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How to look after a leather bag

How to look after a leather bag

Photographed: Barbour leather holdall (£319); London Undercover umbrella (£65); Jason Markk cleaning kit (£16); Jason Markk wipes (£15)


At Thread, we have a simple formula for figuring out when something is worth the price tag – cost-per-wear. The idea is to divide the cost by how many times you think you’ll use it. An overcoat, for example, might last for three years and be wearable four times a week, for eight months of the year. So to figure out its cost-per-wear, you divide the price by 384 days  – which can make even big investments seem much more reasonable.

A leather bag is a case in point. Leather is never cheap, but it’s extremely hard-wearing, which means that a well-made bag could last a decade or more. When you’re using it almost every day of the year, even an eye-watering outlay has a cost-per-wear of pennies. Provided, that is, you look after it.

“Treat your bag like you would your leather shoes,” says Thread stylist Millie Rich. “The biggest things that can damage it are the weather, dirt and scratches, but they can all be prevented or removed if you’re careful.” Not that you need to be too precious.

“Leather wears naturally over time, which adds character,” says Millie. “So don’t stress too much about areas of discolouration or the odd mark. The most important thing is just to invest in real leather, as it’s timeless and will last for years if you’re careful. Just make sure to test products on a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure that they won’t damage the leather.”

The threat: rain

“Rain can leave ghastly marks on leather,” says Millie. “So stow a fold-up umbrella inside your bag, so you’re always prepared. If it does get wet, don’t dry it on a radiator – heat strips the natural oils and makes water stains harder to remove. Just wipe dry with a cloth and then polish or use a leather oil afterwards.” You can also minimise damage by spraying regularly with a leather protector – the same one that keeps your shoes in good nick is fine.

The threat: dirt and dust

“These can make your leather bag look older more quickly. Store it in a dust bag when you’re not using it and wipe it clean after you use it and before you put it away.” To avoid damage, wipe along the grain of the leather. And if your bag didn’t come with a dust bag, an old pillowcase is just as effective.

The threat: scratches

Dings are inevitable and there’s only so much you can do to remove them. “Soft leather is particularly susceptible, but a polish can really lift these out.” Just make sure you match the polish precisely to the colour of the leather. Then be more careful next time you’re putting your keys away.