restore faded leather bag

How to Restore a Faded Leather Bag

Leather bags develop a beautiful gleam and patina over time, but age and prolonged exposure to sunlight can also cause uneven fading. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the original color of your leather bag and can lighten certain areas of it.

This fading applies to all types of leather bags, including leather handbags, leather gym bags, leather briefcases, leather backpacks, leather purses, and many others. 

Fortunately, you can easily restore your faded leather bag by first clearing away dirt with a leather cleaner, using a good conditioner to bring back its natural colors, and finally using a quality polish to bring out its authentic charm.

Here’s a quick overview of the process:

  1. Preparation
  2. Use a Cleaner on Your Leather Bag
  3. Condition Your Leather Bag
  4. Apply a Polish to Your Leather Bag

This guide will not only teach how to restore a faded leather bag but also provide valuable insights as to why leather discolorations happen, alternative methods for restoring faded leather bags, and also answer some frequently asked questions. 

Reasons Why Leather Bags Fade

Leather bags can fade naturally when they are exposed to sunlight over a long period of time. Fading can also occur due to other reasons such as water and moisture, lack of maintenance, using unsuitable products, and when the leather of your bag is damaged. 

It’s also important to note that leather can fade differently, depending on the type of leather your bag is made of. For example, semi-aniline and aniline leathers often fade more easily and quickly compared to leathers with topcoats, since they do not have any protective pigments.

faded leather bag
Faded Leather Bag

This also means that your leather bag may experience an accelerated rate of fading if it’s made of semi-aniline or aniline leather. However, regardless of the type of leather your bag is made of, you should always ensure to maintain it well, so that premature fading can be avoided. 

Take note that there are various reasons why leather bags can fade over time, so let’s explore them in more detail. 

  • Exposure to Sunlight – When you carry your leather bag in the sun, it’s exposed to direct sunlight. Excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can break down the leather fibers of your bag and cause it to fade over time. Under extreme conditions, this could even lead to flaking and stickiness, eventually disintegrating its fiber structures.
  • Exposure to Water & Moisture – Water and moisture can remove the natural oils of your leather bag and cause discoloration in certain areas. Therefore, you should keep your leather bag away from water, moisture, and damp environments whenever possible. 
  • Lack of Maintenance – If you do not maintain your leather bag with the proper conditioning practices, it may not last as long as it’s supposed to. Leather bags that don’t have a protective layer tend to fade faster. Therefore, we recommend that you should clean and condition your leather bag regularly to avoid it from fading. 
  • Using Unsuitable Products – Using cleaning and conditioning products that are not leather-friendly, increases the risk of discoloration as harmful chemicals can remove any protective coating, dyes and also the leather’s natural oils. Therefore, we also recommend that you also use leather cleaning products, instead of general cleaning solutions. It’s also good to read the ingredients list carefully before using a product.
  • Damage to Leather – Leather bags that have damaged areas can also lead to fading. This is because damaged leather is often more vulnerable to external substances and is void of any protective coating. Damages that can cause your leather bag to fade can be due to rips, tears, mold & mildew, scratches, and more. 

As you can see, there are various reasons why leather bags can experience fading. It’s only natural to carry your leather bag in the sun and living in environments with high humidity and excess moisture can sometimes be unavoided. 

Leather bags are designed to be carried around regularly and fading is a natural process, although only after a certain period of time. Therefore, it’s important to avoid discoloration and fading as much as possible, through proper maintenance and care. 

The next section features an in-depth process on how to restore your leather bag if it has experienced fading. Please ensure that you follow the following steps carefully to ensure the best results. 

1. Preparation

Before you start restoring your faded leather bag, you’ll need to start with preparations first. We recommend that you use a table or workbench for this process since it may be extensive and required you to access hard-to-reach spots, depending on the size and design of your leather bag. 

After you have found a suitable table or a workbench, place your leather bag on it and prepare the following items:

  • 2 x Clean Cloth
  • 1 x Leather Cleaner
  • 1 x Leather Conditioner
  • 1 x Leather Polish

2. Use a Cleaner on Your Leather Bag

Start by applying a cleaning solution that is suitable for leather. Cleaning your leather bag allows you to clear away any dirt or dust that may be trapped in the tiny pores of the leather. 

There are various leather cleaners on the market, but we prefer using Leather Honey Leather Cleaner for leather bags. It’s easy to use, effective, and most importantly safe for leather – it can be directly used without dilution.

Firstly, apply some leather cleaner onto the clean cloth and rub it into your leather bag. Then, use moderate pressure and in a circular motion apply the product across the entire leather exterior. 

Make sure that you don’t use excessive pressure, as this can remove or further discolor parts of your leather bag. 

Important Notice: If you own a leather bag that’s made of nubuck or suede, please ensure that you use special cleaners that cater to these types of leather. General leather cleaners may permanently alter the soft texture. 

3. Condition Your Leather Bag

A leather conditioner can help you restore the original look of your leather bag by adding in the natural oils it had lost due to harmful UV rays. It can also help prevent further fading by adding a protective layer on top. 

We recommend using the Leather Honey Leather Conditioner for leather bags since it works great for faded leather products and is compatible with their leather cleaner.  

You can apply a thin layer of this leather conditioner to your leather bag with a clean, dry cloth. We recommend against spot conditioning – instead, you should apply the conditioner evenly across your entire leather bag. 

Conditioners restore faded leather bags by adding natural oils, through their absorbent nature. Don’t forget to remove any excess product to ensure that you have an evenly coated layer. 

Now, let your leather bag dry for at least 12 to 24 hours. You may accelerate the drying time by storing it in a well-ventilated area or in front of a fan.  

4. Apply a Polish to Your Leather Bag

The last step revolves around applying a leather polish. A leather polish can help you enhance the look of your faded leather bag by giving it a lustrous shine. 

Tinted or colored leather polishes can be a great way to restore your leather bag’s color balance. Therefore, you should choose a polish that matches the color tone of your leather bag. 

You’ll also have a choice between various cream and wax leather polishes, but we advise using wax polish for restoring faded leather bags since it offers a much more distinct shine.

leather polishing wax
Wax Polish
leather polishing cream
Cream Polish

Cobbler’s Choice Co.’s All-Natural Leather Cream is one of our favorite leather polishes for this job. It contains natural ingredients and can restore, protect, and waterproof leather bags with a transparent formula. 

You can use a dry cloth to apply a thin layer of polish to the faded spots on the bag and buff it using small circular motions. You can also use a soft brush to buff out the excess polish and leave it to rest for a few hours to absorb the polish.

After having completed this step, your leather bag should look as if it’s brand new, by having removed the faded spots. Take note that older or heavily faded bags may take several applications, so be patient and maintain your leather bag accordingly. 

Alternative Methods to Restoring a Faded Leather Bag

If you weren’t able to restore your leather bag using the process listed above after several attempts or if the bag’s manufacturing is faulty, you should consider any of the following alternatives. 

We advise against using home remedies to restore faded leather since it can irreversibly damage your expensive leather bags that are likely to hold sentimental value. 

  • Redyeing Your Leather Bag – If you are familiar with the process of redyeing leather, we recommend using those techniques to restore and improve the color of your leather bag. Redyeing may not be a good option for branded bags since it may change the color or appearance of your leather bag.
  • Sending It to a Professional Restorer – Restoration experts can help you bring back the faded color of your bag using special treatments and formulas. They have all of the required tools to ensure that it’s properly restored.
  • Sending It to the Manufacturer or Brand – If your branded bag is faded, you can send it back to the manufacturer to help restore its color. They often have treatment or replacement programs that deal with restoring discolor, faded, and aging leather bags.
  • Restoring It At a Leather Workshop – Specialists at a leather workshop are experts at recoloring, redying, and restoring the faded spots on your leather bag that will enable it to look as good as new.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section is dedicated to answering some of the most frequently asked questions about restoring faded leather bags. Feel free to write in, if you wish to have your questions added. 

How Do I Avoid Leather Bags from Fading?

Proper leather bag maintenance, which includes cleaning, conditioning, and polishing, ensures that it’s well protected through a protective layer and by nourishing it with natural oils. 

A properly maintained leather bag increases its overall lifespan and also minimized the risks of premature fading. Additionally, avoid exposing your leather bag to damp environments or direct sunlight whenever possible.

Are Faded Leather Bags Permanently Damaged?

Most faded leather bags can be restored if treated regularly. However, neglect and prolonged exposure to harmful elements may permanently damage your leather bag, making it hard to restore. 

In that case, we advise sending your leather bag to the manufacturer, leather workshop, or a professional restorer. 

Can I Recolor or Redye A Faded Leather Bag Myself?

Yes, you’re able to redye a faded leather bag yourself, without seeking help from a professional. However, you should ensure that you fully understand the leather dying process and also have the appropriate tools and products. 

If you’re trying to restore a branded leather bag or one that has sentimental value, we suggest approaching an expert instead.

About Gerrit

Co-Founder, Researcher & Writer At Leatherskill

I’m a leather enthusiast who spends most of his free time crafting, researching, and writing about the many facets of this versatile material. Thanks for reading!