For handbag lovers, purses are more than just dispensable material accessories. These are “babies” that need some well-deserved TLC. And if you’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars for your arm candies, these are also investments that require a little bit of upkeep.
Well-made designer bags typically last a very long time. However, neglect and carelessness can speed up their aging and can even completely ruin their beauty. If you want to make sure your favorite purses remain polished and pretty, follow our simple guideline below:
1. Take Care of the Material
The bag’s material or its exterior is the main part of the purse that will need the most attention and care. Whatever material it is made of (leather, suede, canvas, etc.), you will need to dedicate a little bit of time and effort for its maintenance.
For leather bags:
Leather handbags become even more gorgeous as they age. This aging effect, called ‘patina’, occurs naturally in genuine, high-quality leather. Just like our skin, leather needs to be moisturized to maintain that healthy luster. The most effective way to do this is through a three-step process that includes cleaning, moisturizing and waterproofing.
Here are some tips to keep your leather purses in tip-top condition:
● Before putting on a layer of topcoat or protective cream, make sure to clean your bag first. Dust and dirt must be wiped off with a clean cloth, otherwise they might get sealed in.
● Use a leather cream or oil that has both cleansing and moisturizing properties. Make sure to do a test application first to check that the product will not damage the bag. Choose a small spot that’s easily hidden, like on the bottom part of the purse. Most treatments can cause the leather to darken a little bit but this usually goes back to the original color after 24 hours. Leave the test spot overnight to dry and check to see if there is still discoloration the next day.
● As much as possible, choose creams with natural ingredients. Chemicals and refined oils can cause dryness, discoloration and can also break down the fibers of the leather, further damaging your handbag. Non-chemical polishers will bring out the leather’s natural beauty and restore its health. Some of the more popular leather cleaning/conditioning brands include Collonil and Apple brand (not to be confused with the giant tech brand).
● The initial coat of leather cream is typically left overnight to completely dry. This gives the leather’s pores enough time to absorb the product.
● After the leather has been cleaned and conditioned, the last step is to seal everything with a waterproofing spray, which also helps protects the leather from rain and other stain-causing elements.
For suede bags:
Suede bags are a lot more challenging to maintain. They are more susceptible to stains and discolorations compared to leather bags. But there are still some steps you can take to help keep your bag in pristine condition.
● To maintain the suede’s buttery soft texture, use a suede brush to clean its surface. This is usually made of nylon or soft rubber, available in most department stores. Go for styles with soft bristles to avoid damaging the suede and brush the material carefully in one direction.
● Protect the suede with a sealant or a waterproofing spray. This should actually be the first step when you get a suede handbag. Ensuring that your bag receives this level of protection from the start will prevent water and dirt stains from happening. Some of the more popular products include Gear Aid Revive X Nubuck and Kiwi Suede & Nubuck Protector.
● Just like leather, suede and nubuck also needs to be regularly cleaned and conditioned. Use a special cleaner to effectively remove dirt and grime and never ever use water to clean suede, as this may just cause stain that will be harder to remove. Cadillac’s Suede Renew is a popular item from their line of leather care products.
2. Clean regularly
This might seem like such a simple thing but it can add years to the lifespan of your bag. Wipe your purse using a clean, damp cloth dipped in a mixture of warm water and mild soap. Avoid using strong cleaners and never use chemicals as they can damage the bag. Follow the natural grain of the leather when wiping to avoid scratching the material. Don’t forget to clean the inside of the bag too. People often focus too much on the exteriors and skip cleaning the inside areas. Stored trash and food spills can cling to the fabric and give you a stinky bag.
To get rid of that old bag smell, here’s what you can do:
● Air out your bag in an outdoor area, away from direct sunlight. Make sure to clear the contents of your purse before leaving it out to air.
● For strong smells that can’t be salvaged by simple cleaning, deodorizing might be needed. After cleaning and airing out the purse, deodorize the bag with coffee grounds, baking soda or potpourri. Put your choice of deodorizer in a sock or a small ventilated pouch and stuff inside the bag for 24-48 hours. This simple trick should be able to absorb smells from cigarette smoke, old trash and spilled food.
● For old bags with really bad smells, a water-vinegar solution will do the trick. Dampen a clean cloth or paper towel with the water-vinegar mixture and carefully wipe the inside of the bag. Dry out completely before using the bag again.
● Some effective odor-removing products in the market include Meguiar’s Odor Eliminator and Clear Gear Sports Spray.
3. Use organizers
Small pouches and bag organizers are great, especially for big totes. Pens, other sharp objects and liquids should be kept stored in pouches. These do not just help you arrange items properly, they also protect the lining of the bag, which can be pretty hard to fix when damaged or punctured. More bag organizing tips and useful products here.
4. Store bags properly
Use storage bags, dust bags or dedicate a part of your closet for your babies. Put stuffing into purses that are out of rotation to keep their shape and structure. Keeping your bags stored in a clean space will protect them from hazardous elements and it’s also such a visual treat to see a good display of handbag collections. Need more ideas on how to store your favorite bags? See a more in-depth feature on this topic here.
5. Keep away from extreme temperatures
Leather handbags can be sensitive to extreme temperatures. Prolonged exposure to heat or cold can cause discoloration, pigmentation, cracking or drying. Rain is another hazardous element that can have serious effects on your bag. A quick solution to this is a good coat of protectant like the Collonil Waterstop Reloaded and Collonil Carbon Pro.
A more natural alternative to these sprays is beeswax creams, such as Stone’s Beeswax Leather Cream & Polish and Skidmore’s Leather Cream. However, these have a tendency to darken the leather a bit so make sure to do a test spot first. Also, beeswax can only be used on smooth-grain leather and not on suede or nubuck.
6. Remove stains the right way
There’s a certain science to removing stains. If you don’t do it the right way, you might damage the bag even more so it is important to exercise precaution. This is especially challenging for suede and velvet bags, which are more absorbent than leathers. The key to getting stains out is acting immediately. The longer it sits too long, the harder it will be to take out.
Here are some tricks to treat and remove stains on your bag using household supplies:
Oil stains – Greasy stains from food or cooking oil can be removed by using talcum powder or cornstarch. Sprinkle powder on the affected area and carefully rub it on the leather. Let it sit for about 15-30 minutes and then brush off the powder with a soft bristle toothbrush. You may need to repeat this process a couple of times, depending on how severe the stain is.
Ink stains – Remove ink stains on a leather bag with mild soap and cotton. Gently rub the stain with the damp cotton or cloth. Alcohol can also be used but this can slightly fade the bag’s color. To protect the leather and restore its original state and color, apply a conditioning cream immediately after you’ve taken out the ink stain.
Warning: Don’t attempt to do these DIY treatments on unfinished or naked leather like suede and nubuck. Because of their sensitive nature, you can cause further damage on the material. Your safest bet is to take the stained bag to a dry cleaner or a handbag restorer.
7. Consider handbag restoration services
Thankfully, we now live in a time where there are handbag doctors who can transform old and damaged purses into good-as-new pieces. Handbag restorations take a lot of work, which often involves repainting, polishing, color touch-ups, cleaning and replacing damaged parts. Because of the intricate process that goes into this, handbag spas can be a little expensive, typically priced around $100 – $200 or more.
If you want to save on costs, you might want to consider your local dry cleaner or leather repair shop. Keep in mind though, that these shops’ services might be restricted to just simple cleaning or leather repair. If you really want a “like-new” finish, an expert handbag doctor is your best option but be prepared to splurge a little more.