Sunday, January 29, 2017

Vintage Coach Leather Bag Restoration

*DISCLAIMER* This is simply a documentation of how I cleaned this bag. Please understand that all leather and stains are different and not every technique will work, and could even ruin your leather. Proceed at your own risk, and be sure to test everything in a inconspicuous place first!*                                      

I've written BEFORE about buying bags second hand, and how I prefer to own just a few bags instead of several. I tend to need a rather large bag for work, and the one I had PURCHASED from Goodwill years ago just isn't cutting it any longer.
Scouring eBay for several months led to the purchase of this (now) beautiful Coach leather backpack. Made in the 80's, this baby has been running around for about 30 years! However, when my bag arrived from the seller, it was definitely a case of "expectation vs. reality". There were pen marks in several places, random black marks and worst of all- black nail polish down the side of the bag.

To be fair, the seller had shown a picture of the black nail polish- but not one which showed the damage to its full extent. And somehow, perhaps because of lighting, the rest of the deep scratches, puncture marks and stains didn't come through. I had a hard time getting pictures that showed the black markings as well, and they were easier to see on my phone than they are the computer display.
I contacted the seller and told her I was disappointed, and she did credit me back some money immediately. So then I got to work on trying to restore this bag to the incredible condition it seemed to be in based off of the photos.
 Starting with he nail polish, I used some standard nail polish remover and a q-tip, which worked really well to remove it. However- it also removed the color of the the bag, which you can see in the last photo.

After removing the nail polish with the remover, I used a wet white washcloth to make sure all of the nail polish remover was out of the bag. It was important to use a white washcloth so that there wasn't any ink transfer. Afterward, I covered the water stain in my trusty cornstarch and left it overnight.
Here it is the next morning. There's a bit of nail polish left, but considering how much color was also taken from the bag, I was afraid to go after it again. 
After that, I also used a white washcloth and water to mop out the other pictured black stains as well, covering them with cornstarch afterward. I had many random pen marks, but none of the remedies I normally use worked on those with this bag, and instead just left more discoloring from lifting off the leather dye.

I decided at that point to cut my losses and coat the bag in Frye Weatherproof Spray. I rely on that, as well as the cream, to keep my Frye (and other) leather boots in great condition. After spraying it on (as seen above), I buffed it in with a white washcloth and allowed it to soak in. As you can see- I started with the back of the bag to make sure it wouldn't stain or change the color of my leather.
That stuff worked wonders! It helped to redistribute the dye in areas that lost color during stain removal and left the bag looking so much better!
This is the area that was covered in black nail polish. It looks so much better! I can still see a bit of lightening at the very top, but I think a few more buffs with the Frye Cream will wipe those out.
eBay is always a gamble. It's obviously not uncommon for an item to arrive in an unexpected condition, but thankfully this time I could remedy it. Hopefully, with proper care, this bag will have another 30 years left in her!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

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