Not long ago, I was carrying my white Proenza Schouler PS1 and my friend remarked how clean and stain-free it is. Fast forward two days later and I checked the back of the PS1 to find pretty noticeable color transfer, most likely from a dark pair of jeans I was wearing during that very same conversation with my friend; the bag now looked dirty and gross. Light wear is one thing, but a light leather bag with tons of stains just looks unkempt.

There are a variety of ways I’ve cleaned my bags before, but to be honest, I usually don’t end up getting many marks on my bags, so I haven’t tested many stain-removal tactics. I notice some bags handle a stain better, rubbing right off or not leaving marks, while others are more sensitive (my Givenchy bag still seems to show slight water marks, though I initially thought they disappeared).

I thought about sharing tips on cleaning your bags, but I bet you guys have even more wisdom to share on this topic than we do. When you notice color transfer, do you have a fool-proof trick, or do you send your bag out, hoping a leather spa can repair it for you? Members on the PurseForum have shared their tips over the years, ranging from baby wipes to Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. I’m planning to try to mend this bag myself, so I want to test out some of your methods and then update you on what worked and what didn’t.

Also, moral of the story: do not wear dark denim with light bags; the transfer will happen and it will be bad.

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  • leechiyong

    Leather conditioner addict. It keeps my bags looking newer longer and prevents damage. I apply it as soon as I get a bag and then every month or so do maintenance. If I notice any scratches or transfer, I reapply it right away to clean it. I wear dark jeans and most of my bags are either pink or grey. I’m also fairly oblivious when carrying my bags (yay, scratches) and since I live in a desert, I rarely have an umbrella. It so much easier to just do this at home and not have to worry when I go out.

    • Sparky

      Doesn’t leather conditioner darken or discolor leather? Do you apply it to certain kinds of leather?

      • leechiyong

        It depends on the item. I usually do a test patch somewhere inconspicuous just in case.

  • Kweenhelene

    I like a baby wipe. The lanolin will get the dirt off without damaging the leather or other material.. I use them on my light colored bags for regular maintenance. I even got a small pen mark lighter once.

  • Amazona

    Saddle soap, Saphir leather conditioner and beeswax for me, please. On the road, I use baby wipes or sanitizing wipes, depending on the color and material of the victim and the type of perpetrator.
    If a light colored leather or suede gets color transfer, you could try carrying the bag while wearing light colored clothes. The color will at least fade, if not disappear completely. I did this with an off white Wera Stockholm bag that got some transfer from my jeans after they got slightly wet from rain.

  • Sara

    Baby wipes and coconut oil. It conditions and cleans. I always put stain protector on my leather bags before letting them out of the house.

  • Yazi

    Never wear dark clothes and carry a light coloured bag. Baby wipes usually remove stains and be careful of leather conditioners and treatments because they sometimes ruin leather bags.

  • Donna Cala

    Does anyone know how to clean a satin lining? I have a Coach bag which has a greenish blue satin lining which is starting to get dirty.

    • Yazi

      Some bag specialists can change the lining for you if you aren’t concerned about the logo fabric.

      • Donna Cala

        Thanks. Actually the lining is my favorite part of the bag! It is a beautiful teal blue against a black leather bag. No logos. I wouldn’t want to change it.

      • Lana Iou

        I’ve washed all my coach bag liners, and even spot cleaned (spot washed more like, with an old toothbrush and soap) my coach canvas totes (especially the bottom corners that get dirty). Coach is super easy to self-maintain! My coaches always look like new because of how I clean and use them. Just pull out the lining as other ladies said and wash in the sink. I actually prefer to use Ivory plain bar soap (the white one) and warm water. That soap gets rid of stains really well! Use an old toothbrush to do some gentle scubbing if needed. If your lining is satin, carefull not to scrub too much, or it will become not smooth. No need to dry with a blowdrier! Just pat dry with a clean towel and leave to hang with the lining still pulled out. Good luck!

    • Vicky

      Can you pull it out and wash it? Otherwise, try baby wipe.

      • Donna Cala

        Thanks I’m going to try to pull out the liner and wash it in the sink. I just watched a video of someone who washed using dish soap then dried it with a hair dryer

      • CN

        I’ve washed a lot of Coaches (I usually use hypoallergenic Dawn), and the hairdryer part scares me. Even on no heat, I’d worry that that much air movement would be too drying. If you try it and it works, I’d love to hear a follow-up! :)

      • Hairdryers are perfectly safe to use

      • Donna Cala

        I cleaned the lining using Dawn but skipped the hair dryer. I tried to pull the lining out as best I could but parts of the leather got wet regardless. It dried a little stiff but I put leather conditioner on it and it’s great now. The liner came out great!

  • If it’s an oil-based stain (lotion, perfume, flying oil from a Korean barbecue hot plate) you can use baby powder/cornstarch. I leave a thick-ish layer on the stain overnight and the powder/starch should absorb the oil from the stain.

  • LL

    I know this might sound crazy, but I used Magic cleaner to remove stain on my beige motorcycle bag, and it works like magic, of course make sure to try on a small area and try at your own risk.

  • Iris

    This is why I don’t own white bags. I can’t waste my precious time shampooing and conditioning my bags?

  • Missy

    This happened to my yellow PS1 bag a year ago. I was wearing dark denim and it just transferred onto the bag. I tried cleaning it with powder to wet wipes but no use. I ended up dyeing my bag to black. Which I totally regret cause now the color is chipping off. Ugh

  • Aliza Zibkoff

    Very small spots can come off with rubbing alcohol and a q-tip. Beware though high gloss leather will loose their shine in that spot. Not at all a perfect solution. Better just wear white with your white bags.

  • Amunet

    I always buy black bags for this reason. The color goes with everything and it hides stains well :)

  • FashionableLena

    I’ve heard hairspray, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I did a patch test on a Marc Jacobs bag that got RED transfer from a blouse, and some of the color came off. Well, at least I thought it did.

  • Vicky

    Multipurpose cleaning cream (here, we have a brand called Stay Clean.) works fine. Also, sometime, I use a very soft pencil rubber (Pentel).

  • Blair Quinn Rochefort

    i bought from coach a leather cleaner..its effective and the price is ok.

  • Scottsdale Kim

    1. Jimmy Choo SA taught me years ago to use an eraser to clean suede. 2. I believe that an SA at Barneys once told me that the soft lining of a Celine dust cover can be used to buff out scratches.

  • L.O.

    There are good and bad leather cleaners. Mulberry has a good one. Suede is fairly easy to clean. There are foam cleaners and erasers that work just as well on leather bags also. Just lightly rub the eraser over the problem area and use a soft bristle brush ( horse hair ) to smooth and brush away any grim. Always use a protector to help prevent water damage and color transfer. Minor scratches will often blend in over time and please understand that if its a smooth leather HB that scratches will happen and that there is nothing wrong with the bag itself, it’s not a quality issue. Good luck

  • CN

    Speaking of the light pink Antigona that got blue spots when wet, my understanding, from this site, http://www.saddlebackleather.com/craftsmanship/chpt4-leather-101-lesson-in-leather is that leather that’s blue in the middle is cheaply/ improperly tanned. I hope that’s not why your bag got blue spots when it got wet! :(

    On topic, I’ve had marvelous luck removing color transfer with vinegar and magic erasers on vachetta, good quality (no silicone) conditioner on normal leather, and rubbing alcohol on patent leather.

    • LTT Leathercare Ltd

      All chrome tanned leather is ‘blue’ when it has been tanned. If the leather is still blue in the middle it is more to do with the way it has been finished (not dyed right the way through) than being improperly tanned.
      I would be very surprised if this caused blue spots when it got wet but a photo would help give better advice
      Colour transfer can be a problem on leather that has not been protected and can often depend on the type of dye that has caused the stain and how long it has been on there as to how successful its removal will be
      Hope this helps

  • I have a similar issue with my white Dolce & Gabbana Lilly bag. It’s a 6 years old bag that I regularly use and because it’s white it has become somewhat dirty. I am trying to clean it but with no success. I used baby wipes but it didn’t do much! The bag doesn’t really look dirty but if you look closer you can see it. And in some areas of the bag (mostly the bottom) the dirt will not come off at all, no matter how hard I am trying. I am afraid to use soap. Any suggestions on leather cleaners?

    • Have it professionally cleaned to get it back to its original and then protect with a quality protector to help keep it clean
      Most regular cleaners will not remove dye transfer or ground in dirt
      Hope this helps

  • Dye transfer can be prevented by using a quality protector which makes it easy to clean off.
    DIY remedies are very varied and should be used with great caution as whilst they may be fine on some leather finishes they can ruin others

    Products to avoid:
    Baby wipes
    Magic Erasers
    Alcohol wipes
    Nail varnish remover
    Hand sanitisers
    These amongst others are the ones that have the potential to cause the most damage

    Using a professional cleaning service ensures that the handbag is treated in the correct way

  • Taylor W

    I purchased a YSL chain wallet in pale pink with the textured matelassé leather about six months ago. I take wonderful care of it (always store in a safe place, don’t throw it around anywhere) but I’ve noticed its began to be worn down on the point of the flap, as well as the sides, any recommendations on how to slow this or fix it? Also, the back of it has rubbed on my jeans slightly, any tips on removal or prevention?