How To Wash A Leather Purse – Yes, I Said WASH!

How To Wash Your Leather Purse

A few months ago I found this yellow leather handbag by Cynthia Rowley at T.J. Maxx and simply HAD TO HAVE IT. It was a little pricier than I normally pay for a purse, but not as astronomical as if I had been paying RETAIL. I just couldn’t resist the soft yellow color and the overall shape and design of the bag. It quickly became my very FAVORITE purse!

Unfortunately, after several business trips (including 2 to New York City) it was looking pretty abused. As much as I LOVE the color of this bag, it’s also incredibly impractical for keeping clean. Especially when I’m dragging it through airports, shuttle buses, taxi cabs, parking lots, restaurants, etc.

How To Wash Your Leather Purse

Before my most recent trip to Austin, Texas for BlogHer Food ’13 I sadly emptied my favorite purse and hung it up in the laundry room until I could figure out what to do with it. I just couldn’t take it with me. I felt terrible.

Ever since then, every time I walk by it hanging on a peg in the laundry room I hear it calling out to me, “Help me!” lol. But I had no idea what to do! Earlier attempts at spot cleaning were not successful and it needed a lot more than just SPOT cleaning now.

I probably should have taken it to a professional leather cleaner (not that I’ve ever heard of one of those before), but you know me, I want to do it myself. (Hmmmmmm…just realized that the acronym for “do it myself” is DIM…maybe we’re onto something here! lol)

So I devoted some time out of my crazy busy day yesterday to research how to clean a leather purse, because my yellow friend was depending on me! After many, many unsatisfactory answers, I came across a post by Serene at Elegant Bohemian about how she washed her leather Coach bag in the WASHING MACHINE!

Related: How to Clean Leather Furniture

At first I was certain I had read it wrong, but no, I hadn’t. She had taken a leather Coach bag that was in much the same shape as my beloved Cynthia Rowley bag (basically headed to the donation pile) and decided to give it a spin in the washer. Since her post only shows “After” pictures, I had to take her word for the results. But with a name like Serene, how could I go wrong! ;-) So off to the laundry room I went, to either give my purse a new lease on life or sign it’s death certificate.

How To Wash Your Leather Purse

Serene used Murphy’s Oil Soap to wash her bag, but I’ve never been much of a fan of MOS, so I decided to try some of my trusty Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap.


HUGE DISCLAIMER: This worked for me, but that certainly doesn’t guarantee it will work for everyone. As a matter of fact, I can hear professional cleaners all over the world GROANING after reading this post. It’s definitely a method to be reserved for items that are in that “what have I got to lose?” category.  Proceed at your own risk. :-)

Completely clean out your bag. Make sure you check all those little pockets!

Pour about 1/4 cup castile soap into the washing machine, drop in bag, set washer to GENTLE CYCLE (or hand wash cycle…something along those lines), and turn it on.

Now walk away go douse yourself in Zen essential oil blend to quell the anxiety you are now feeling! :-)  Breathe deeply too!

How To Wash Your Leather Purse

When the cycle is done, you can either toss the bag in the dryer on LOW heat with some big, fluffy towels for 5-10 minutes, then hang to dry….OR…you can take it outside (if it’s a nice, sunny day like it was at my house!) and let it dry in the sunshine.

When your bag is completely dry, protect it with some leather conditioner. (I haven’t done this step YET.)

How To Wash Your Leather Purse

How To Wash Your Leather Purse

As you can see, the washer actually WORKED! Much to my surprise there was a HUGE improvement! Not PERFECT, but vastly improved and definitely good enough to take out in public again! :-)

I might have gotten a little choked up as I hung it back up in the laundry room last night, restored to it’s former glory. I think I might have even heard it humming a happy little tune. ;-)

How To Wash Your Leather Purse

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • This is old but it reposted the other day and I deleted it by mistake!!! I have lots of handbags but tend to use the same one over & over. It’s beat up so I took out a more “spring” (light blue) bag with intentions to toss the old one. I did a search & found this on the web. Looking at the blue bag in daylight, I was ready to toss that, too. It was yellow with age. I have leather cleaner but it wasn’t worth the time or work. I’ll try it tomorrow – right now I’m “laundry stripping” in the washer (it works!!).
    If it doesn’t work on the handbag, I’ll go back to my original intention and toss it.
    Thanks for the info, Jillee!!!

  • I love leather purses or just about everything leather. I buy my purses preowned and always wash them in the washer. Always be pleased with results.

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    How To Wash A Leather Purse – Yes, I Said WASH! | One Good Thing by Jillee

  • HOLY SMOKES! I just soaked my bag with an open water bottle. Quickly ran to your Pinterest page for an answer—to fnd THE EXACT SAME ROWLEY BAG, the EXACT ONE as the one you tested this on!! Quelle surprise!! Thank you, I feel so much better about trying this now that I’ve seen you had such great results. And that you have such great taste in bags :))

  • Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your
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    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, very good blog!

  • Your means of describing everything in this paragraph is in fact nice, every one be able
    to without difficulty understand it, Thanks a lot.

  • The light yellow color bag is ne of my favorite choices. I like your bag. And I love how to remove stains from your bags. It looks like as new.

  • I was pretty pleased to uncover this website. I want to to thank you for ones time for tgis particularly fantastic read!!
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  • I don’t have castile soap, is there another kind of soap that will work? And will this get mold out? My purse got lost in the backseat of my car and some liquid got spilled on it and the cloth liner has nasty black mold spots. Its my all time favorite purse and I want to save it if I can.

  • Hi. I just bought a nice, thick white leather purse (kenneth cole reaction) today at my goodwill store but it’s very stained and dirty. Also cheap because of that. I was looking online for hints to clean it and i found this website. I am so excited to wash it right after work. Also have another beautiful white michael kors purse at home and that’s going in the washer,as well, since that is also dirty. Thank you so very much !!!!!! Sue Hall

  • Great job! It looks vastly improved! I, too, wash leather items in the washing machine…leather slippers, leather gloves, purses, tennis shoes…even my suede leather coat! I just air dry them & they’ve always come out fine! If you want to gloves, make sure you put them on wet to give them back their shape before they air dry. Although, I have forgotten & run them through the dryer before…doesn’t hurt, just takes a lil more effort to stretch them out to wear. P.S. I LOVE THAT BAG!!

  • Nice post, i am running an online shopping store in Dubai, i always spend a lot of money when any of my leather bag got dirty due to dust or touching by clients, i have to display some items in showcase so that clients can try them, but now i guess i can do the cleaning stuff at my own, first i will try it on only one item :) but if successful then i will go for remaining 7 bags too.

  • I am going to right away catch your rss once i can not locating your contact request backlink or perhaps news letter assistance. Are you experiencing every? You should allow myself comprehend to ensure I could truthfully register. Many thanks.

  • Hi! If you ever would like to donate this bag leg me know, I can pay you some money for it and shipping, I love it and can not find similar style and color! I’m serious!:)

  • Omg! I wss looking to clean my purse and this is the SAME purse that I have! I also fell in love with it at TJs! Im so excited to finally clean this effer! Thanks for the lovely advice. :)

  • Awesome! This is so true of many things I wash. Like jackets that says dry clean only. Then I took it to a dry cleaner several times but they don’t get the spots out. So I also put it in the washing machine even after trying to hand wash. Machine wash worked perfectly.
    The garments looks perfect and smells devine! Which is all I want at the end.

  • Hi there, I found your site by the use of Google at the same time as searching for a comparable topic, your website came up, it appears good. I have bookmarked to my favourites|added to bookmarks.

  • Love Dr. Bronner’s soap…use it on almost everything in our home. But had not thought about using it this way! Thanks for sharing! Just tweeted this out :)


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  • I just wanted to take a moment to say Thank you!
    You made my son very happy and saved his favorite leather jacket with this post.
    When the dry cleaner told him there were no leather cleaners in the state and he might as well throw his jacket away he was pretty unhappy to say the least. I don’t have the following you have but I’m definitely sharing you! Thank you again!

  • You can always use shoe polish of the same color(if you can find it) to make the color more vibrant from use or even dye it another color.

  • I work at a dry cleaners, and let me tell you- I didn’t cringe at all!
    While I agree that this method is best for “what have I got to lose?” items, I’m really glad that you posted it. I always have people coming in with their leather handbags, asking about getting them cleaned. When I tell them that we can send them to a professional leather cleaner (yes, they do exist), but it runs around $40 or $50, most people skip it and decide to buy a new bag (because, um, yes you can buy a new one for that much!).
    Now I have a new tip to pass on! In fact, I have a leather bag that I may try this with….

  • This is Serene from The Elegant Bohemian! I saw this huge spike in hits to my blog and saw that it had come from your site. Thanks so much for the mention! You are too kind, and I really appreciate it. I still wash all my suede and leather skirt and bags and LOVE the results! Can’t wait to check out more of your blog! Serene

  • Does anyone know if this will work for suede too? My husband bought me a beautiful suede purse for valentines day and just a week later I carried it while wearing new black pants and the dye from the pants seemed to stain the suede…it breaks my heart that I may have ruined the bag and I don’t know what to do about it…I’ve just been making sure to strategically carry it with the stain side to my body in the hopes that nobody will ever know.

  • I learned when my now grown daughters were little that you can wash nearly everything and it will look better. Little girls shoes and purses whether they are leather or not always came out looking better. Truthfully, nearly every time they came out looking really great! Like new. If you are to the point you are going to throw it out then risk a washing. You might just be surprised in a good way. At the time I did not have an HE machine and I think the large amount of water might be key to getting little shoes etc. gently clean. I don’t think it would work in today’s newer low water level HE machines and it could damage the machine. I still wash my husbands leather sneakers. I use a gentle cycle, cold water and I even add a little bleach if they are particularly dirty. They come out looking marvelous every time.

  • In the past I have always leaned my leather, boots, jackets & purses with saddle soap. Then conditioned them with mink oil. I’ve never tried washing them in the washing machine! Very surprised it worked so well!

  • For interests sake, when two items rub together and the darker transfers dye to the lighter, its called crocking. (Bleeding is when this happens while the items are wet) That’s what is on Jillees purse. Coating the purse will work but so will NOT using it while wearing jeans! Especially new (ish) or dark ones! Keep that in mind when using light coloured purses.

    One other consideration when washing a bag is the lining. High end purses should have high end, good quality linings so they should wash ok but if they are silk you need to use a soap gentle enough for the lining too. Shampoo or euclan silk and wool wash is most recommended. Should be fine for leather too though I don’t know if it will remove the worst stains. While the leather is wet, Grandmas stain remover might be a good idea.

    For cheaper purses though, the lining which was almost certainly not prewashed, could potentially shrink. Most purses are lined with polyester which shouldn’t shrink but with the Fibres possibly being unknown it is a risk you take so again, this is in the category of either it comes clean or that’s the end of the bag.

  • Kate Spade stores sell leather cleanser. Just use a white cloth and rub it on your purse an it takes the stains and dirt right off. Mine looks brand new. Condition afterwards. $10 per bottle which lasts forever. Works on purses and leather shoes. I can’t recommend it enough!

  • Anyone know how to get denim stains off of a canvas purse? My daughter just got a Michael Kors canvas bag and right away her jeans stained the whole back of her bag. No one at the store had any suggestions.

  • Sort of along the lines… I had a small leather change purse. It completely dried out and I hated using it in this state. After years of it sitting around (I couldn’t bear to get rid of it) I covered it in coconut oil and rubbed it in really well. It is back to its former soft supple condition and I use it daily now for my id and debit card.

    We now use coconut oil on my kids leather combat boots and all kinds of other leather items. It does a good job restoring the oils in the leather.

  • That is a really nice bag Jillee, I love the color. So glad you found a way to enjoy it for years (hopefully) to come! As always thank you for sharing as well. You are like Pinterest without the searching! lol

  • I have been washing leather sport shoes for years. I put them in with towels, use regular detergent and normal wash cycle. Also, I never put them in the dryer, I just let them air dry. I have never had a bad outcome and they can be washed many times over and over but eventually the white dye in the leather will begin to fade.

  • My husband has this leather bomber jacket that he LOVES and is so dirty. If I didn’t think he would kill me I would throw it in the washer ASAP. LOL

    I work in a furniture store and we sell leather cleaner and conditioner. I think I will try that first on my purses and then maybe hubbies jacket. I just know come winter he will dig it out and I will be cringing in grossness.

    @Shirley, to pin something means to post it to your Pintrest board.

  • Thank you for this. I have a leather coat I bought at Goodwill for $10 but haven’t worn it because I felt like it needed to be “clean” before I put it on. Will try your method.

    P.S. What is “Pin It”?

    • It’s a quick way to put the link onto your Pinterest board. Pinterest is a way to corral or save things you find on the web that you would like to refer back to. It’s handy, free and worth checking it out if you haven’t already.

    • Haha! Shirley DON’T “Pin It”!!!! You will get sucked in to hours, days, weeks, months!! of Pinning Nirvana! It’s basically just a virtual pinboard for ideas, recipes, quotes and such. It’s HIGHLY addicting!

  • I rarely get my purses dirty because I am OCD about keeping them nice! I NEVER sit them on the floor, but keep on my lap or hang on the back of a chair, etc. Good info though since I love to find leather treasures at the thrift stores!! I’ve found some fabulous Coach ones!

  • On this leather discussion, I received a beautiful maroon leather chair and ottoman. It is in beautiful shape, except that it has the dye worn off in places. It’s not scratched, but on the arms seat and top it looks all much lighter color. It almost looks scratched because of the folds in it. I’ve thought about dying it, but have no experience in this and don’t want it to end up like a hodge podge either. Has anyone had experience in dying furniture that could give me some hints?

    • Find an old fashioned shoe repair shop and ask them. They used to re-dye shoes once upon a time and I imagine the dye was obviously waterproof to last on shoes.

  • SORT of off-topic-SORT of kind of…The first thing I would do when I got a pair of leather sandals or Doc Martin or hiking boots was to trot down to The Great Salt Lake and walk through ankle deep water for about thirty minutes or so.

    This 1. preserved the leather, 2. molded my shoes to my feet thus eliminating blistering problems, 3. made my feet all soft and happy as little clams

    Lacking the lake now that I have moved far away and long ago, I soak them in a salt-filled bath tub (which works with cowboy boots now that I have moved to cowboy boot land).

    Love you, Love your blog.

  • Great ideas everyone thanx. One thing I have done, for leather & suede that has worked in the past is to use duct tape. I adhere the tape to the spot and lift it off. Be careful though because if the tape is stuck on too long you will have the problem of getting the sticky residue off. Also– do a test spot because sometimes it pulls some color with it. My son used this method when a friend’s suede boots absorbed dye from her new jeans. Her new, but dry, jeans rubbing caused color transfer. It was her first time wearing the boots and it saved them. I had success with the tape on leather seats in a car.

    JILLEE–help it seems I can only access your new posts through e-mail. If I go directly to your site all I get is the mousepad how to.

  • I rarely buy light colored leather for this reason, but it makes sense. I wash my leather tennis shoes all the time and they turn out great. You can also buy shoe dye and dye it when washing doesn’t work any longer.

  • Jillee,
    I also wash my purses (some leather, some other fabric). I don’t normally put them in washing machine, but will definitely keep that in mind. The inside fabric of purses can get really dirty after a while, so I pull the inside fabric to the outside and put it into a sink of sudsy water. Swish good and then in clean rinse water. I wipe the outside of the purse too. Then stuff with some dry towels for a while to soak up as much moisture as possible. Then remove towels and let dry like you do. The purse will be clean for the next time I change purses.

    Great site!

  • IF you get OIL on leather you can hope to soak it up with any absorbant stuff —first get as much as you can off WITHOUT RUBBING using a washcloth tissue paper towel etc. Then use any sort of powder–cornstarch flour diatomacious earth (chinchilla bath stuff) and again–try not to RUB but you can push it into the stain and brush or whack it off. The thing here is to NOT scuff the surface finish of the leather, to sop up as much as you can and not smear it around.

    If the oil is too extensive and you love the item and washing is either not an option or it didn’t take out the stain–RESTAIN the entire thing with–more oil. Just use a soft cloth to smear another layer of oil on–avoid the original spot in case that area turns darker still—and let dry and buff off.

    IF the oil has spread or you didn’t get to it in time using Jillees solution can work—or you can also use several other washing or spot clean methods. One I like is BABY SHAMPOO—I have used this on sheepskin UGGS etc for years. If you have an old SOFT toothbrush you can work this stuff into the seam areas to get out the crud that ends up there. I had a pair of baby pale pink UGGS that I think had motor oil on them and it took I think three sessions but they looked like new in the end. They did take about forever to dry so stuffing some dry towels or even socks inside and renewing as needed helped a lot.

    Most any leather–or yes skin–can be re-softened. The Natives used to do this by chewing the hide! Pretty sure we don’t want to get that authentic. However you can WORK the leather or skin with some oil or conditioner in your hands to make the oil get distributed and soften the fibers. Just work this by flexing and crumpling it–don’t stretch it!!!—while watching TV or sitting in the car etc.

    The COACH and other high-end fabric bags are—nice—but the fabric is a huge dirt magnet. Coach sells a cleaner for their fabrics but I didn’t find it worked. Again a mild shampoo–which breaks down body oils and lifts dirt—will do the trick–if you don’t want to get the bag soaked work some of the shampoo into a FOAM and dab it on and wipe it off with clear water on a white washcloth so you can SEE when the water is clear from the bag.

    I re-hab leather items all the time for re-sale and altho I have not put them thru the washer I have washed plenty in the sink and had them turn out just fine. To hold a bags shape you can also stuff with WHITE tissue or towel—you do NOT want to go thru all of this to have color transfer from your towels to the bag or jacket etc! \\Several makers like Keds make “washable leather” but I suspect after seeing them that this is nothing more than a thin leather with a better glue for shoes etc.

    To wash just the LINING of a bag—empty it ALL out–like Jillee sez don;t forget ALL the pockets!!!—and pull it inside out and being careful to not get the outside wet–you could use plastic bags to shield it–use castile or shampoo to wash–don’t put the lining back in until completely dry.

    For furs–my family was in the fur processing business for 100 years–you can use any sort of powder even baby powder to clean the fur—get a lot of it worked into the fur down to the skin and let sit and then shake it ALL out–this carries off the crud and oils. For dried out skins you will have to get to the back of them—some coats have liners that are not sewn all the way–or make an opening in a seam that you can re-sew and see what is going on back there–if the skins are shredding time to donate to the local animal shelter. If they are just dry use a good fine oil—this will be labor intensive–and work a few drops onto each skin and hand work til they are supple. Some will not revive if they are too old and the dye process can close up the pores. You can also surface clean with a foam/suds as above on leather–just be SURE to get ALL of the soap off! This is of course for fur that is not a million dollar new mink. For the stuff you get at the thrift or church sale only! Many older furs LOOK like an endangered species but are really sheared rabbit or similar. These were actually dyed to look like finer furs back in the day–my grampa developed this technique. If this is the case they might not be worth saving as the skin was never high quality and the dyes degrade over time. Seperate the fur down to the skin and see if the color goes all the way down to the skin evenly–like it grew from the skin–to see if it is real or faux. Any furrier can tell you this if you have a question on it. IF these can’t be saved they can be donated to animal shelters for babies and wounded animals to lie on. And yes you can re-line them yourself!

    • I have a suede bomber jacket that I got as a teen and am passing on to my son (almost a teen). It’s got spots on it and I tried that suede eraser and brush. It sort of got off the spots, but I can still see them.
      Are you saying I could wash that? Or is the suede too delicate?
      All of this leather washing business has my head spinning!

  • I had a child get sick on my favorite leather purse over a year ago. I had no choice at the time, so I tossed it in the washer just because it was that or the trash. I, too, was surprisingly amazed at how well it washed! I just used my normal off brand ‘Tide’ detergent.

  • I,too, have used this method after buying purses, and leather shoes, from thrift stores at rock bottom prices because they were dirty or smelled of cigarettes/smelly feet.

    Like the purse, too.

  • What a helpful post, as they all are, Jillee. It really opens up the possibilities. I have washed my kids gym bags and expensive sports shoes for years and also my tote bags, etc but never thought about leather purses. One thing that really shortens drying time for shoes is to set them by the dehumidifier and crank it (the dehumidifier) up. Otherwise it can take a long time for those shoes and boots to dry. Also, before washing shoes we use an old toothbrush to scrub around the soles– it helps alot.

  • I was having the cleaning leather conversation last weekend with my friend who worked for the local dry cleaner and GASP! She told me they don’t dry clean leather!! They actually wash it in the machine. All these years I’ve been paying for professional leather cleaning for nothing. Definately going to try it. :)

  • I have a Coach purse that I had to get cleaned before I could use it again. It was a fabric one though, but I washed it on the gentle cycle and hung it up to dry in my laundry room. It turned out great. I had nothing to lose, since I couldn’t use the purse unless it was cleaned. I also put my flip flops in the washer because of the smell also. I just let them air dry also.

  • I love this bag…wish I had it to wash and carry around! I must say I wash my leather UGG boots pretty regularly…it doesn’t seem to hurt them at all. As a matter of fact I throw them in with a load of towels and after listening to them thump away (I have a front loader) they come out beautifully. I let them air dry outside when its nice and that does the trick.
    The best part…they get all snuggly and tight again…I love my UGG boots!

  • My last couch was a beige leather piece that got really really nasty all over but especially in the seats ( it was full of holes and not worth saving but we were broke and needed it to last) so I took the seat covers off and washed them and it really helped. I think they shrunk a bit but not enough to be an issue.

  • Jillee,
    Have you tried Mr. Clean Magic Erasers? For the darkened areas around the seams on your beautiful bag, try these erasers. They are basically a one use deal, as they crumble if vigorously used to scrub. But they work…magically!

  • I wash my leather sandles in the washer quite often. The foot beds get dirty and some of them have a type foot bed material that seems to cause foot odor. I was afraid to try to wash these and my others, but heck I wasn’t wearing them anyway. Most do well and come out looking new. A few start to look a bit on the worn side. One pair I have been washing for three seasons and they are just fine. I always air dry. I use my home made soap. Will try the castil soap on next washing.

    • Was just going to comment on sandals… yes, I do, too, have for many years. Also leather tennies; with the white ones, I put in a bit of bleach… surprising how much they whiten up. Dump the existing laces, get new ones, and the bleached leather tennies look a heck of a lot better. Though, as someone said, especially with the bleach, I kinda wait till they’re on their last legs to give them that final boost (which usually works a couple of times more). Always air dry them; the white ones go out in the sun if possible; sandals get hung from a hangar in the basement till dry. Experiment with some sad ones to find out what works for you; certainly worth the effort.

  • Love your blog!! I’m a lawyer and a crafty person, but I am stuck thinking like a lawyer. Soooooo, put that disclaimer at the beginning of this post!

  • I wash leather items in the machine all the time. I ride horses so my chaps go in the washer about once a year. One warning, I would not dry the leather in direct sunlight, you don’t want leather to get too hot. And I’m not sure how washing would effect pure vegetable tanned leather, the light tan leather with little to no coloring. Water tends to leave stains on it but maybe if you wash the whole thing, as opposed to being splashed with drops of water, it won’t stain. But most colored leather will wash just fine

  • This is so weird. :) Not the washing! The fact that just a couple days ago I washed my Guess leather jacket exactly this way! I even used Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap too! :)

    Actually it’s not a news for me – I wash all of my leather all the time! I mean not all the time of course, only when it needs cleaning but I’ve known that leather is perfectly washable for a few years now. I’ve found a few pretty amazing genuine leather bags in our local Goodwill and after a washer session they look like new!

    I never put leather in the drier though. Not even on low heat. I just leave it to air dry, and never in the sun – I’m afraid the leather might fade. Bags can take up to a few days to air dry in winter, so you just have to find a place where they can sit or hang undisturbed. In summer though my Guess jacket was perfectly dry in a day, just lying flat on a chair under a fan. Of course I live in Arizona, so it would probably take longer in a humid climate.

    I never even had to use any conditioner on washed leather – it always feels soft and looks great! Some leather can get a little stiffer right out of the washer but it softens very fast as you start using the item. But if you have a conditioner, I guess it wouldn’t hurt. :)

    So fear not, ladies, it’s a pretty old trick and many people have used it successfully. :)

    P.S. Jillee, this is a beautiful bag! I love it’s simplicity and functional modern design! Glad you could bring it back to life. :)

    • OLGA,
      Thank you so much, you answered my question. I found a two Michael Kors purses at Goodwill one needs a really good wash. I tried using their leather cleaner but no results. I too live in AZ, I’m goin to try this tonight.

  • You can shrink leather by doing this. You can also ruin the finish. It can make the leather brittle. Leather is not the same thing as skin, it just started there. They make leather cleaners so you can clean leather items by hand. I hope you guys don’t ruin your stuff doing this :(

    • I have had horses for years which involves lots of leather and dirt !! Most leather things are washable , you just need to replace the oils back in the leather when you are done , so you don’t end up with a dried stiff piece of leather , usually any leather conditioners , or a leather oil ( although that can also darken it )

      I have washed leather and suede chaps for years , added liquid fabric softener , keeps them from drying stiff and they stay nice and supple .

  • I haven’t tried actually throwing my bag into the washer although, I had a brandnew pair of cowboy boots, suede & polished leather. First time I ever wore them it rained for hours, we were on a trail ride so I couldn’t really run for cover.. They were soaked..well, we both were.. I left them in the sun to dry and they looked brand new again.. No, they were never dirty but I figure if the big no-no is water, why are we so scared that it will harm leather items.. I have since scrubbed with a sponge, boots, purses, wallets, and jackets and they all have had great results… I also used a fairly gentle liquid soap…
    Thanks for your posts, keep um coming…V

  • Kathy,

    Don’t know if this would work for leather but what I use for fabric that has oil stains is good old cornstarch. Sprinkle liberally and let it do its thing. It absorbs the oil.
    Then I put the cloth item in the washing machine.

    I would try a couple of rounds with the CS.
    If purse is unlined do it on inside.
    Let us know if this works


  • What a Fantastic outcome Jillee!
    I think it was a good move using the liquid soap because there’s no residue etc? – I know you can get leather coats that you wash in your washing-machine and they look fab when done! Skin is waterproof and porus but I suppose we worry about getting water stains on leather because it’s such a pain to clean – but submerging the whole thing should be ok (like when leather is cured?) but you have to condition it again to make it supple and then re-waterproof it.. We used to have something called ‘Scotchguard’ here in the UK but I don’t think they make it anymore although there are plenty of waterproofing shoe-sprays that you can use on handbags and coats that work just fine! Or Dubbin as mentioned before is great, which is a type of no-colour waterproof boot polish. (Skinheads and our army and police used to use it on their boots!) LOL (I think a spray would be better on light coloured leather though for more even coverage) xxx

  • Reading this, I thought, wow …. would I take a chance with a leather bag, but then again I had to rethink that …. I have a set of leather saddlebags on my motorcycle and, long story, short they were terribly mishaped and gaping wipe open due to the fact that I had tried to cram three times as much stuff into them as should have been possible, and then proceeded to get rained on for six hours straight. After living like this for three years (yes, it’s sad I know), an upholsterer suggested that I take the entire bag and soak it in a huge container of water for an hour or so and then put outsidse to dry. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing ….. leather in water – wasn’t that the beginning of my problem? Well guess what, it worked! I couldn’t believe it. After soaking the bag totally and completely in water and then puttinig it outside, I reshaped it just a bit and then waited, and waited and waited …… voila! I now have a set of leather bags that I’m proud to have on my bike again …. so, yes, you are certainly taking fate into your own hands by “washing leather” but I, personally, would certainly not hesitate to do it again …………. Hmmm, now let me see where that Coach bag is :-)

    • Great story Skylar! I have to say, the minute I put the purse in the washer full of water I had a slight heart attack! lol.

      Let us know about the Coach bag! ;-)

  • OH, Kathy, I feel so bad for you. I have some treasured things of my grama too and I would just die if they got ruined. I hope someone will come along that will have the answer for you.

  • I wonder how it would work for oil? I have a teal colored leather bag that was my grandmothers. Like an idiot, I had a Lindor truffle in the bottom and in the spring heat it melted! I cried for a while, then emptied it out, blotted it and it has been sitting ever since. I did research a little but don’t want to take the chance of ruining it! HELP!!!

    • Something similar…erm, it might have actually been a Lindor…happened to my red leather jacket. Washed it with Suave shampoo ( Castille should be more effective but I had never heard of it back then) INSIDE OUT. There was some fading but it just washed right back onto itself. It tinted the wash water so I know it was there even if there was no sign of it.
      I might even add some EO and a dash of vinegar to the rinse water to make my stuff smell good.

    • I have done this with cough drops. If it is just on the lining carefully lift it from the purse, and wash with a gentle soap. May have to wash more than once and with the cough drops there was a slight pink stain remaining, but who looks in the purse. Good luck

  • mary hunt, in her ‘everyday cheapskate’ newsletter a few days ago, recommends using a mr. clean magic eraser sponge–dampen the sponge with water, then ‘go to work’ on your purse–she’s had excellent results, provided the problem is dirt, not wear.

    machine washing sounds much labor-intensive, though!

    • NEVER use Mr Clean erasers on leather!!! Please learn from my mistake.
      I took those magical little wonders to my 18 year old gorgeous leather sofas. At first they worked like magic, taking away all that deep grime on the seats. I was so happy with myself. However, I quickly learned that my magic eraser took off the top protective layer of my sofa. I’ve ruined them. 6 mo later they started cracking the seats are cracked beyond repair. (I did condition them after I cleaned them with the erasers.. But the damage was done). So sad.
      Thanks for the tip Jillee. Love your blog.

  • I wash some leather items in the machine, and so far all have come through just fine. I figure cows get wet outside in the rain and don’t seem the worse for wear!

    • Your point is true — yes, cows DO get wet and they survive. lol. Seriously, I searched high and low about 18 months ago for how to clean some Ugg suede boots (a beautiful golden-brown color) after I’d spilled olive on them accidentally while cooking for my mother.

      I came across one website which stated that washing suede or leather with a MILD soap would remove the stain. Do not be afraid because these are animal skins. They get wet while the animal is alive, right? Care should be taken with dyed skins, however, so test on a hidden area first (unless you don’t mind losing a bit of color). The trick is to be sure to wash the whole item, NOT just spot clean it, because you want one uniform color when finished.

      Drying the item for a bit in the dryer on low setting, with some type of cushioning such as old (colorfast) towels can be done, but ONLY to for a bit. I found air drying worked best for me, but NOT in the sun. The sun will fade your colors and could possibly “yellow” your lighter colors (such as white, off-white, etc.). Putting a small towel(s) inside the purse to retain its original shape helps a lot, too, while it is air drying.

      Alternatively, it is also possible to pull the lining inside out from the bag and wash it separately if you have hard-to-remove stains on the interior. Be sure not to get the cleaner you are using on the leather or suede, however. Using an old toothbrush or soft brush on ink stains, lipstick, etc. helps. I’ve had linings come out super clean and looking great. Air dry after the hand-washing, and be sure to rinse well before drying, patting excess moisture with an old, white towel (again, stay away from the main part of the purse if it’s leather or suede).

      Don’t be afraid to try this, especially on your favorite light-colored bags that are ruined by brushing against your blue jeans, or a vivid color ruined by ink stains. If you’re not using that purse because of its stains, you have nothing to lose, right?

      • Ooops, sorry…. I forgot to add that after washing a leather purse, etc., you MUST use a good conditioner on it to replace the oils that were washed out. I forget what I used on those boots, but after re-conditioning them I Scotchguarded them as well. They’re holding up beautifully. On my Coach purse I used a Coach conditioner then some other type of sealer I purchased online that had to be rubbed in then lightly blown dry with a hair dryer to seal it. I think a lemon-oil based furniture polish would work just fine, too, like I read on another site.

        Jillee, your purse looks mahhvelous!

      • How do you get the ink stain out of a cream colored lining in a MK Hamilton tote. Thank you

  • It looks as though your handbag is rubbing on denim jeans. You will definitely need to protect it by coating it with a product like dubbin (used for saddles).
    Good job
    Maggi, South Africa

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