Can You Use Shoe Polish on Handbags?


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You know the feeling -- you just bought a brand new designer handbag and you've taken the right steps to ensure nothing ruins it. Inevitably, through everyday use or an unfortunate accident, your beloved handbag gets stained. Shoe polish can be used on a handbag to either preserve it or eliminate stains and blemishes, when it's used correctly. Used incorrectly, shoe polish can ruin a handbag irreparably. Follow product and manufacturer instructions to determine when it's safe to use shoe polish on a handbag and when it's unsafe.

Shoe Polish and Leather

Shoe polish is a waxy paste or cream in either a liquid or semi-solid form, meant to improve or restore the appearance of leather products. While typically used on footwear, shoe polish is not limited to just shoes, and can be applied to all leather products, including handbags. Though it's safe for leather handbags, don't use shoe polish on nonleather bags made of cloth or suede, because the chemicals in the polish can damage or stain these products. If your bag has a combination of materials, only use the shoe polish on the leather areas.

Types of Shoe Polish

You'll need to choose the right type of shoe polish for your handbag so you don't damage it further. Shoe polishes come in varying colors, and some will work better with leather handbags than others. If you can't find a shoe polish in the exact color of your bag, you can try one that's close. "Cordovan" is a common shoe polish color best used on dark brown leathers. Of course, you should only use white shoe polish for white bags. Some shoe polishes may darken the shade of leather, which may or may not be noticeable. Be aware of these possibilities and research consumer responses to certain brands of shoe polishes. Some receive higher ratings than others regarding changes to leather. Always test a shoe polish out on a portion of the bag that isn't noticeable to see how it will work.

When to Use

Shoe polish can be used to make a leather product look new again. It can be used on a handbag to hide stains such as ink, coffee, liquid or food, or to cover regular wear and tear blemishes from everyday use. Shoe polish should not be used as a regular cleaner -- it will gently wear away the leather and there are risks involved with using shoe polish if not used properly. Therefore, shoe polish should only be used for the most resistant stains and blemishes. Always try cleaning a stain or blemish with soap and water before resorting to shoe polish.

Using Shoe Polish on Your Handbag

Clean any excess dirt and grime off the leather handbag with soap and water before applying shoe polish. You can use hand soap and water on a soft cloth. Squeeze out the excess water and gently rub the bag clean. After you've cleaned with soap and water, use a different soft cloth and a sparing amount of shoe polish on the areas of the handbag that you want cleaned. Use your best judgment when deciding how much to administer, but remember that a little goes a long way when it comes to shoe polish. You should see the results right away as you begin gently rubbing the cloth along the leather -- the bag will be brighter and the stains should be covered. Buff the handbag after you've administered the polish with a shoe polish cloth, flannel or cotton.

What to Avoid

Cleaning a designer handbag can be risky. Avoid using synthetic cleaning products, which can cause leather to dry out, crack or fade. Be sure to clean leather with a cloth that won't deteriorate, such as a towel or soft flannel.