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My Leather Purse Stains My Clothes: How To Fix It?

You wore a white shirt and used your red leather purse out in the city. It was a hot day and when you got back you saw your shirt was now a little red from your purse! Now what? 

The first way to fix a leather purse from staining your clothes is to completely wipe down the purse with a damp cloth. Then check what type of leather it is and if it is washable and able to take leather conditioner. Veg tan leathers can be sealed so the dye will not bleed or transfer to clothes.     

Wipe Down to Remove the Dye from the Purse or Bag

Once you find that a purse bleeds dye to your clothes, you need to wipe it down with a damp white microfiber cloth. But before you do this please check with the manufacturer or warranty. Check the leather care instructions before proceeding. But the first step will be to remove the dye residue from your bag. You most likely were sweaty or you got the bag wet and then rubbed it against your clothing. 

The dye transfer arises from a bag that has a bright color on natural leather that has minimal sealing. There are many types of leather dyes such as alcohol, oil, and water-based. It’s difficult to determine the dye type unless the maker has let you know. I’m assuming you don’t know the leather type or dye type used. But the first step will still be to wipe down the bag.

It’s best to let the bag dry and then try another wipe-down to see if there is still any excess dye left. Once you get no more dye rub off on your cloth, let your purse dry thoroughly. If you can dry it with a fan to air dry it, that’s best. Don’t use any heat sources or sunlight to dry your leather purses.

Determine Where Most Rub Off Or Dye Transfer Occurs

Is the dye transfer coming from straps or the surface of the bag, purse, or backpack? It’s important to find where the dye is mainly coming from. If the rub-off comes from the straps this could be coming from the flesh side of the straps if they are made from a single piece of leather. If the straps are double layers of leather sewn together, then that’s also from the main front surface of the leather hide.

If the dye bleeds from the surface of the leather, you will need to decide if you will make the fix or let a leather professional do it. What brand of the purse is it? If it is a major brand, you can certainly contact the nearest service center for help. But if you bought it from an unknown source or you feel like you want to fix the purse, then read on and continue to the next steps.

Sealing Leather Straps from Dye Bleed or Rub-Off

If the dye transfer comes from straps of single layers, then the problem is most likely from the flesh side or edges. Take your white cloth and rub them vigorously to check if there is still any dye residue on these surfaces. Is the surface shiny and the same color as the surface or is it darker? If it’s darker and shinny, this side might be sealed with a gum tragacanth. 

The best gum tragacanth you can get is linked below and you can learn more about what it is.

If that is the case, then most top coats for leather will not work on this surface. You would have to remove that layer of material by sanding it off to the flesh layer. Maybe the problem was the dye was not fully set and dry before that layer of gum tragacanth was applied.

If you think it’s worth a try and you are willing, all you need for this job is some sandpaper of 600 grit, gum tragacanth, and a leather slicker. Or if you’d like to skip the sanding and you think you got all the dye off, then you can proceed to apply the gum tragacanth. If you would like to see a good video of someone applying the sealant and restoring an LV purse strap, check out this video below.     

Sealing Leather Surfaces from Dye Bleed or Rub-Off

Sealing the leather on your bag, purse or accessory should be done with caution. There are so many types of leather and each may use a slightly different kind of process and dye type. If you choose the wrong type of conditioner, it may damage the purse and surface permanently. So we only suggest conditioning a purse to stop the dye transfer if you have no other options. Try it on a small inconspicuous section first to test.

There are many types of leather conditioners out there so we suggest starting with a well-known brand, Leather Honey. Use a small drop and work it into the out-of-sight area to try how it works with your bag. Let it dry and evaporate out and it will look darker at first but will lighten up gradually. 

Once you feel it’s dry after a day, then buff it and try wiping with a clean white cloth to see if any dye residue comes out. If not, and you feel the color and sealant is not harming or changing the color beyond what you can accept, then continue to do your whole bag. Follow the instructions and this is a safe way to try and reduce or even eliminate the dye bleed on your clothes. Another safe product to try is mink oil and this is known also to be a safe conditioner for leather.    

Prevent Dye Bleed and Transfer to Clothes by Staying Dry

The easiest way to avoid dye transfer to clothes is to stay dry and keep your leather surface from getting rained on, wet, or sweaty. If your purse is not made with quality materials, avoid wearing light-colored clothes that may come in contact with your purse or handbag. You might even want to consider carrying a protective rain slicker that you can slip on if it rains. 

If you or your purse get wet, try to blot off the purse as soon as possible and keep the straps and surfaces away from your clothes until both are dry. It may sound obvious, but you have to remember that the leather on this purse that has already bled some dye may still be prone to dye bleed in the future. 

Why Does the Leather Dye Come Off? 

The could be a few reasons why the leather dye comes out and rubs off onto your clothing. The first possibility is that the quality of the leather dye is not a professional-level product or the maker forget the sealing step. That means the leather surface is not sealed and could easily be affected by any liquids, especially sweat.

Handbags made of higher quality leather, like Italian veg-tanned supple materials are processed with high-quality dyes at the tannery. However, if you got a handmade purse from a local boutique, they might have made it with inferior dyes. Another possibility is that your bag might have been scratched or scuffed and that could have damaged the sealant of the surface and that leads to bleeding of the dye when it gets wet. 

Most big brands and luxury purses on the market use water-resistant and more durable faux leathers so they usually don’t bleed or have any problem with dye transfer rubbing off on clothes. 

Another good reason to keep your bags dry is to prevent mold growth when you store your purse! If you want to learn how to make sure your bags stay mold-free, please read the helpful article we wrote about preparing your bags for storage the right way.     

Red, Black and Blue Leathers: Most Prone to Stain Clothes

You might not know, but the most common colors of leather that are most prone to stain clothes are red, black, and blue. The dark and bright colors are known to create problems when they get wet or if they are not prepared properly. If you ever buy a new purse, handbag or backpack, try and wipe them down with a damp cloth to check if there is any dye residue.

That’s a safe way to prevent you from having dye transfer to your clothes if they ever get wet or sweaty. Once you have this problem, you will always take this precaution I’m sure. Ever we have had this problem when we try out new leather in our products. Have you ever seen bamboo-woven leather? Check out some of Marcello’s bags and newest creations all handmade with the finest leathers that don’t bleed!