stained bags.jpg

Image by ColorWash, Guerlain, MAC, YSL

We asked managing director Gemma Gil of ColorWash, a professional cleaning service provider for leather bags and shoes, to share her tips on handling the most common stain issues for leather bags.

While she recommends taking the bag to a proper cleaner, here are some things you can do in the immediate aftermath of minor stains.

1. Food stains

For a minor oil stain from food such as ketchup or chilli sauce, use baby powder to absorb the oil.

However, this method is not recommended for leather such as lambskin and suede, as the powder may get caught in the open pores.

2. Wine stains

White wine stains can dry quickly, but they should still be cleaned. The alcohol in the wine evaporates, but the remaining sugar may lead to fungal growth. Use a leather wipe (cleaning wipes specially formulated for use on leather) to remove the sugar from a minor white wine stain and dry the area with cool air from a hairdryer.

Take red wine stains to a professional, as the colour makes it difficult to remove the stains yourself.

3. Water (rain)

If the stain is due to water, for example, from a sudden onset of rain, dry the bag with cool air from a hairdryer. Put newspaper or tracing paper in the interior of the bag to absorb the water and retain the bag’s shape.

4. Makeup

If make-up is the culprit of the stain, do not use a make-up remover.

Such removers are commonly oil- or cream-based and can alter the natural properties of leather. Use a leather wipe for minor make-up stains.

A leather wipe also works for minor colour transfer from jeans or furniture.

5. Any 

Regardless of the kind of stain, avoid using baby or sanitising wipes because they usually contain alcohol or cream, which can aggravate the stain.

6. Humidity and Odour

When it comes to other stain-related nuisances such as humidity and odour, place a bag of treated charcoal where you store the bag.

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on October 31, 2014. For similar stories, go to You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.