October 10, 2012

How To Clean A Vintage Coach Handbag

Among the many vintage handbags we have collected and cared for over the years, vintage leather bags raise particular questions - Can I get this leather wet?  Do I need to clean it?  How do I store it? 
 
And of all the many types of vintage leather handbags, Coach bags have more particular instructions than most.  That's because vintage Coach bags are made of tanned leather that is otherwise unfinished.  This lack of treatment gives them an entirely unique, natural feel but it also leaves Coach leather open to blemishes and burnishing, sometimes considered "good patina" on a vintage design.
 
Here's a 1982 pamphlet from one of those very bags:
 
 
 
At Vintage Vixen our usual answer about how to care for vintage leather is simple - First, clean it lightly and sparingly with saddle soap.  Second, and only if needed, moisturize it with a good quality leather conditioner.   In both steps, test the cleaning agent first in an inconspicuous area, let it dry and assess any change.
 
By the way, we do not use products like neat's foot oil.  Saddle soap is easily obtained at a local drug store, and you can find museum quality leather conditioner online at places like Preservation Solutions.  We have used this company to restore potentially unsaleable leathers with beautiful results... some of them seen on movie sets after their reconditioning here.
 
But I digress... The Coach Leatherware instructions below will illuminate handbag collectors as to what Coach itself recommends for cleaning their unaltered natural leathers.  It's interesting to see that they actually recommend rinsing off saddle soap under running water, to the point that the leather is "soaking wet".  I have not attempted this, so I cannot say if a vintage Coach bag will like this kind of treatment.  If you know, enlighten us with a comment!  We would love to hear from you.
 

As you plan how to care for your vintage leather bags, remember that leather is a skin, and it "breathes" (expands and contracts) with its surrounding environment.  Just like you protect your skin with shade and clothing, we always suggest protecting vintage leather purses from the elements - whether it's rain outside or dust in the closet. 

It might seem obvious, but leather care (and especially care of vintage handbags) is a love of ours, so we were excited to share this tidbit from the Coach Leatherware company.  Until next time, Vixens!
 

14 comments:

  1. Great tips and a piece of history! Thanks for sharing. :-)

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  2. very practical, later found that replica louis vuitton this site is good too
    When appropriate travel back ! Practical and stylish

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  3. There should be no problem with getting your Coach handbag wet while cleaning, I have personally Soaked Coach handbags that had water stains to remove them.

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  4. Hi Daniel, interesting to hear. Have you immersed the bag in water? Or just lathered it to the point of "dripping wet"? I have not tried immersion... yet!

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  5. Nice to find this interesting post.

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  6. I bought a very cheap, convincing knock off handbag in a very ugly color and deconstructed it and used as a pattern to make several cute bags with lots of variations. I say with your abilities, go for it. Designer handbags for women

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  7. I have a vintage coach backpack. The leather seems to be almost cracking a bit. Do you advise against using a leather lotion?

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  10. I know it sounds scary, Yes you can totally immerse the vintage coach bag block and shape it then let it dry. I have done it several times with good results. I always do this to a bag as a last resort. it has never failed me. Time consuming as it may take a week to completely dry. I use Lexol leather cleaner to soak bags and soak several of the same color at a time in a bin where the bag is totally covered with water. Then Stuff them with bubble wrap until I acheive the desired shape and let them dry. after completely dry we touch them up with the correct color, polish the metal findings and the bags Look New. There will be some swelling of the creed patch that will make it not as ledgible, that is the only drawback I have seen. These older Coach bags are so well made you can still get years of wear out of them. I have never tried this method on a fabric lined bag.

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