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Cleaning and restoring leather & leather-trimmed handbags: Removing water-based stains

By: Stu Bloom

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RAVE FabriCARE in Scottsdale, Arizona cleans and restores handbags and other accessories with water-based stains

Water-based stains and spills can be mitigated or completely removed with professional cleaning

The most common stains we see on leather and leather trimmed handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks are water-based stains.

Water-based stains include:

  • Non-intentional spills such as bottled water, tap water, rain (from drizzles to monsoons), ocean spray, soda, juice, beer, wine, coffee, etc.
  • Intentional applications such as bleach, window cleaner, dishwashing liquid, vinegar, ammonia, etc.

If you search the internet, the “solution” to soil, stains, scratches and scuffing on leather handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks often involves magic erasers, saddle soaps, mink oils, warm water, ammonia, lemon juice, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, pumice-based hand cleaners, moisturizing creams, hair shampoos and conditioners, leather furniture cleaners, automotive leather cleaners and sandpaper.

On the flip side, for every “solution” proposed, we can find someone who’ll vigorously argue against that “solution”.

To give you a sense of the absurdity of many of these proposed “solutions”, a member of a purse forum recently proposed this “solution” to rain spots on a leather handbag:

“Take a dish cloth, hold it under a tap, wring it out (it should not be too wet) and lay it over the bag for 1 night (the moisture will go in the leather). Then let the bag dry, not in the sun but at room temperature. The water stains will blend in.”

Say what?

What you need to know

 

Here’s what you need to know about cleaning leather or leather trimmed handbags that have water-based stains:

Manufacturers never intended that their handbags ever be cleaned.

It’s important to understand that the manufacturers of handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks design and market their accessories on the basis of esthetics and functionality. Not on the basis of serviceability.

In other words, handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks are not manufactured with the intention that they ever be cleaned and/or restored. So it’s possible that an accessory cannot be cleaned and/or restored to acceptable quality standards.

We see this most often in cases where skins and other materials are used in combination. Let’s say that you spilt red wine onto a white canvas/black leather trim handbag. If the black dye leached into the white canvas as a result of exposure to a water-based liquid, the possibility exists that the handbag may not be able to be restored to acceptable quality standards. 

Different types of skins react differently to different types of water-based stains.

Given all the possible qualities of skins, all the possible combinations of skins and materials and all the possible water-based stains, it’s impossible to prescribe a”one shot” solution to any problem involving water-based stains on a leather or leather-trimmed  handbag, purse, wallet or backpack.

In other words, the approach to cleaning and/or restoring any leather or leather-trimmed accessory with a water-based stain must be carefully tailored to the accessory in question.

Cleaning alone may not be adequate

Our experience with water-based stains on leather and leather-trimmed accessories boils down to this: Cleaning alone may not do the trick. You might be able to lighten the water-based stain to the point that it’s not too visible, but you might not be able to restore it to wearable condition.

It’s far more likely that the solution will have to involve:

  • Hand cleaning the handbag, purse, wallet or backpack inside and out.
  • Refinishing the handbag, purse, wallet or backpack to a color that exactly or very closely matches the original color of the leather or to a completely different color of the client’s choosing.
  • Reconditioning the leather to restore the suppleness.

Bottom line

The restoration of a leather handbag or leather trimmed handbag involves science, art, skill and experience. Not a suggestion from some Helpful Heloise who wouldn’t dare apply that very same suggestion to their own high-end handbag, purse, wallet or backpack. 

[ctt template=”3″ link=”3t6Oc” via=”no” ]Water-based stains on leather/leather trimmed handbags can be removed. Start by ignoring all solutions from Helpful Heloises. @ravefabricare[/ctt]

Transformations

 

Example: Prada leather handbag with water-based stains

The results of the transformation can be seen in the following BEFORE and AFTER photographs:RAVE FabriCARE in Scottsdale, Arizona cleans and restores handbags and other accessories with water-based stains

For even more BEFORE and AFTER photographs on the transformation of this handbag, please view our slide show below:

To view this slide show on a full screen, hit the X button with the arrow tips.

Example: Ferragamo leather handbag with water-based stains

The results of the transformation can be seen in the following BEFORE and AFTER photographs:RAVE FabriCARE in Scottsdale, Arizona cleans and restores handbags and other accessories with water-based stains

For even more BEFORE and AFTER photographs on the transformation of this handbag, please view our slide show below:

To view this slide show on a full screen, hit the X button with the arrow tips.

The takeaway

The takeaway from this post is simple: 

Water-stained leather and leather-trimmed handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks can be cleaned and restored but only if cleaned by hand. And then only by a cleaner who

  • specializes in cleaning and restoring handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks,
  • employs full time handbag cleaning specialists and
  • completes all work on premises (does not ship the work to an unknown, undisclosed, out of state subcontractor).

In Arizona, there is only one cleaner who meets these 3 criteria: RAVE FabriCARE in Scottsdale.

By the way, if you don’t live in the metro Phoenix area, all is not lost. We ship throughout the USA and Canada.

Send us your photos for a free, no-obligation evaluation and price guesstimate.

 

What’s been your experience cleaning and/or restoring leather or leather-trimmed handbags, purses, wallets and/or backpacks with water-based stains? Please share your comments below.

 

Photo credit: unsplash.com/Benjamin Voros

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Filed Under:

Handbags, Purses, Wallets & Handbags

Author

Stu Bloom

Stu Bloom is Founder and President of RAVE FabriCARE. RAVE FabriCARE, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, cares for fine garments, household textiles and accessories and serves clients throughout the USA and Canada. Stu is the author of various ebooks on these subjects, all of which are available from www.ravefabricare.com/freestuff. He is an evangelist for true quality cleaning and is a contributor to and editor of True Quality Cleaning, RAVE FabriCARE’s blog. You can find Stu on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Additional Resources:

https://ravefabricare.com/services/handbags-purses-wallets-backpacks/

https://ravefabricare.com/do-it-yourself-handbag-cleaning-exercise-caution-with-cleaning-products/

https://ravefabricare.com/shoe-repair-shop-handbag-cleaning-exercise-caution/

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