DIY: Removing Water Stains from Leather

We’ve all been there. You go out wearing that favorite pair of leather shoes or that amazing new handbag and when you get home, you realize there is a water stain on it. Maybe it rained on you, maybe you had the clumsiest of waiters, or maybe you spilled you drink… Again. I know saying I told you so is annoying. But, if it rained on you, I promise I will only say this once: you should have been carrying your Dear Rain. Whichever the case, I’ll help you try to fix it. But you seriously need to begin carrying a Dear Rain with you. Just saying.

Regardless of the type of leather, if you realize you got water or any other (hopefully clear) liquid on your leather shoes/handbag while it is still wet, you need to act quickly. Find a lint free cloth and gently dab the area. I know it is tempting to press, smudge, and wipe. But, unless you are looking to make the stain bigger or really get it deep into the leather, listen to me and just dab the surface very gently.DIY-Removing-Water-Stains-from-Leather-1

If you got there on time, problem solved. You are welcome. If the liquid has already dried or you weren’t able to fully remove it by dabbing it with a white, dry cloth, things get a little more complicated. You need to take into account the type of leather you are dealing with. I’ll go over techniques for natural, untreated leather or suede and finished leather. You can probably tell what type of leather you have just by looking at it. Unfinished leather looks raw and is most often matte while finished leather has a certain sheen to it.

Let’s start with the easier of the two. If your stain is on finished leather, it may be your lucky day. One option is to rub some alcohol on the spot. This should remove the stain and dry out pretty quickly. The second option, which I prefer because it is not as scary, is to work the entire piece with a leather cleaner and conditioner.

Personally, I love the Leather Spa’s products. But, whichever you use, simply follow the directions and your problem should be taken care of. Since your stain has already set and you have some time, I would spot test a small area in an inconspicuous site. That way, if the leather has a terrible reaction, you didn’t just ruin that handbag/pair of shoes.

Speaking of the Leather Spa… If you happen to be in New York City, stop everything you are doing. Run over to the Leather Spa and let them take care of this for you. They are seriously the best. Here’s their list of locations: And, in case you are wondering, they are not sponsoring this post. I am a true fan.

If you are dealing with natural, unfinished leather, you my friend are in murkier waters. Your best bet is to grab a clean, white, lint free cloth and dampen it. With the damp (read carefully, I did not say soaking wet) cloth, begin working around the edges of the stain and moisten the leather seam to seam. Once it all looks the same color, allow it to dry. To avoid shrinking the leather, put that hair dryer down and remove your handbag/shoe from the sun. Just be patient, say a prayer to the leather gods, and allow it to dry. The leather should dry evenly and your water stain should no longer be visible.

All my leather problems have disappeared with those three tricks. I have seen photos of bags in which none of these have worked. I don’t think the stains qualified as water spots, though. Those handbags looked like they sat in a puddle of water for half an hour at least. From what I’ve read, if that is the case for you, you are better off dying the entire piece. I would write a post on this, but I am terrified of doing this myself. I’m not sure that should be a DIY project at all. If you are not in NYC and close to a leather spa, then find your nearest shoe/leather repair business and let an expert take care of this. Best of luck!

I hope this is helpful to you and I also hope you learned your lesson: (last time, I promise) never leave the house without throwing your Dear Rain in your purse. You never know when the rain may surprise you next and you definitely want to be able to say…

Dear rain, I win.

  • Emilia

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    • Daniela Daniela

      Hi Emilia,
      We haven’t worked with guest bloggers, but there’s always a first time for everything!

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