Leather products are known for their beauty and durability but because we use them so often they often pick up some signs of wear and tear, like scuffs and scratches. If you have a prized leather backpack or briefcase that you want to keep looking like new, it’s important to repair damage as quickly as possible.

If not properly dealt with, small cracks can grow quickly and spread all across leather products before you know it. This damage becomes harder to fix the more it grows and can permanently undermine the value of your leather goods.

This short guide to leather scratch repair will explain everything you need to know to repair any scratches and scuffs on your favorite leather products, like briefcases made from leather, to help keep them looking good for years.

Repairing Damaged Leather

eight old, damaged leather-bound books sitting on a shelf

Before you start repairing any kind of scratched leather product, whether it is a leather couch or a leather handbag, the first step is always to thoroughly clean the surface of the leather.

Use a leather cleaning product to remove dirt and debris from the surface. Once the material has been properly cleaned, you will be able to properly identify the extent of the damage and precisely which spots need repairs.

What You Will Need

  • Leather conditioner – This category includes a variety of creams, waxes and oil products that you can use to moisturize and condition your leather goods regularly to keep them looking great.
  • Leather glue – This glue is specifically designed for leather, textiles and other fabrics to create a strong, flexible bond that dries clear and resists vibrations, moisture and extreme temperatures.
  • Clean cloths – Any clean, lint-free cotton towel or cloth will do.
  • Toothpicks – A toothpick can be easily substituted for any small, thin piece of wood, used to apply the various products to scratches and cracks.
  • Leather cleaner – Another large category of products, they help remove dirt, debris and stains from all kinds of leather.

Assess the Situation

After cleaning your bag, you can repair many cracks or scratches with a good leather conditioner. You may need to rub several coats into the surface to get the moisturizer into the damaged areas.

A quick visual assessment will be enough to identify deep and shallow scratches, as well as any other damage. For anything more severe than scratches, it’s best to consult with a local repair service to see what can be done.

Here is how to proceed to repair scratches:

Light Scratches

For fine scratches, a leather conditioner might be all you need. Using a clean cloth, rub a small amount of leather conditioner onto the scratches in a circular motion and allow it to air dry.

If the conditioner doesn’t do the trick on its own, try using a leather marker on the damaged area. Apply a small amount of product and buff it with a dry cloth until all the excess has been removed.

Deep Scratches

Colorless shoe polish is the best household product to repair deep leather scratches. After the material has been cleaned and dried, gently rub the shoe polish on to the damaged area until it has completely blended in. If you can see through the polish and the scratch is still identifiable, try using a combination of leather conditioner and colorless shoe polish.

For deep cracks that have resulted from wear, bend the leather to expose the inside of the crack and apply a small amount of leather glue using a toothpick. Once the glue has been applied, flatten the leather and press the edges of the crack together. Wipe off any excess glue with a damp cloth and allow it to air dry.

From there, your last option is to use a leather marker to cover up the damage. If a high-quality leather marker does not hide the damage, try consulting with a leather repair professional.

Apply Leather Conditioner

No matter how you approach your leather scratch repair project, always finish by using a good leather conditioner. Apply it to any areas that were repaired.

Other Products for Leather Scratch Repair

heavuly worn leather messenger bag sitting on a stone

Baby oil makes a great household leather scratch repair product because it is a colorless, natural moisturizer.

To use baby oil to repair a scratch, start by using a cotton swab to cover the scratch in baby oil. Next, slowly and gently rub it in with a soft cloth until the oil has dried. This method will help smooth out the scratch while also re-moisturizing the exposed leather.

Some sources suggest using olive oil as a substitute for a proper leather oil, but you should be wary of this advice. Although olive oil might help hide the scratch in the short term, using olive oil to repair a scratch can actually undermine their leather’s long-term health.

Make Sure Your Leather Lasts for Years

Collection of accessories, including a leather bag, leather boots, a leather-bound notebook and a leather belt

Try these leather scratch repair ideas on a leather purse, bag or rolling laptop bag, and you will be surprised at how quickly and effectively they repair most scratches! 

If, after trying everything in this guide, the scratches are still visible, it’s time to seek out the services of an experienced leather repair professional. The longer you wait before repairing a scratch, the more difficult the process becomes, so don’t delay!

By handling small scratch repairs yourself, you’re investing in the longevity of your leather products. Certain leathers, especially lighter tones, are prone to scratches, but this kind of minor damage can be handled almost as quickly as it appears. When properly maintained, your leather products will look great for years or even decades.