Leather is notoriously challenging to clean. The fibrous structure is tanned and laid with a surface coating to make it flexible and extremely durable. That durability and the natural roots of the product make it very expensive, so it’s natural to want to preserve the item for as long as possible. Leather accessories are statement pieces, and you want them to look their best. If you get a stain, you’ll need to tend to it immediately to make sure all that money doesn’t go down the drain.
What makes water stains more problematic is that there are many different types of leather, which may react differently to the liquid. Likewise, there are different types of water – the treated stuff flowing from your sink has different minerals and additives than what falls from the sky or comes in a bottle. Some combinations of leather types and water types can prove slightly more difficult to fix than others.
Some types of leather are extremely absorbent, and soak in any liquid that contacts the surface. So how are you supposed to clean the stuff without making the stain even worse? Solvents like acetone damage the surface, as does rubbing on stains. Heating it to dry can fade the color and dry out the material. So if you get a stain on leather, you have to know how to clean it properly, or you could end up getting yourself in worse trouble than you started out in.
With water stains in leather, it’s important to act fast. If you let the stain settle in, it may lighten up in the middle, but the ring around the stain will remain dark and formidable. Right when you notice the water get onto your purse, you’ll need to grab a cloth to start dabbing the web spot. Make sure to use a cloth that won’t break apart easily or leave lint behind). It’s important to simply tap the stain lightly to soak up the liquid, rather than rubbing it. Swiping the cloth against the leather can scratch the fabric, and can spread the stain even further or push it deeper into the leather.
If the water has had time to dry before you notice the damage, or before you’re in a position to start cleaning, removing the stain will take a bit more work. There are a few methods you can try out. One possible solution is to dampen a lint-free cloth very slightly with warm water, and just barely wet the area of the stain, over to the closest seam. Then, grab another cloth, or the other end of the one you just used, and dab out all the water. That way, everything comes out evenly, and the original stain lifts out with the rest of the water. However, that method does risk darkening the leather.
Another option is to try out specific leather treatment. If you’re going to use a store-bought product, always make sure to first use a cloth to dab the cleaner onto a discreet part of the accessory, such as the inside folded lip of a purse before the liner starts on the inside. Let it dry, and then check for any discoloration, transfer of color from the cloth, or other damage. It’s best to use a white cloth while testing treatments, and remember the cloth must not leave lint behind that could stick to the leather. If there’s nothing wrong with the area you tested, you can go ahead and lightly apply the product to the water stain, making sure to dab off any excess cleanser. Let the product dry indoors in room temperature. Don’t use a blow dryer or other form of heat to try to speed up the drying process, as that can damage the leather too.
Once the leather is dry, dab on some leather conditioner to make sure the purse doesn’t become stiff or course from the cleaning product. If you’re going to try this method, it’s a good idea to go ahead and clean the entire purse, so that no one area is uneven in coloration or texture. Once all that dries, the leather will be good as new!