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Restoring Leather Handbags and Shoes – Affordable Shoe Cleaning Kit & Handbag Restoration Kit

What You Need to Restore Leather Handbags and Shoes

I love thrifting, and to me, nothing beats thrifted leather. I’ve found several handbags (hello vintage Coach! if you arne’t familiar, it’s lightyears better than any of their stuff from the last decade or two), Lucky Brand boots and more. Restoring leather is so satisfying and these are the tools you’ll need! I’m sharing some of these restorations on my Instagram, so be sure to follow me there too!

If you want to know the products I use and the general process I follow, keep reading! If you want to know about any specifics or see the process, leave requests below.

Here’s a recent project I did on a vintage Coach bag that I paid under $2 for. Check out that pen mark…I can’t even tell where it was before!

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing but help keep this website running. I seriously appreciate it! I purchased these at a couple different places, but they are all available on Amazon. I will link both there and where I purchased. 

image via Amazon

Get a few of these so they can each be used for their own step of the restoration process. This will make sense once you see how it all goes. This style is called a Dauber brush and is made with 100% horse hair. I like how controlled this feels with the cleaners etc. I do want to get a separate shine horsehair brush in the future too to make the first step faster. 

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image via Amazon

You may also find this in the automotive section, but don’t be scared! It’s also meant for shoes and bags. 


Soft Toothbrush

I use this for “spot treatment” deep cleaning on stains. I used a toothbrush that my 2 year old threw in the toilet. Enough said. I’m not adding a picture because these are truly just toothbrushes. 

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image via Amazon

Get a few, these are great for each step!

image via Amazon

If you’re wondering why this brand, it’s because of the value. You get a MUCH bigger bottle than shoe leather supplies. This is still okay to use on shoes. 

image via Amazon

This product was my first tiptoe into leather restoration, and it’s still my favorite final step! This is a patented type of polish by Doc Martens, so you want to go with the original brand.

How to Restore Leather....My General Process

Every leather piece is unique, and I will do a more detailed post another time. For now……Here’s what I do!

  • Brush off shoes with a clean, dry horsehair brush
  • Apply a small amount of leather cleaner to the shoes with a dauber brush (you want a thin layer everywhere)
  • Brush the cleaner in with small circles. Add in a bit of warm water to help the cleaner really foam up. Do this gently, you want to lift the dirt, not rub it in deeper.
  • Wet a microfiber cloth with warm water. Squeeze it out as much as you can so it’s only damp. Then wipe away the leather cleaner (the dirt should lift here!)
  • Repeat the cleaner process on any remaining stains. Use the toothbrush on any really bad areas (be gentle, use circular motions)
  • Repeat the wiping away the cleaner/dirt
  • Wipe on leather conditioner with a different microfiber cloth, wait a few minutes
  • Gently wipe away any excess with a clean microfiber cloth
  • Apply a thin layer of polish with the sponge that comes in the wonder balsam, then brush in the polish with the dauber brush using circular motions. 
  • Allow at least 12 hours to dry

Hopefully this gets you started on restoring any of your old leather, or reviving any thrifted finds. 

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