How to Care for Your Handbags

Photography by Hallie Duesenberg

Photography by Hallie Duesenberg

By Susan "Honey" Good

Our handbags are an expensive necessity, my darlings! As I admire my bags lined up on my shelf,  they seem to be a little community of diversity! Some are flamboyant. Some have a dash of playfulness. Some have a spirit of sophistication. Others are gorgeous. A few are treasures. One fact is very clear…I love them all!

There is no getting away from the fact that we, my darlings, splurge and pay large amounts of money for our handbags. Therefore, this precious commodity should to be cared for at all costs.

I educated myself on handbag care over the years. A smart move because many of my vintage bags are 25 years and older and they look marvelous! I am an authority in my own mind on the care and techniques required to preserve our handbags. I truly love sharing!

Honey Good’s Tip on Care

  • The first rule is less is more. A good wipe with a damp soft white cloth is great maintenance.
  • Before cleaning any handbag, check care labels.
  • Use glass cleaner to shine your patent leather handbags but avoiding spraying directly onto your bag. There are also patent leather cleaners. 
  • Use a small amount of Maltonian shoe polish to remove scuffs on leather handbags.
  • Scotch Gard Fabric is a great protective on your brand new fabric bags. Test first on a small area of the bag. You do not want discoloration.
  • Scotch Gard Suede and Nubuck is perfect to protect your new suede bags from water or oil. Test first.
  • To clean your leather handbags purchase a pristine leather soap brand. Add a couple of drops to warm water and with a soft clean white cloth wipe down the outside.
  • To protect your handbags from wear and tear don’t lay them on the floor. Line them upright on a shelf in your closet. If your handbag is made of soft cloth or soft leather, stuff with a soft material or tissue so they stand upright without creasing. Please, never stuff your bag with newspaper because the print may stain the inside of your bag.
  • Never use plastic or vinyl coverings to store your bags. These products trap moisture. I leave my bags uncovered in order to see them on a shelf above my clothing so I can mix and match with my wardrobe.

Removal of stains can be tricky but there are ways. Personally I would take a stained bag to my shoemaker or back to the store of purchase.

FOOD STAINS: can be removed with crushed white chalk -- can you believe, darlings -- left on the stain overnight. Brush off in the morning with a clean cloth.

OIL STAINS: Use cornstarch! Rubbing this product on the stain will create heat from the friction and the oil will absorb.  Immediately brush off all the powder.

INK STAINS: This is a problem most of us have on occasion. Keep a white eraser in your handy drawer. If your stain is fresh immediately erase the spot. Do not apply a lot of pressure because you do not want to diminish the color on your bag. If the ink is set, you will need a professional. Oh! By the way darlings, a white eraser also works on dirt stains.

WATER STAINS: Blot the water stains immediately. Take the handbag to a professional if it stains. Shoe repair shops are the best source for help.

PROTECTING THE LINING OF YOUR BAGS is simple. I use a makeup bag for my lipstick, nail file, mirror, a small perfume and a small- jeweled pen! Sometimes I use two small bags. The inside lining should be as important as the outside.

HOW TO KEEP METAL HARDWARE SHINY! Use Mr. Clean’s Magic Erasers. Voila! Your metal hardware will be free of tarnish and dirt.

A few more tips…

  • Don’t handle your bag if you have any lotion on your hands.
  • Use a suede brush on occasion to clean and revive your suede bags.
  • Moisturize your leather handbags with a leather moisturizer to keep the leather soft.
  • Take your older handbags to a professional for wear and tear maintenance; the shoemaker or the handbag department of the store of purchase. Designer companies will refurbish your bags. They come back looking like new. It is worth your 'pocket book’ to heed this advice!

If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to stand your handbags upright remembering to stuff them with tissue or a soft product if necessary. For the bags you cannot stand, lay them flat in drawers; never on top of one another.

Darlings, handbags are designed by designers to last for years. They may not look sturdy, pbut in fact they are.  

So, lastly I am inclined to think we should let our handbags age gracefully. They take on a character of their own; just as we have, darlings. Just as we have!