How to clean, polish, store and preserve vintage leather accessories

Do you have any advice for looking after leather? After my double-sided satchel went mouldy, I had to come up with some hacks of my own for cleaning, storing & preserve vintage leather handbags - here's how I got on...

You know, I thought I’d already written about my little leather handbag. I picked it up in a charity shop a few years ago and I was sure I shared some pics on my blog at the time. However, it appears that was not the case! So, today, I’m going to share some photos of cleaning up the bag after it got rather mouldy and give you some tips for refreshing leather accessories…

My bag is actually a double-sided satchel. It’s black leather on one side and brown leather on the other. Even the strap has a black side and a brown side, making it a very versatile piece that coordinates with a range of outfits.

There’s a compartment on each side, with an internal pocket in each side too, so there’s plenty of room for my purse, phone, notebook and anything else I need to carry with me.

Did I mention that the strap can be unclipped to turn it into a clutch? Oh, it’s just THE most useful 2-in-1 bag I’ve ever owned. It was only a few pounds at the local charity shop when I bought it a few years ago, making it the bargain on the decade. And to top it all off, it has a C for Cassie on the front.

My poor bag went a bit mouldy when it was stored away so I know I need to take better care of it. I’ve already written about how to make your leather shoes last forever but here are some tips I’ve come across for cleaning and caring for vintage leather handbags:


Definitely don’t put the handbag away if it is at all wet or damp. It’ll just fester away in the wardrobe getting mouldy and will need a thorough cleaning when you get it out again. Yes, this is exactly what happened to me.

If the bag has been rained on, make sure to dry it off thoroughly with a cloth or old towel. You might even have to wash it with water if it’s been splashed by puddle-water, as this might contain salt from gritting.

Leave the bag out somewhere warm (but not hot!) to dry out before you put it away. Don’t put it on a sunny windowsill or on the radiator as this may cause the leather to react or warp.


You may wonder why expensive, designer bags come with their own drawstring cotton bag? It’s actually a great idea to store your leather bag inside cotton bag – or a pillowcase – to protect it from scuffs etc when you put it away in a wardrobe, drawer or storage box.

It’s probably best NOT to store a handbag inside an air-tight container, as any moisture won’t be able to escape and it may become fusty or mouldy inside the box. That’s why the cotton bag or pillowcase is a good solution, as it lets the leather ‘breathe’.


If the leather has got damp and mouldy, or dirty and dusty through use, you can clean it using a specialist leather cleaner. It’s possible to get leather cleaning wipes for upholstery but a liquid formula might be better to use on a handbag. Follow the instructions on the bottle and use a lint-free cloth so that you don’t leave behind any fibres.


Just like leather shoes and boots, it’s a good idea to polish your handbag when it needs it. The only way to keep leather supple and prevent cracking is to ‘feed’ it by rubbing in polish and buffing it off.

Use an old, soft toothbrush to brush the polish into the seams and then buff-buff-buff with a soft, lint-free cloth until the leather shines. Now I just need to keep it that way!

Do you have any advice for looking after leather? I’d love to hear your hacks for keeping shoes, boots and bags clean so please leave your tips in the comments below 🙂


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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in Lifestyle Promotion Studies and is trained in Personal Money Management. She loves to ‘get the look for less’ so regularly shares thrifty-living advice, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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