Between work, the gym, and just living life … sometimes things get hectic. That can manifest as a little lipstick stain in your favorite vegan leather handbag. Or a scuff on the vegan leather wallet you carry everyday.
The good news is that it’s easy to take care of vegan leather. All you need is some warm water, a mild dish soap, and a handful of expert tips from your fellow vegan leather lovers.
Animal leather vs. vegan leather … what’s the difference?
Animal leather is a flexible and durable material made from animal skins and hides. The skins are tanned (or chemically treated) to prevent decay. It’s often used to make apparel, footwear, furniture, handbags, and other goods. Some common animal leather sources include:
- And other animals
Vegan leather is a made-man material that mimics animal leather’s texture, durability, and flexibility. But vegan leather does so without using animal skins or hides. Vegan leather is also known as faux leather, and it’s often crafted from polyurethane (PU) which is a type of polymer.
However, vegan leather can also be made with other innovative and/or sustainable materials like:
- Fruit waste
- Recycled plastics
- And others
Either way, vegan leather is manufactured without any animal products, and without any animal cruelty.
But because animal and vegan leathers are made from different materials, they require different maintenance routines.
What can you use to clean vegan leather?
Most vegan leather goods are already completely waterproof, or water resistant. This means cleaning vegan leather is relatively easy and you don’t need any special products. Instead, you can clean vegan leather bags, purses, and so on with:
Mix a few drops of mild dish detergent in with warm water. Dip a clean non-abrasive cloth in the solution then gently wash away dust, dirt, and build-up.
Use a clean toothbrush to gently clean embossed or textured vegan leather surfaces. Don’t scrub too hard, though. Scrubbing can lead to damage and color transfer.
Some leather lovers use eucalyptus oil as a vegan leather cleaner. For stubborn marks, apply a small amount of eucalyptus oil to a clean non-abrasive cloth. Gently rub the mark until it’s gone.
However, some vegan leathers don’t take kindly to eucalyptus oil. In which case, we recommend cleaning a “test spot.” Apply the eucalyptus oil to an inconspicuous part of the vegan leather, wipe away, and let it sit for 24 hours. If you notice any discoloration or signs of damage, discontinue use.
How to maintain vegan leather (the right way)
The rule of thumb for maintaining vegan leather is to treat it the way you would treat your own skin. This means avoiding:
- Excess abrasion
- Harsh chemicals like bleach
- Sun exposure
- Dirty floors
When caring for vegan leather wallets, purses, handbags, and other fine goods, it’s recommended you:
- Store goods in dust covers or cover bags
- Rotate bags to prolong their life
- Don’t overfill
- Don’t stack bags on top of each other
- Store in safe, dry environments
How to care for vegan leather
The more respect you pay your vegan leather goods, the longer they’ll last. So let’s get into how to care for your vegan leather in four simple steps.
Step #1: Practice prevention techniques
The best way to care for vegan leather is with prevention techniques like:
- Proper storage
- Rotate items (i.e. don’t use the same handbag every day)
- Avoid excessive sunlight
- Keep vegan leather dry
Step #2: Spot treat smaller stains
In the event your vegan leather stains or gets dirty, start with a spot treatment. Wipe all surfaces with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
Then, gently spot treat stains with warm water and a few drops of mild dish detergent. Wipe away any excess solution and allow the item to completely dry before use.
Avoid abrasive materials and harsh cleaning chemicals. Instead, be gentle and repeat spot treatments to fully remove stains.
Step #3: Clean hardware (optional)
Some vegan leather handbags, wallets, belts, and so on have hardware like:
If your vegan leather item has hardware, gently clean with a dry cotton swab. Stubborn hardware debris can be removed by gently wiping with a cotton swab dipped in warm water and mild detergent. Then, dry hardware with a clean microfiber cloth to prevent rust.
Step #4: Do a monthly check
Once a month, organize all your vegan leather accessories. Make sure each one is properly stored and give each item a “once over.” This is a good opportunity to notice stains, dirt, scuffs, and other unwanted marks.
Shake out any crumbs or loose debris. Then place all items back in their dust covers, on hangers, and so on.
Set aside items that need a little extra TLC. Repeat steps two and three for these, then properly store them away.
How to clean the inside lining of a vegan leather bag
Handbag linings are tricky to clean. This is especially true for vegan leather handbags that don’t have a removable or washable lining. In which case, prevention is the preferred method. Here are some tips on how to keep the inside lining clean:
- Lightly spray a waterproofing solution inside the bag
- Don’t store anything damp inside a vegan leather bag
- Carry perfumes, foundation, other cosmetics in a sealable pouch
However, in the event the inside lining does stain, you can spot treat. For grease stains, gently rub with warm water and mild dish detergent. For other stains, gently spot treat with a gentle baby shampoo.
You may have to repeat a spot treatment more than once to completely remove the stain. Always wipe away excess cleaning solution with a clean, dry cloth and allow the bag to dry completely before use.
How to get wrinkles out of vegan leather
Vegan leather can develop creases, wrinkles, and lines. Some common causes include:
- Improper storage
- Manufacturing defects
Either way, one of the best ways to get a smooth surface is with an iron.
First, lay the vegan leather flat on an ironing board. Then, cover the vegan leather with a pillowcase, t-shirt, or towel. This puts a barrier between the iron and vegan leather.
Set the iron to its lowest temperature and gently iron over the covered vegan leather. Keep the iron moving continuously to avoid damage. After each pass with the iron, check under the protective barrier. If the vegan leather still has creases, continue ironing until smooth.
For vegan leather goods without structure (like apparel), you can also apply weight. For example, household items like heavy books or hand weights work well. Start by laying out your item flat. Cover the vegan leather with a protective barrier (like a pillowcase).
Then, place heavy stacks of books, bricks, or weights on top and let it all sit for a few days. Remove the weights and check under the protective barrier. If you’re satisfied, you’re good to go. If you still notice creases, repeat this process until smooth.
Lastly, if creases aren’t too deep, try hanging the item in the bathroom and run a hot shower. The steam may help release wrinkles without the need to iron or press with weights.
Final tips for taking care of your MERSI vegan leather handbags
Here’s a quick summary on how to take proper care of your favorite vegan leather handbags.
- Never use harsh chemicals or abrasive materials to clean vegan leather
- Gently wash away stains, dirt, and marks with warm water and gentle dish soap
- For textured surfaces, gently brush with a clean toothbrush
- Do a “spot test” before using eucalyptus oil for stubborn stains
- Always store vegan leather handbags in dust covers
- Rotate your collection of handbags to avoid overuse
- Prevent wrinkles and damage, never stack handbags
- Carry cosmetics in a sealed bag inside your handbag
- Get of wrinkles by carefully ironing them out, or use weight to smooth surfaces