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How to Fix Peeling on Handbags

Posted on 18 July 2016

Few things are more frustrating than noticing flaking or peeling on your favorite handbag. Although this is a relatively common issue with lower end bags, even the most expensive, well-made purse can begin to peel after a while. Whether you have a designer leather bag, a more mid-range vegan leather number, or a vintage vinyl purse, there are ways to repair the damage and make the bag look brand new.


Keep handbags clean and, for leather, well-conditioned to prevent peeling.

Real Leather

Authentic leather is often touted is the best material for a handbag, but without proper care the material dries out and begins to peel and flake. Thankfully – it’s a pretty easy fix. All you need is a soft microfiber cloth or chamois, leather cleaner, leather conditioner, and a leather protection product.

If you don’t want to buy new products, head on over to your kitchen. Mix up ¼ cup olive oil with ½ cup white distilled vinegar and add about 10 drops of lemon oil to create a two-in-one cleanser and conditioner. For the best results, stick with a store-bought leather protectant for the final step.

Use wide circular motions when applying the conditioning product.

  1. Apply the leather cleaner to the cloth – do not apply it directly to the leather. Because leather is moisture sensitive, it’s important that you’re diligent about not oversaturating the material.
  2. Buff the dampened cloth gently across the entire surface of the handbag. Don’t try to remove the flaking right now; the goal here is the eliminate any dirt or oils that could potentially scratch the leather when you take a more targeted buffing approach.
  3. Grab a clean cloth, rewet it with your homemade cleanser and conditioner or a store-bought leather conditioner, and gently buff off any flakes using circular motions. 
  4. Take a dry cloth and buff the purse to enhance the shine and remove any lingering cleaner or conditioner. Apply a leather protectant with a new cloth according to package directions.

Faux Leather and Vinyl

‘Vegan’ leather, faux leather, and vinyl purses are prone to peeling after extended use, but that doesn’t mean you have to toss the bag. Vinyl repair kits with a good variety of tints included let you fix the damage and make the purse look brand new. In addition to the kit, you’ll also need an iron to set the patch and a small pair of nail scissors.


Getting the perfect color match is the key to a seamless repair.

  1. Add some of the repair compound to a small plastic dish and start mixing and playing with the tints to find a combination that matches the purse as closely as possible. 
  2. Heat up an iron to the setting recommended by the repair kit’s instructions. Remove any large flakes with a small pair of nail scissors. 
  3. Apply the tinted compound to the damaged portion of the purse with a spatula. Start from the center of the damage and work your way out, feathering the compound outside of the damaged area slightly to avoid any harsh lines.
  4. Place the setting paper over the compound and press it on with the iron. Some kits come with several different setting papers to help you match the grain and/or finish of the purse. Choose a smooth paper for vinyl and patent leather, or a textured paper for faux leather materials. 

Preventing Peeling

A peeling handbag can only be repaired so many times, so it’s important to try and prevent peeling in the first place. With leather, this is pretty simple – every two weeks, buff in a leather conditioner to keep the material supple and moist. About four times per year, apply a leather oil to seal in moisture and add a protective layer to the leather.

Treat all of your purses, from low-end to high-end, with care to prevent peeling.

Vinyl and faux leather purses can be more difficult to maintain; conditioning products just sit on the surface rather than sinking in as they do with leather. Instead, try to keep the purse out of direct sunlight, wipe it down with a damp rag every few months to remove dirt and grime that could scratch the finish and promote peeling, and try to handle the bag gently.

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