Leather purses and handbags can be beautiful pieces of wearable art. However, they need to be properly cared to retain their appearance. Fortunately, a leather purse in poor repair can usually be restored.
Purchase your products. You can get saddle soap and mink oil from pet supply stores, farm and feed stores, or equestrian dealers. If you have a delicate or expensive purse, consider purchasing the special products available from Lovin' My Bags. These were specially formulated for the special circumstances involved with handbags and purses.
Remove any items from the pockets and spaces. Turn the purse upside down and gently shake it. Brush the lining out to knock loose any additional debris. If the purse is sturdy enough, you can even vacuum it with a low-suction vacuum cleaner.
Use a soft, barely damp white cloth and wipe down the entire purse to remove any surface debris.
Test a small, inconspicuous area for colorfastness with the soap or cleanser. Let it sit for a while and examine it to make sure it's not going to leave a mark. If it does leave a mark, use another cleanser.
Clean the leather by massaging the saddle soap or handbag leather cleaner into the grain of the leather. Use a second cloth to blot out stains. You can use a soft toothbrush to pull up dirt or debris ingrained into the leather.
Moisturize the leather with mink oil or a special handbag leather moisturizer/conditioner. You can use a cloth or your own hands, moving in a gentle circular motion. Take care to reach every portion of the purse, including the seams and crevices. Wipe off the oily residue with a clean cloth. Buff the leather well.
Apply any other products to the purse, including products for color restoration, shine or odor removal. Check out Lovin' My Bags for options.
Clean, repair, and shine the purse's hardware. You may need to re-plate the hardware if it is bad. Use a type of cleaner specific to the metal.
If the purse is in bad shape, consider taking it to a professional. Shoe cobblers will usually do purse and bag restoration. You also can take it to small specialty mom-and-pop shops or online vendors like Lovin' My Bags or Artbag (see Resources below).
Always blot stains - never rub.
If you use special cleaners and conditions, make sure they are the kind made for handbags and purses, not just general or all-purpose cleaners that you might use on other leather products.