June 26, 2024 5 min read

A leather bag is an investment; not just financially, but in your future style. And if cared for properly, your leather bag can last a lifetime, even long enough to pass onto the next generation. If you practise these leather care tips, your bag will last for decades to come, developing a beautifully unique patina and increasing in value with every passing year. 

With 50 years of experience in the leather industry as a family business, we’ve put together our best tips to help you care for your leather bag and enjoy the fruits of your labour as you navigate life. 

But first, let’s answer one of the most common questions we get asked at Greenwood Leather: 

How long does leather last? 

The highest-quality leathers can last for 100+ years, while lower-quality or faux leathers tend to wear down in less than 5 years. 

Our leather handbags are made from full-grain leather, the outermost layer of the hide and the highest quality leather in the world. When cared for properly,full grain leather bags can last for decades – it’s not uncommon for them to be passed down through 2-3 generations, totaling over 100 years in total. As it ages, it also develops a unique patina, a soft sheen that differentiates one bag from another. 

The next best type of leather is top-grain leather, which is slightly less durable than full-grain and can last upwards of 10-20 years. Below that, longevity falls off fairly quickly, with genuine layer and bonded leather lasting anywhere from 5-10 years and 3-5 years, respectively. 

Faux or vegan leathers, which are made from synthetic materials like polyurethane or PVC, generally last 3-5 years with regular use. They lack the durability and ageing abilities of natural leather but can be more resistant to stains and easier to maintain in the short term. 

All that said, let’s get into the tips!

  • Identify Your Leather Type

  • The way you care for your leather bag will vary depending on the type of leather that your bag is made from. For example, top-grain leather bags tend to require regular use of a leather conditioner to maintain its quality, while vegan leathers are completely unable to absorb conditioner, so it’d be a waste of time & money to do so. 

    If you purchased the bag yourself, check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care. If it was gifted or passed down to you, do a bit of research to identify the leather type before starting any care routine. 

    If you own a Greenwood Leather product, rest assured that it’s made of the highest quality, full-grain leather. 

  • Dust Regularly

  • Whether it’s on your person or sitting in a closet, your leather bag will slowly accumulate debris like dust. While dust isn’t necessarily damaging in the short term, it can build up along with oil & other grime on the surface, shortening the lifespan of your bag.

    Dust your full grain leather bag regularly with a soft, dry cloth. For other natural leathers, use a slightly damp cloth instead. This will prevent dirt particles from sinking into the porous leathers. 

    Whenever you’re not using it, we recommend storing it in a cool, dry place that’s protected from excess heat, humidity, and direct sunlight. Even indoors, these environmental factors can accelerate the ageing process, reducing the lifespan of your bag. Preferably, it should also be stored off the ground to avoid becoming home to small critters. 

  • Clean Immediately

  • Accidents happen. From getting caught in the rain to spilled drinks, your bag will inevitably find itself on the receiving end of a mess. As soon as time will allow, you must clean the bag as soon as possible. Wipe it down with a soft cloth or paper towel to remove large spots of liquid or debris. Afterwards, use a damp cloth to get rid of any hard-to-remove spots before they become permanent stains. 

    In the event that your bag is immune to accidents, we still recommend that you clean the leather regularly. For full-grain leather bags, wipe them down with a damp cloth or paper towel. Do not use a multi-surface cleaner or any “leather cleaner” as this will strip the natural, protective oils from the surface. Commercially available leather cleaners will damage and discolour the bag, drastically shortening the lifespan.

    Generally speaking, you can use a leather cleaner on other types of natural leather such as top grain, genuine, or bonded. Just be sure to choose one that’s alcohol and chemical-free, pH-balanced, and not excessively soapy – these will be least likely to destroy your leather. 

  • Condition Every Few Months

  • As we’ve mentioned, full-grain leather bags don’t tend to require regular conditioning. If anything, you can use a gentle conditioner once per year. But if you take care of your full grain leather bag properly, it’s unlikely you’ll need to condition it at all. In fact, the natural oil from your fingertips functions as a natural conditioner, meaning every time you touch it, you’re actually conditioning it!

    For other natural leathers, a conditioning frequency of every 3-6 months is usually sufficient to keep it in top shape. This process, though a bit tedious, nourishes the leather, replenishes the natural oils, and prevents it from drying out and cracking. 

    And just as with the cleaning solution, there are good & bad leather conditioners. Top-grain  leather bags require a conditioner that’s free of waxes, silicones, and petroleum distillates. While your bag may look good for a day or two, the sheen will wear off and your bag will be left with clogged pores. 

    For genuine and bonded leathers, a lighter, non-oily conditioner is sufficient. It’ll provide some benefits of conditioning without damaging the material or greasing up the bag.

    With these care tips, you’ll never need to buy another leather bag again. And keep in mind that these tips apply to all kinds of leather goods, evenleather wallets andlaptop bags.

    Frequently Asked Questions: 

    How to maintain your leather bags?

    Store your leather bag in a cool, dry place, avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight, clean regularly with a damp cloth, and condition every 3-6 months.

    Do I need to oil my leather bag?

    Yes, oiling can help maintain the leather's suppleness and prevent cracking, but it's often better to use a dedicated leather conditioner.

    Should you condition leather handbags?

    Yes, depending on the type of leather, conditioning leather handbags every 6-12 months helps to keep the leather hydrated, supple, and protected from wear and tear.

    What kind of oil to use on leather bags?

    Use natural oils like mink oil or a high-quality leather conditioner specifically designed for leather goods to avoid damaging the leather.

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