The Truth About Maintaining Your Designer Bags

Read this before you follow the misguided advice of non-experts


If there’s anyone who knows about bag calamities and maintenance, it’s Gemma Gil. The founder of bag rejuvenation chain Colorwash has heard all sorts of horror stories and had numerous bags in various states of disrepair pass through her hands since she started her business in 2003.

“Once, a customer’s two-year-old daughter poured a bottle of juice inside her new Bottega Veneta,” she recalls. “She didn’t know what to do! She just carried it straight to me with the juice still inside. I said, I’m not going to drink it!” 

Another time, a man brought her a Prada wallet that he had dropped into a urine-filled toilet bowl and asked for her help in cleaning it.

Such situations can swing either way – if you know what to do, you could save your precious possession, but if not handled properly, the damage could be irreparable. “It’s scary. There are so many untrue stories and wrong info online that could ruin your bag if you follow them,” Gil says.

So that that never happens to you, here are her top tips on how to look after, store and maintain your designer goods. 

1. If your bag gets wet

Do: Whether it’s juice, tea or water, don’t panic. Tip your bag upside down and drain the liquid out. Then dry it with a hairdryer in cool mode. To prevent shrinkage as the bag is drying, stuff it with a pillow made of newspaper wrapped in tracing paper. “Sounds cheap, but it works the best because it helps to absorb both smell and moisture,” advises Gil. If it’s a wallet, fit some cards in first.

Don’t: Use tissue or paper to dab the liquid because the pressure will only drive the moisture further into the leather. “And whatever you do, don’t allow the restaurant staff or anyone who doesn’t know anything about bags to try a remedy – it will be game over if you do!” says Gil.

2. If your bag gets stained

Do: Gently rub the stain off with a leather cleaner wipe that has a cleaning and water-based moisturising agent, using a circular motion. (But avoid going more than a couple of rounds because the colour will come off if you rub too hard.) One wipe can be used to clean two or three bags. This also helps to minimise cracking in the leather.

Don’t: Use baby wipes on your bags. These have alcohol, which will aggravate the stain. 

3. Storage

Do: Stuff your bags with the aforementioned newspaper pillows so they stand naturally and keep their shape. Place them on open shelves in dustbags, and make sure you keep at least 5cm of space between each so they have room to “breathe” and won’t leave dent marks on one another.

Don’t: Leave your bags in a closed cupboard because the humidity will melt certain parts, especially patent leather and waxed handles. Also avoid stuffing them with soft toys or actual pillows because that invites fungus.

4. Protection

Do: Assess what level of “shielding” you need for your bag, depending on what leather it’s made of. For example, Prada’s saffiano leather is very hardy and doesn’t need much protection, whereas lambskin is extremely delicate because it’s not highly processed during the manufacturing process. 

You can also protect your bag with treatments like Colorwash’s high-tech High Density Coating, which is made of silicone and minerals. When sprayed on, it will shield all sorts of leather and fabrics (even that Chanel tweed suit!) from wear and tear, rain and daylight, and is especially good for bright-coloured bags. 

Don’t: Leave it till after your bag is damaged to treat it. After all, “prevention is better than cure”, Gil says. 

For more on fashion, head here. Or check out First Look: H&M X Balmain and Is There Such A Thing As Too Many Shoes?

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