How to Dye & Restore Your Old Leather Handbag

How to Dye & Restore Your Old Leather Handbag

Buying a new leather handbag is a costly pursuit. Leather purses run anywhere between $100-$150 these days – and that’s not even for a designer brand. Throw designer handbags into the mix and you’re looking at upwards of $200 for a new leather tote.

This is not to say you don’t get bang for your buck. Leather handbags are sturdy, long-lasting, and versatile. Nonetheless, like anything, they’re subject to fading, scuffing, and staining.

Rather than tossing your handbag out at the first sign of a defect, however, you might want to consider breathing some life back into it. You may be thinking, Who has time to restore an old leather purse? Well, you do. Fortunately, it’s a process that’s quite simple and can easily save you a couple hundred bucks.

There are, however, a few things you’ll need:

  • Toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Warm water and soap
  • Leather conditioner
  • Leather dye
  • Hair dryer (optional)

Prepping the bag

The first thing you’ll need to do is wash the bag. You can do this by immersing the bag in a tub of warm water and soap. Or, you can also soak your cloth in the warm water and soap mixture, and simply use it to wipe the bag down.

Take the toothbrush, and really use it to get into the seams of the handles, as well as any other nooks and crannies on the exterior.

Once this is done, dry the bag off with a small towel. You may notice the towel turn brownish, but don’t panic. That’s just the dirt and a little bit of dye coming off. We’ll address that in a minute, though.

Restoring and Dyeing

Now, there are two routes to take from here, so you’ll have to ask yourself what the goal of this process is. Are you looking to simply restore a handbag to its original luster? Or are you looking to perform a full leather recovery (dyeing and all)?

If the color is still there, but the leather just seems dull, you’ll want to apply a leather conditioner. Spread it around with a cloth and rub it into the leather with your fingers. Give it some time to absorb – though this may take a couple of hours.

If there are any nicks and scratches that you want to smooth out, just take a hair dryer and work it over the spot while rubbing it with your fingers. This should cause the scratch to blend right out.

If your bag needs a full-blown rehabilitation, you’ll forego this and go straight for the dye. Make sure to find a dye that matches the original color of the handbag as closely as possible.

Most leather dye kits will come with an applicator, but if not, just use a small paintbrush. Begin painting the edges along the seams and slowly work your way in, using same-direction strokes. Use a sponge (makeup sponge will do) to spread a thin layer of dye across the bag. It may take a couple of layers before the refreshed color really starts to show.

Once this is done, simply let it dry and – voila! – your leather handbag is like new.

Care & Maintenance

Preserving the quality of your leather handbag is the final, and possibly most critical, step in this whole process. Once a week, wipe the bag down with a lint-free cloth and warm, soapy water. Wipe in the direction of the grain. Don’t use harsh chemical cleaners or other products. It will destroy the hard work you just put in.

Also, don’t let ink or other stains sit for too long. You can use rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or nail polish remover to remove these.

Lastly, keep your bag away from windows or bright sunlight, as this is what will cause fading and require you to do this restoration process more often than necessary. If you’re mindful and take good care of your handbag on a day-to-day basis, you’ll rarely have to perform this restoration. And, lucky you, people will be asking where you bought your brand new handbag for decades to come!

Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for Leather World Tech, a top retailer of aniline leather dye and leather repair kits for all kinds of products – from car seats to purses.