Leather purse cleaning
August 25, 2009 8:58 PM   Subscribe

I need advice for cleaning a water stain on a leather purse.

A drop of rain fell on my fiancee's purse and caused a stain. The purse is made of very soft leather and I did not expect it to leave a mark after drying, but it has been several days and the dark spot is only slightly lighter. You can see pictures of the spot here and here. I assume it was only a drop of rain since it was raining lightly that day, but the only other possibility would be a drop falling from a overhang.

I know nothing about leather care and I got conflicting advice from different sites from a Google search. Can you give me any advice on how to return the purse to its original condition based on your leather experience?
posted by demiurge to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you absolutely certain that it's a water stain? It seems that a light rain would have caused multiple droplets to fall on the purse (not just one). It looks more like an oil-based stain to me. But either way, if it's a valuable purse, you might want to take it to a local shop that specializes in leather goods (e.g. a place that sells coats or cowboy boots, or even a biker shop that sells leather wear). Their staff would be able to look at it in person and give you a recommendation, or they may even be able to clean it for you.
posted by amyms at 9:47 PM on August 25, 2009

Apply some talc (talcum powder) with a soft rag, gently working it into the leather a bit. Leave it for a few hours, and brush off. The powder will pull moisture, oil and most polar solvents via Van der Waals forces and capillary action. If the stain lightens, but doesn't come out, a second or third application of talc may be useful.

Finally, use art gum to remove the last vestiges of powder.

This is the basic "cleaning" or pre-treatment process many leather cleaners do, before doing any solvent cleaning. It is very useful in spot treating, and leveling the finish of dyed and vegetable tanned leathers, after processing.

A light coating of neutral color shoe polish, liquified with a hair dryer on low heat setting, and allowed to sink into the leather, will help even the color of the finish, provide a bit of water repellency, and help protect the finish. Brush gently after heating with the hair dryer, with a clean natural pig bristle brush, to remove any surface residual of the polish.
posted by paulsc at 10:35 PM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I agree it doesn't look like a normal water stain. If it's an oil stain, I would second the talc suggestion (though I tend to use corn starch - either will work). You will need to rub the starch or talc in multiple times, sometimes leaving it on overnight. I've gotten stains to lighten remarkably by using this method.

If it's water, you may need to treat it with a clean soft cloth/sponge, as described here.
posted by cranberryskies at 5:17 PM on August 28, 2009

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