desirable and ensures that no two bags look or products look exactly the same. Proper leather care will keep your backpack, briefcase, or weekend bag looking great for years and assist in providing a lustrous patina as it ages.
Leather care different types of leather
There may only be two main tanning methods; vegetable tanning and chrome tanning, but there are many different finishes and types of leathers.
Although most tips in this guide are general, find here specific care tips for different kinds of leathers.
Vegetable tanned leather
Vegetable tanned leather is a less common and more premium method of tanning and it is what we use to produce all of our products. With proper care vegetable tanned leather can last for decades.
Every few months we recommend rubbing a leather cream into the leather to restore its lustre. Keeping the bag clean and out of direct sunlight is also beneficial.
The whole point of patent leather is that high-gloss shine. Keep yours as shiny as a mirror by wiping it down with ordinary window cleaner or patent leather cleaner. Remember to spray the cleaner onto a quilted cotton pad or ball and not directly onto the patent leather.
Vegan leather, also known as faux leather, is a plastic based material and as such, requires very little care. It is waterproof and can be cleaned simply by using a damp cloth or some mild cleaning detergent. There is no need to use conditioning products as they are designed to condition natural fibres. You can however use a polish to give it a richer look and shine.
Suede and nubuck
Suede and nubuck feel quite similar, but are opposite sides of the hide. Nubuck is a top-grain hide that has been sanded on the grain side to achieve a soft, velvety texture. Regular brushing of the nubuck nap is necessary to keep it clean.
Suede, on the other hand, is made from the underside of the hide, which yields a longer and softer nap. It mats and stains easily, so brushing regularly keeps it looking tip-top.
If either suede or nubuck gets a stain, you should take your bag to an expert for repair. A suede cleaner and a stiff brush might help lift the stain off, but don't overwork it or the stain will magically seem to spread.
General leather bag care tips and tricks
Store the bags that you don't use every day in their dust covers, preferably in a closet or at the very least away from direct sunlight. To keep the bag's shape or to gain it back after using it, fill it with something like bubble wrap or paper. Make sure not to use newspaper as the print on it can rub off onto the inside.
A good tip is to condition, fill and store your briefcase when you go on holiday. Just give it some treatment with a leather cream before inserting it into its dust cover until you return to the office.
Tips for women
Keep your cosmetics in a bag, so that when the lid off your lipstick falls off or blusher spills out, your bag's interior is protected. It's actually a smart idea to put all of your liquids into small cosmetic bags as leaky shampoo, etc. is hard to remove.
Tips for men
All your personal effects such as pens, deodorant and cologne should be stowed away in a separate wash bag. Even the most secure pen top will eventually wiggle off, dribbling a trail of blue or black ink spots.
Along with our tips and tricks, all you should ever need to take care of your fine leather briefcases, bags and accessories is a good leather cream and waterproofing spray combined with your warmth care for the bag.