How To Clean a Leather Purse from a Thrift Store

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Fast fashion is on the rise, and it is deteriorating our planet day by day. Thrift stores are a boon in this time of environmental crisis. Thrift stores are sustainable and affordable but not always clean.

And cleaning them can be a task, more when it’s leather. So let’s discuss how to clean a leather purse from a thrift store.

How To Clean A Leather Purse From A Thrift Store

Thrift stores are a blessing, especially when you want to stay in trend and do not want to spend much money to buy those fashionable items. Cleaning a leather purse from thrift stores might sound a bit scary, as leather is one of the most sensitive materials to work with, but we can assure you it is an easy and quick process to go through.

Leather purse from thrift stores placed on the grass

Pick Up A Good Quality Bag From Thrift Stores

If you want to do a successful clean-up for the leather bag you bought in a thrift store, you have to make sure that it is in the best condition when you buy it from thrift stores.

First, look out for stains on the leather of the purse. Second, make sure the leather is in good condition; keep an eye on the torn pieces of the bag. Finally, make sure all the zippers are functioning correctly.

You need to look out for the points mentioned above, as if you buy a highly damaged bag from a thrift store, it will be really difficult to get good results even after cleaning the bag.

Also, once the payment is made for the bag, there is no chance of returning it at any cost in most thrift stores.

Materials Required

Before moving on to the cleaning process, let us get the ingredients required to keep the cleaning process seamless and easy.

Here is the list of materials required for cleaning your leather bag from a thrift store:

  • Some clean water in a bowl: water and leather are not a very good combination for a cleaning, but we can use the water sparingly while cleaning the purse.
  • A few clean pieces of rag: You can source this item from your old clothing or towels. The fluffier the cloth, the better the results; make sure the clothes are colorless, as they might leave the color while cleaning.
  • Leather Shampoo: Well, we can not clean leather with ordinary shampoo. Since leather is sensitive material, a good quality shampoo will work well during the process.
  • A good disinfectant: We do not know where the bag came from and where it was initially stored; thus, to ensure that it is bacteria-free, buy a good disinfectant spray or liquid.
  • Leather recoloring balm: Since it is a second-hand purse, there may be some discoloration on the bag; thus, to restore the color of the bag, you will need a good quality leather recoloring balm.
  • Leather Conditioner: Now, to make the leather feel soft and tender after the cleaning, you will need a leather conditioner to make your bag last longer and make the leather firm.
  • Leather protecting finish: After the cleaning process, you might want to protect the leather from water or any damp environment; that is where leather protecting finishing comes into the picture.
Perfume, notebook, wallet, ballpen and a sunglass are spilling out of a leather purse

Step 1: Get Rid Of The Stuff From The Previous Owner

Before you begin the cleaning, you might not want anything that belonged to the previous owner with you.

Thus, the first step is to get rid of the stuff from the former owner. Typically, the thrift stores make sure that there are no items in the bag from the previous owners but double-check to make sure.

There can be cards, wooden combs, receipts, or other small items in the bag, so pour them out in the trash compartment. You might need to unstick some items from the bag by hitting them.

Step 2: Wiping Off The Dust

Once you are done getting rid of the stuff from the former owner, it is time to start working on the bag. Start with wiping off the dust from the leather bag.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Take a small piece of rag and start wiping the outer and inner surface of the leather bag.
  2. Always shake the bag after cleaning one compartment of the bag. Make sure all the compartments of the bag are cleaned properly.

Step 3: Cleaning With An Anti-Germ Wipe And A Damp Cloth

Once you have wiped off the dust, it is time to get rid of the germs from your beloved leather purse. Now you have to move on with cleaning the purse with a wipe and a damp cloth.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Take a clean wipe and clean the inside and outside of the leather bag. One wipe will be enough to cover the whole bag.
  2. Now take a small piece of rag and dip it into water. Now squeeze it to remove extra water from the rag. 
  3. Now concentrate your efforts on the stained areas; make sure you do not apply a lot of pressure while you go about this step.
  4. Now put the purse into a ventilated area to let it dry.

If you can remove the water stains in this step, you can apply leather conditioner; if not, you need to follow the next step.

Step 4: Cleaning The Purse With A Leather Shampoo

If you cannot remove the stains from the purse in the previous step, it is time to upgrade our cleaning tools.

Now you need to start cleaning the purse with a leather shampoo to get rid of those stubborn stains from the leather bag.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Take a small amount of leather shampoo and apply it to the surface of the bag. Now take an old toothbrush and concentrate your efforts on the stained area.
  2. You will observe lather coming from the scrubbing action, and it will pull out the dirt. Make sure you do not scrub too hard.
  3. You can spend about 30 seconds on each spot, and you will observe a smooth surface emerging on the bag.
  4. Once the scrubbing is done, take a damp cloth and clean the purse.
  5. Now keep the purse in a ventilated area and let it dry.

Here is a link to a study concentrating on the qualities of leather and its cleaning.

Step 5: Removing Scratches From A Leather Purse

Since the stains are being removed, the surface of the leather will become pretty smooth, as any loose strands of leather are being removed by scrubbing action.

Man taking a photo of the landscape while carrying his thrifted leather purse

If you observe any kind of scratches on the clean leather purse, this step is a must.

Take the purse and observe for any discoloration and scratches on the surface. You can move forward with using a spatula to remove a little amount of leather recoloring balm and apply it to the respective area.

Ensure the recoloring balm is applied evenly on all the areas, and more pressure should be applied to the scratched ones. You can move forward with applying a few coats of the recoloring balm to make sure you get your desired look.

Step 6: Applying The Conditioner And The Finish

Since the discoloration and the cracks have been taken care of by the balm, it is time to move forward with the final step, applying the conditioner and the finish.

Take a clean piece of white rug and put some conditioner on it. Now apply the conditioner evenly on the surface of the bag.

Wait for at least ten minutes and then take another clean piece of rag and move forward with applying the protector finish on the outer surface of the leather bag. Now your clean leather purse is good to use.

This step will protect the bag from water and other damp environments that might attract mold.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Safe To Buy A Leather Bag From Thrift Store?

Yes, it is completely safe and healthy to buy a leather bag from thrift stores; just check the bag thoroughly before buying it and clean it before using it.

Can I Get Good Quality Items From Thrift Stores?

Yes, you can buy good quality products from thrift stores, as they check them thoroughly before selling.


Thrift stores are a blessing, especially if you are going through a financial crunch. However, it is not about class all the time; sometimes, you need to be mindful while shopping, think about things like the clothes that are dying in your closet, and create unnecessary waste on the planet. It is time to take responsibility and go thrift shopping.