The most frequent questions we get asked by people interested into learning how to take care of a bag are how to protect the bag from sun damage, how to take the smell out of a bag, and how to remove stains from handbags made of leather or other pretentious materials.

While some bags are less expensive and can be cleaned with regular cleaning products, brand bags usually require special care. In today’s article, we’ll show you how to clean your bags and how to store them for proper maintenance.


Leather bags react differently than canvas bags to sun rays and hot temperatures, so we’ll discuss these separately. All purses, satchels, handbags or wallets made of natural leather age with time and change their aspect more or less, but daily use, exposure to sunlight, dust and dirt, improper storage and overpacking can speed up this process.

To protect a leather bag from sun damage, you need to take care of it just like you do with your own skin: moisture it, clean it, protect it from excess temperatures, rain and pollution, and it will maintain its smooth and supple texture for longer. Now, you may not feel comfortable applying moisturizers on an expensive designer bag, but moisturizing leather helps in preventing cracks and maintaining the specific luster.

Before choosing a moisturizer, make sure you know the type of leather your bag is made of, and how it is tanned. Some bags are vegetable-tanned, and they tend to discolor in contact with water. Others are chrome-tanned and are more resistant, and other bags are colored with oils and resins and have to be cleaned and moisturized according to producer specifications.

Some good products for conditioning leather bags and protecting them against sun rays include:

Avoid using products that contain petroleum or mineral oils, as they can dry out the leather over time. Also, make sure you always check the designer’s recommendations, as some high-end leather bags may require special products.

Before applying the product on the entire bag, test a small, hidden part of it, just to make sure the leather doesn’t react with the product you’re using. Some products may change the leather’s color, so it’s better to test and to wait 24 hours to see if the treated area is undamaged and looks good.

Apply the care product – moisturizer or oil – carefully, and make sure it doesn’t get on the bag’s lining, especially if it’s made of textile material. Also, keep in mind that some leather bags come with natural markings, which are not the result of sun damage, so if your newly purchased leather satchel or purse has some cracks or scratches, those may be natural.

Moving to textile bags, these are less pretentious when it comes to maintenance, but should still be stored away from sun to prevent fading. Adding one tablespoon of salt in the water when washing the bag may help seal in the color, and washing the bag in cold water with a color brightening detergent may also help in preventing color fading.


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how-remove-odor-from-bagAs difficult as it may seem to restore a stinky bag, there’s still hope, so before throwing it away, here are some solutions you can try for removing odors from a bag. Some bags only require a clean up, so start by wiping the bag inside and out with a clean cloth, to remove the dust, then with a damp cloth to collect any remaining debris. Let the bag dry outdoor, on a table that’s sheltered from sunlight and heat, for a couple of hours.

Another solution that seems to work for both handbags and luggage is charcoal-based odor absorbers. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the most practical and affordable ones are those small deodorizer bags that can be found all over the internet. This one for example is for shoes, but works pretty well on luggage and bags as well.

You can also try a deodorizer bag that’s large enough to accommodate purses, briefcases or backpacks, but in this case you’ll need to put the purse into an individual container before inserting it into the charcoal-based deodorizer. This extra precautionary step is necessary for preventing the purse from touching the activated charcoal lining.

remove odors from pursesHOW TO CLEAN THE EXTERIOR OF A BAG

If the bag is stained, jump to the next section of this article. If it simply looks dirty and needs to be freshened up, you can clean the exterior with baby wash – dilute the wash in water and mix the solution, then spray it onto a towel and gently wipe the bag to remove dirt and debris. Use smooth, even strokes, and pay special attention to handles and clasps, as those are likely to be greasier.

You can also mix leather cleanser or soap with warm water, dip a soft cloth in the water and then wipe down the bag’s surface in small, circular patterns. When you’re done, remove the excess water and soap with a damp cloth, then allow the bag to dry thoroughly and apply moisturizer.

Leather cleaners or conditioners work well on leather and suede bags; cornstarch may be helpful in cleaning textile and suede bags, but for bags made of silk, velvet or other such materials, it may be wiser to allow a dry cleaner to take care of it.

For textile bags, the steps are pretty much the same: clean the outside fabric with a slightly wet cloth, wiping in the direction of the fabric, and avoid soaking the bag in water. Allow the bag to dry outdoor or in a cool room, away from direct sunlight. For hardware, use a metal polish or brass cleaner – dip a cotton swab in the polish and apply it to the metal, then remove the excess with a clean, soft cloth.


To remove make-up stains, start by removing the excess product from the bag with a plastic spoon. To remove lipstick stains, dab the stain with a small amount of alcohol (isoprophyl), or blot the stain with water to remove as much of the product as possible, then treat it with ammonia and rinse with warm water. Spraying hairspray on a cloth and wiping the stain gently may also help. Cleaning with witch hazel may be useful as well.

To remove nail polish, use an acetone-based polish remover or alcohol. Dab the polish remover onto the stain using a cotton swab, then allow the bag to completely dry before a new attempt. Test on a small spot before applying on the material, if the stain is larger.

To remove coffee stains, start by blotting up as much of the stain as possible, using a paper towel. Do not rub against the stain, as it will make it worse. Mix a mild detergent into warm water and use a soft cloth to gently rub the bag with this mixture.

Leather soap or dishwashing liquid are good options in general, but make sure to check the producer’s care recommendations. Rinse the bag with a clean, damp cloth. If the stain is still there, mix one part of white vinegar with two parts of warm water and follow the same steps. Rub with a dry towel to remove any dampness.

To remove salt stains, mix 3 parts of vinegar with 1 part of water, and use a cotton ball to gently wipe away the stain from the bag. Allow it to dry outdoor. To remove grease stains, blot the stain with a dry cloth to remove the excess oil, then apply cornstarch or talcum powder on the affected area and let it sit overnight. Wipe away the product the next day.

Ink stains can be removed with alcohol. Use a cotton swab to rub the alcohol into the stain, and let it sit for about 30 minutes or more if needed. Blot the stain with a sponge or cloth damped with clean water, then let the bag dry outdoor. Make sure to test out the cleaning solution on a small area of the bag before applying it on the ink stain, to avoid ruining the material.

As an extra tip, if you accidentally placed your textile bag on a chewing gum, place an ice pack over the gym – this will harden it and make it easier to pull off. For residues, heat the area with a hair dryer and remove the excess with a clean, damp cloth, then polish the bag with a dry cloth.


Before cleaning the lining, you should remove all dust and debris from the bag by emptying all pockets and gently shaking the bag over the trash can. If the bag is large enough, you can vacuum the interior or use a lint roller for any remaining debris.

Once you’re done with this step, turning the lining inside out and fold it over a towel. Mix one cup of water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and dab the lining with this solution. If there’s any excess solution, it will be absorbed by the towel. Allow the bag to dry thoroughly, preferably outdoor, for 24 hours or so. Don’t worry, the vinegar smell will disappear.

For bags with fixed lining, you can try the same solution but apply it with a sponge. After cleaning the lining, fold a soft towel and place it inside the bag for 30 minutes, to absorb the moisture, then let the bag dry outdoor.

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Andreea Macoveiciuc
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Andreea Macoveiciuc

Online content manager at Samdam Europe
Content manager, coffee addict, cat lover. Passionate traveler, fitness enthusiast, loves exploring historic cities.
Andreea Macoveiciuc
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