As far as shopping goes, handbag shopping is high up on the importance scale. The reason? Many women are more willing to splurge on a beautiful designer handbag than on any other wardrobe component, justifying a purchase by saying, “Well, this will last for years,” which brings us to today’s subject: learning how to preserve and properly care for purses (and store purses). Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that your precious satchels are kept in mint condition for years to come, and a few affordable items that can help you do just that (most of which are conveniently available for purchase via Amazon or The Container Store).
Scroll down to see our tips (including how to treat and protect your purses' leather and how to help them keep their shape), and to shop gorgeous investment bags that you’ll want to protect.
1. Protect the Material
Want to shield your new bag from spills and dirt before they happen? Scotchgard Fabric will do the trick for fabric panels, while Scotchgard Suede and Nubuck is a great water and oil repellant for suede. Both Collonil and Chamberlain’s make great leather-protecting products. Apply product with a clean white cotton cloth, followed by a dry cotton cloth to buff. Use products regularly on heavily used bags. With any products, test a small patch on the bag to make sure it doesn’t cause discoloration.
2. Store Them Properly
Do your bags get tossed onto a haphazard heap at the bottom of your closet? They’ll last longer if stored the right way, ideally in an upright position in their dust bags or a cotton pillowcase. Never store them in plastic or vinyl, which traps moisture inside. Stuff your bags with scarves, sweaters, or acid-free tissue paper, or use a handbag insert made for this purpose. Cross the handles over each other to avoid wear on the bag and unclip any removable straps for long-term storage.
3. Remove Stains the Right Way
The first step is to know what type of stain you’re dealing with, as that will dictate the removal method. See specific techniques below!
Food stains: Crush white chalk and let it sit on the stain overnight. Brush off with a clean cloth in the morning.
Oil stains: Put cornstarch on the stain immediately, rubbing it in to create heat from friction, which will help the oil absorb. Brush the powder off with a clean cloth after you’ve rubbed it in—don’t let it sit on the stain.
Ink stains: If the stain is fresh, use a white eraser to immediately erase the spot, without applying too much pressure so that the color doesn’t come off. If the ink is already set, you’ll need a professional (see tip #7). An eraser also works for dirt stains.
Water stains: Blot water stains, let them dry naturally, and bring your bag to a professional for removal.
Odor removal: Keep a plastic bag filled with baking soda inside your handbag. Zip the handbag or place it in a larger bag that seals if it doesn’t zip. Keep the baking soda in the bag for one or two days to absorb the odor. Another option? Place a couple of dryer sheets in the bag for a few days.
4. Protect the Lining
Use pouches to store cosmetics and liquids, which will protect the handbag lining from spills and keep you organized to boot. Avoid click pens at all cost, opting for pens with caps instead. Better yet, put those in your pouch too, in case of dreaded ink leaks.
5. Keep Metal Hardware Shiny
Do your best to keep away jewelry and zippers that could scratch your bag’s metal hardware. A go-to household item, Mr. Clean’s Magic Erasers, do a great job of cleaning up tarnished and grimy hardware.
6. Practice Routine Maintenance
Here are a few best practices when it comes to daily handbag maintenance:
1. Avoid handling your bag if your hands are dirty or have lotion or cream on them.
2. Keep your bag out of direct sunlight.
3. Rotate which handbag you carry regularly so that they don’t wear out too quickly.
4. Use a suede brush to clean and revive suede.
5. Regular use of a leather moisturizer will keep the leather supple and free of cracks.
6. Wipe your bag down on a weekly basis (when in use) with a soft cloth.
7. Take It to a Professional
For stains and wear and tear beyond your handbag maintenance skill set, take it to a handbag repair professional. Most shoe repair professionals also work on handbags. They’ll treat it for you, clean it, and restore color as needed. If your bag doesn’t have metal feet on the bottom, it’s wise to have those installed, as they’ll protect it from scratches and dirt.
Shop Investment Handbags:
Congrats! Now you have all the tools you need to take care of that bag you spent your hard-earned cash on.
Opening Image: Sandra Semburg
Allyson is a senior editor for Who What Wear. She joined the company in 2014 as co-founder Katherine Power's executive assistant and over the years has written hundreds of stories for Who What Wear. Prior to her career in fashion, Allyson worked in the entertainment industry at companies such as Sony Pictures Television. Allyson is now based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She holds a BFA in theater. Her path to fashion may not have been linear, but based on the number of fashion magazines she collected as a child and young adult, it was meant to be.
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