How to Clean a Leather Purse

Leather purses can be elegant and fashionable, but over time their beauty can be dulled by dirt and grime. Regular cleaning of your leather purse will not only help keep it looking new, but will also extend the life of the leather. By following a few simple steps, your leather purse will look great and last a long time.

Cleaning a Lightly Soiled Leather Purse

ALWAYS check the tags on your leather purse for manufacturer’s tips and suggestions with regard to cleaning. If the manufacturer’s advice contradicts anything contained in this article, ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

What You Will Need:

  • Soft cleaning cloth
  • Mild liquid facial or body soap (such as Dove or Neutrogena)
  • Distilled water*
  • Bowl or small bucket
  • Warm water
  • Sponge or soft rag
  • Dry towel
  • Water-based leather protector/conditioner (found in most leather clothing or furniture stores)

*It is best to use distilled water because tap water may contain chlorine and other contaminants which can damage the surface of the leather.

The Cleaning Process:


  1. Empty all contents from your purse.
  2. Open your purse wide, unzipping all interior pockets and turn it upside down, shaking vigorously to dislodge all loose dirt and debris.
  3. Wipe out the interior of the purse with a soft cleaning cloth (dry).
  4. Mix a few drops of liquid soap with about two cups of distilled water, mixing until suds form.
  5. Dip your sponge or soft rag into the soapy water and wring out thoroughly, so that it is barely wet.
  6. Wipe the leather surface of the purse with the damp rag.
  7. Dry thoroughly with the towel, buffing as you go to restore luster.
  8. Buff the surface with the forth clean rag to restore luster.
  9. Treat surface with leather protector/conditioner as per product instructions.

Removing Stains from a Leather Purse

Remember to ALWAYS test a small, inconspicuous area of the purse first before using any of these methods.

Ink stains: Dip a cotton swab in rubbing (Isopropyl) alcohol and rub over the ink stain. Dry with a blow dryer set on its lowest setting.

Dark stains: (i.e. food, blood, etc.): Make a paste of one part cream of tartar to one part lemon juice. Rub paste on the stain and leave it on for 10 minutes. Remove the paste with a damp rag and moisturizing soap, as described above for general cleaning. Buff the leather dry with a soft cloth or towel.

Grease stains: Simply wipe stain from the leather using a dry cloth. Do not apply water to the grease stain.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Avoid placing your leather purse in direct sunlight as this will dry the leather and cause it to fade and/or crack.
  • If you are using a sponge to clean your leather purse, opt for natural (non-colored) sponges. (the dye may rub off of colored sponges).
  • Do not expose your leather purse to excess moisture or water as this may damage the leather.
  • Avoid using any type of harsh cleaners or abrasive cleansers your leather purse as these will cause damage to the surface.
  • NEVER use any kind of oils (such as mink oil), polish, or any product containing waxes or silicone (including many car care products) on your leather purse as it may damage the leather and leave it feeling sticky.
  • Generally, it is not good to use saddle soap, alcohol, varnish, or ammonia-based cleaners (i.e. Windex) or bleach on leather as they may be too harsh, causing serious damage or discoloration.
  • Leather does occasionally need to be replenished and reconditioned. Although there are products on the market for this, you might try mixing 1 part distilled white vinegar with 2 parts linseed oil. Shake well and apply to leather in circular motion. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then buff with a soft cloth. A second buffing may be necessary.
  • NEVER use baby wipes or any other alkaline cleaner on your leather purse as it may damage the finish.
  • Remember, if you have any doubt as to the proper way to clean your leather purse, do not hesitate to bring it to a professional specializing in leather cleaning.



  1. Alex says:

    To condition your leather, you can also polish it with a light coat of Vaseline; works especially great for shining shoes.

  2. Olga says:

    I just tried removing a pen stain from a dark tan-colored leather bag. The rubbing alcohol really worked. Do not panic (like I did) at the “wet mark” left; it did go away when the leather dried!

  3. Kal says:

    Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is where it’s at! Just a little bit of water rubbed on to the stain with it and ta-da!

  4. Erica says:

    I have a big leather bag and my jerk cat urinated inside of it. The liner is what smells most, but the pee soaked a little onto the bottom of the leather part. How can I clean this without damaging the purse?

  5. Robin says:

    I got a grease stain on my purse, can I use the magic eraser go get it out? Or is there a better method than just rubbing it with a towel?

  6. L-Anne says:

    To Robin with a grease-stained purse. The Magic Eraser is better used as a LAST resort, only because it can be the cause of future leather problems. The best method of removing grease from leather (or cloth) is to completely cover the spot with corn starch, patting it into the stain as you apply. For best results, try to remove grease from leather as soon as possible; the older the stain, the longer the corn starch will have to remain on the spot for the grease to be absorbed. After a suitable amount of time on the grease stain (an hour, perhaps), remove the corn starch completely (but gently) by using a soft brush. More than one application of starch is usually necessary; repeat the above steps if the grease is not completely removed.

  7. Tabitha says:

    I used the tip above for ink spots on leather purses, and it totally smeared the color of my leather – the ink is gone but the area where the ink was is all smudged. It was a $350 Dooney and Bourke. UGH!

  8. Dasha says:

    I have a white leather purse, and with time, the leather has started to turn gray. There are no stains, just smudges from daily wear. I’d like to be able to see the clean white leather again!

  9. Karen says:

    I bought some cleaning solution on HSN from Joy Mongano years ago, it was derived from plant enzymes. I used it on a leather purse that had NAIL POLISH and INK stains on the leather. It removed all stains, including the dry nail polish, and did not ruin the leather at all. I don’t know if this product is still on the market, but if it is, pick it up. It works miracles on leather purses.

  10. Christine says:

    Hello, I just bought a $300 caramel colored purse… Tonight, when I came home from shopping all day, there were stains all down the backside. I have no idea what it is, some looks like blue denim that rubbed off and then there are other dropping stains, I’m not sure… What can I do to get rid of it? Will they come out?

  11. Upset says:

    DO NOT USE ALCOHOL. I foolishly did not read the comments before trying… and it absolutely ruined my D&B handbag.

  12. Lisa says:

    I got my winter purses down recently and found one (beautiful leather) in the back that had a stain on it. I vaguely remember something on the inside leaked? So I tried the tartar/lemon juice method. Worked great! Yeah! One purse back from the “guilt” pile. (At least I like this one!)

  13. Ebba says:

    Your best best is to throw the bag away. I have never found any product that will take the smell out. Maybe kitty needs to live on a farm.

  14. Betsy says:

    Before throwing away a good leather purse, I would try a pure enzyme cat pee odor eliminator. I prefer a product like Odormute, which is the least expensive, comes in unscented powder form, and really really works. You have to use this solution BEFORE using any sort of soap because the soap disables the enzyme. Anyhow, soak the lining and lightly wet the leather area you think got the pee smell. Allow it to dry naturally. Pee smell should be gone, and if it isn’t, try another application. I used this to remove cat pee smell and also, spilled sour milk smell, from my car carpeting. It really worked.

  15. Housemaid says:

    I have ruined many a bag because of lotion leakage or the top coming off a tube of lipstick. Just got my first pricey Fossil bag and am using a vinyl zippered cosmetic bag this time. Even a Ziploc bag is better than nothing.

  16. Martina says:

    How do I clean off white musk oil that spilled on a leather Coach wallet?

  17. Jeanette says:

    How can I remove the odor of my Girbaud bag without washing it? What can I do? Help me, please!

  18. Sue says:

    I treat all the leather handbags the same way I treated my English riding saddles when I was a kid. Mink oil is great for all leather, as well as fur. If you don’t condition leather with mink oil, or a synthetic conditioner for leather, you can kiss your 300 dollars goodbye in about 10+ years. They get what I call leather rot. Just like a fur stole, if you don’t take care of it, don’t plan on having it for long (for those of you with the IQ of a 13-year-old girl, a good, classic leather handbag never goes “out of style,” and neither does a classic fur).

  19. Linda T. says:

    I’m not sure about using this on leather products, but I had my cat urinate on my fabric car seat. I used both Borax and also Febreze. I thought I’d never sell the vehicle due to the odor, but after cleaning it several times, the odor was completely gone.

  20. L Vutton Purse HELP!!! says:

    I have a LV Bag; the straps are beige. I decided to go dancing with my favorite purse and my new black dress. I am a danceaholic. I was so sweaty, the black dress stained the straps on my purse. Please suggest what I can do? The straps are now black.

  21. Linda says:

    I am so thankful I read the suggestions about getting black grease off white leather. I never would have thought of just rubbing it with a cloth, but I used a clean microfiber cloth, and it took every bit of grease off my new, white leather purse. Thank you so much for your help. God bless ya!

  22. Sarah says:

    So, here’s my problem. The purse that I have came from a Plato’s closet. I didn’t think that it was real leather, but multiple people have complimented me on it and they all seem to think it’s real. Now that I’ve had it for awhile and it’s still in perfect shape after constant use, I’m thinking it’s real too. But my issue is that I had a mini deodorant stick in it and the cap came off the deodorant, which then broke up and got smashed all over in there. How do I clean that? I also managed to get a little bit of white paint on the outside of it when my apartment management decided to paint our hallway and not put up any signs about it. It’s nothing major, but might as well ask about that too while I’m at it. My main concern is the deodorant-filled inside though. Help? Thanks in advance! :)

  23. Melanie says:

    Here are two great dry methods for removing odors from things:
    Place the purse in front of a fan to air out over several hours.
    Another idea is to find a storage bin or container that is large enough to hold the purse and pour baking soda over the bottom of the container. Set a baking rack in the container, place the purse on the rack and seal the container. Allow the item to sit in the container overnight or for several days if needed. I would also suggest using a coffee stir or chopstick to prop the purse open while it is inside the container.

    Source: HowToCleanStuff – How To Clean Books
    Source: Book Think – How to Remove Odors from Books

  24. Kandy says:

    I have two previously owned Lucky brand leather handbags I bought online. I don’t know if Lucky has special instructions, but couldn’t find any online. One bag has some dirt streak marks, mostly in one area, on what I believe is lambskin. The other bag has dark staining and dirt. I tried to clean and restore the one with dirt marks using neutral shoe polish and a waterproof protectant (may have used mink oil or saddle soap). The color matched and looked even, but the dirt streaks were still there. How do I undo the damage (remove the wax/oil) and then remove the dirt underneath? The color is a lovely golden-caramel color. I don’t want to make another mistake. Thanks!

  25. Lloyd says:

    I have a Duluth pack backpack I left on the floor of my car during winter. The bottom third is stained from road salt and snow melting onto it. How do I clean it? The bag is a combination of heavy canvas and leather. I was thinking about rinsing it with water, but I’m afraid it will shrink the leather pouches. Ideas?

  26. Sheila says:

    My Kate Spade bag is half wicker and half leather. I stored it for 1 year in its dust bag. Now, half the leather is sticky and I have never used it. What to do??

  27. Dejonna says:

    I just got a tan leather purse about a week and a half ago, and it looks like my black dye is transferring from my clothes. I’m a hair dresser so that is all I can wear. I wore a red blazer this last weekend and that also has transferred onto the bag. How do I remove these colors off my bag??? And prevent this from happening?

  28. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Dye Transfer from Leather.

  29. Nancy says:

    I spilled most of a cup of coffee with cream and sugar inside and outside my leather handbag. When it dries, I’ll still have cream and sugar residue – ick!! And of course, stains on the outside. What to do?

  30. Leather Purse Owner says:

    I have a white PU leather purse that has stains from different stuff. Please suggest to me how to clean it??

  31. Melanie says:

    Leather Purse Owner,
    Different types of stains usually require different methods of treatment. Treat each stain individually, then clean the entire purse as usual. If the stain you need to remove is not listed in the stain section of this article, you may be able to find an article on the site that is specifically about the stain you need to remove. For example, here is an article on How to Remove Red Nail Polish from White Leather. Always test a cleaning solution on a hidden area of the purse first to check for any adverse reaction. If you are having trouble removing the stains, you can have the purse cleaned by a professional instead.

  32. B says:

    How can I cover a bleach stain on my black leather purse? Does anybody know???

  33. LiZ says:

    I just got a new black saffiano leather MK bag for my birthday, and foolishly thought it was a good idea to take it to a football game where the student section was using silly string that night. There is now a white residue on the leather that is not coming out with water. There is no silly string, just white residue. Any suggestions?

  34. Heather says:

    In an earlier post, someone stated that their cat peed inside of their purse and some of it soaked into bottom of leather purse. That is how a cat tells you he/she is having a health issue, perhaps a urinary tract infection or kidney problems because they are trying to tell you something. Hope it is helpful.

  35. Sue says:

    My daughter bought a slightly-used Coach bag that has several very dark ink stains (I think). The stains are black and stand out on a red purse. I have tried using rubbing alcohol as suggested, but to no avail. Can someone please give me a suggestion? The bag is too expensive to just toss in the waste basket. Please help!!

  36. Melanie says:

    Since you are unsure what the stain is, try using regular leather cleaner. Even if the stain is ink, sometimes leather cleaner is enough to remove it. If not, there are leather cleaners made especially for removing ink stains that might help. (Search online for “leather ink stain remover” and you fill find several options.)

  37. "BV" says:

    :) <3 !!!

  38. Biurgle says:

    Many purses are designed not to be cleaned; if you clean the bag, the idea goes, you won’t buy a new one.

    Don’t use anything on a Fossil purse especially. Products meant for saddles will leave Fossil leather blotchy and discoloured.

  39. Arcelia says:

    I need help please. I sat my red leather Michael Kors on gum. I removed the gum, but it left a brown stain. Any ideas how to remove it???

  40. Melanie says:

    The brown stain is most likely an oil stain, which was absorbed from the gum. This is the article that you need: How to Remove Grease Stains from Leather. That article recommends talcum powder, but you can use baking soda instead.

  41. Khaliya says:

    My black pants dyed onto my purse. How can I remove the stain?

  42. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Dye Transfer from Leather.

  43. Debbie says:

    I bought a very expensive Micheal Kors leather tan purse that has a couple of stains on it. I bought it from a friend; she said it was hairspray from the inside of the purse. The stain is dark and a little hard; how in the world do I remove that? Please help.

  44. Richard says:

    I have used mink oil on all my leather goods all my life and I’m 63 years old, and it has always worked very well. I always worked the oil into the leather with my bare fingers, and then wiped off with a microfiber cloth.

  45. Sarah says:

    I just bought a brand new Chanel quilted leather handbag from Luxury Kisses and my lipstick bottle smeared on the inside. What is the best way to get the stain out without damaging the leather?

  46. Melanie says:

    It’s always best to try regular leather cleaner first (or a mild body soap as recommended in this article) as that may remove any surface stains as well. If leather cleaner alone doesn’t work, you can try a leather stain remover for dye stains. LTT Solutions makes a Jean & Dye Transfer Stain Remover that might work. However, there is more to lipstick than just the dye – it’s oily, etc. So it might be best just to try a home solution. Rubbing alcohol works well on lipstick stains, so that would be the best thing to try. However, rubbing alcohol can dry out the leather, so wipe the area with a damp cloth afterward to wipe off the alcohol, and then rub some leather conditioner into the area. If nothing is working to remove the stain, try taking it to a cobbler; they often work with leather and may have some specialty techniques to remove the stain.
    Source: – How to Remove Dye Transfer from Leather
    Source: – How To Remove Makeup Stains

  47. Mary says:

    Help, please. I had a pear in my handbag, which squashed and juice ran on my new Radley purse. How can I remove it? Thank you.

  48. Elizabeth says:

    I just cleaned spots off my leather fossil purse with cotton balls and witch hazel; worked good.

  49. Stacey says:

    How do I clean the inside of a coach bag? Spilled perfume in one and the other is just dirty from everyday use. Both cost over 200 each. I don’t want to just throw them out. Any suggestions? These are my two favorite bags. Any help is greatly appreciated. T.I A.

  50. Melanie says:

    Here is an article on cleaning a Coach purse: How to Clean A Coach Purse.

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