Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cleaning and Storage for your Vintage Handbags

Spring is coming so let's get cleaning our handbags. Due to their unique properties, always test products first on a hidden patch with your vintage bag. That said, here's what you will need: warm soapy water, leather cleaner, leather conditioner, Windex (with caution), Magic Eraser (with caution), Q-tips, soft cloths (no paper towels please), soft brush, shaving cream, steam iron, fingernail polish remover, and a vacuum cleaner. You may also find Oops! multi-purpose remover, Brasso metal polish and furniture polish useful.

General cleaning for most bags:


Start off with a soft brush to loosen any dirt and vacuum your bag inside and out. Be careful not to pull out linings or use too much suction. You are just getting as much dust off the bag as possible. Next, use a damp (not wet) cloth of soapy water, wipe lightly, going over the whole purse, inside and out.  If you worried about making a water stain on the lining then skip this step. It's important not to soak any vintage bag, too much water can loosen already weaken threads. Take a damp Q tip and get into the corners of your bag, You'll be surprised at what you find.

Beaded bags:

If you have a very old bag that is in a weaken state I would suggest looking for a professional to dry clean your purse. That said, if you don't see any loose beads, then take a dry toothbrush and begin lifting up any dirt. Next, if there are some stains, a little shaving cream may pull them up. Don't use too much. Apply and let set for a few minutes, wipe clean.  For an overall clean, dip a toothbrush in warm soapy water, gently moving across beads pulling up the dirt.  Remember most of these bags have some kind of cardboard put into the linings, so easy does it with the soapy water.  Allow to dry,  store your beaded bag, in plain tissue paper or an piece of cloth. Plastic bags do not breathe and any color printing on plastic bags can be transfer onto the beads or for that matter, Patent bags. This has happened to me! After grocery shopping at Kroger's, I put a couple of grocery bags in the front seat of the car and placed my purse next to them. I was horrified when I got home to discover the word "Kro"  had transferred  onto my purse. The conditions were just right, a little moisture and the two touching. It took a lot to get the ink off my purse, and in the right light you can still see some color from the ink stain.


Patent Bags:

 Next, if you have a patent bag you can use Windex, but do a test spot first. I wouldn't suggest spraying WINDEX DIRECTLY ONTO YOUR BAG, I have had more luck with a spray on a cloth first, and wiping lightly. If you have a soiled area, use a Magic Eraser, but test it first on the bottom of your bag. These erasers can cause DAMAGE to some finishes. Only use if you have a soiled area that is resistant to everything else. Be aware that Magic Erasers can take off the finish on painted hardware and dull some patent leather bags if used too heavily. You may want to repeat these steps until you feel the bag is really clean. I know that some people use Vaseline on their bags to get some nice shine.  I do not use Vaseline on my patent bags. After buying a pretty, blue, patent bag that someone had used Vaseline on, I thought I could clean it up.  The Vaseline over time had mixed into the patent material creating a  sticky finish that was blotchy. I am not 100% sure that the Vaseline caused these problems, but I rather be safe with my treasured collection. Also, Vaseline on patent attracts dirt and dust that can build up on your bag, which is never a good look. Another great way to get some shine is to use a steam iron on your bag. Hold your bag upright and take your iron holding it about 2 inches from your bag, the iron should NEVER touch your bag, you are just getting a few burst of steam onto your purse. Careful not to get to close to any stitching. Take a soft cloth and buff. The steam heats the patent and smooths out the finish, making it really shiny. This is my favorite method of cleaning a patent bag, no chemicals.

Leather Bags:


 A lot of vintage bags have been stored in people's basements and attics, they are most likely very dry and need a good cleaning and conditioning.  I condition my leather bags about twice a year while watching a movie, that way I am not in a hurry.  For leather and leather look a likes, I use Coach leather cleaner and follow up with Coach conditioner. I know it's a bit expensive, but I really like the Coach brand, but any will do.  You can also make your own leather cleaner. The biggest thing is to keep the bag's leather soft, to avoid over drying and cracking. As you pull up dirt, use a fresh cloth until you see no more dirt. Be aware that you may see some dye coming up. This can happen, but unless you see major changes in the leather's color expect that you will see some. Just follow the directions on the label. You will be surprised how beautiful your bag will look and feel with a good conditioning. For stains I have had some luck with Fingernail polish remover. Do a test first to see how the remover works with your leather. And then condition.
This was just some dirt that came off my wicker bag. 

Wicker Bags:
 After cleaning with a damp cloth, for unpainted wicker, use a toothbrush to get into tiny areas where  dirt likes to hide. Then try using just a little wood polish/oil, it goes a long way. You should use enough for the bag to have some moisture, but not too much or you will have the same problem as the Vaseline. If you have a painted wicker bag, these are hard to clean because old paint likes to chip. Use a toothbrush to loosen dirt, follow up with glass cleaner, you may be able to use a Magic Eraser lightly if the paint seems intact and you have stains you would like to tackle.


Fabric Bags:
Spot clean as needed with soapy water. You can use Febreze fabric refreshener if you like, my only experience with these products are they makes things smell great, but they seem to attract dirt to the fabrics more quickly. So follow up with some Scotchgard to protect your handbag against dirt and stains. Allow to dry.

This is my shoe cabinet, these purses are filled with the "basics", I just take my wallet out to change to the next purse and I am ready to go.
Storage:


Now that everything is clean and dry! If your bag doesn't need any repairs, this is a good time to store it away until you need it. I can't express how important it is to store your bags away from the sun, dust and  humid/damp areas. Most bags will have color fading and warp if left in these conditions. I do have some of my purses on display on a shelf, but in general they are tucked away in my shoe closet and bedroom closet. Another important thing is to have your patent leather bags standing upright, NOT TOUCHING each other. These bags dent very easily. Wrap your favorite, unused bags in a t shirt, this will keep dust away. I do not wrap my bags in plastic, most materials need to breath, temperature changes can cause humidity to build up. Also, I put a small sachet made with baking soda in my unused purses, this helps them smell fresh. For most, but especially hard sided bags it's great to keep them filled with a t shirt and some dryer sheets. This will insure that your bag retains it's shape. If you have a large collection like me, I had to give a few away because of storage space. You can buy under the bed storage bins, just be careful with the handles of your bags that they don't get crushed.  You can hang your bags using a hook system designed for behind a door, or hang them as wall art.  Although, extended periods of a bag hanging can cause damage to the handles. To retain it's shape, move it from time to time to avoid pressure points. It's like everything else, using it is the best way to maintain it.  I have a wardrobe that I bought just for my purses and shoes, it's in our mudroom and works out great for me. Everything is ready to go, when the season changes, I switch them out for the coming season. Click here for more ideas on storage.
Canvas Hanging Purse Organizer


Above all enjoy your vintage bags and use them!

Next post repairs.

Have a wonderful vintage day!

Gina

46 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this, I really needed it. I have a gorgeous vintage leather purse that belonged to my grandmother in the 1950's and I'm so afraid to even take it out of the dust bag to clean it in case it'll get ruined! Thank you!

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    1. Hi Salma, thanks for stopping by, there are mixed reviews about storing purses in dust bags if they are made out of plastic, some say these bags were only meant for shipping purposes, as long as the leather can breathe that's what's important. It sounds like you have a very special bag, enjoy it!

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  2. Thank you! I really enjoy these handbag posts! Very informative!

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  3. Thank you so much!!

    I tried a little windex on my painted wicker purse (that I found suggested somewhere) and the paint didn't chip, but the color faded/changed a lot. I am really glad that I did a little patch test!
    I have tried a toothbrush, but have issues where the wicker pieces overlap (that is where the majority of the sticky dirt is). I am going to try cleaning it again this evening.

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    1. This bag seems like it's very special to you, I hope you get it cleaned up. Normally I wouldn't suggest this, it's just a thought, but if you can't get it "fixed" You could re-coat the bag with a fresh paint job and top coat. I have painted wicker with high quality spray paint with a good outcome, just lightly spray thin, super thin coats. Without seeing the bag, only you would know if you think this will work for you. Good Luck Brandy!

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    2. Do you think compressed air would do anything for the wicker?

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    3. AJA- I thought about this too, it sounds like a great idea, it's worth a try, the steam iron may work if it doesn't get the purse too wet.

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  4. Wow, Gina! Your bags are beautiful and you have really gotten maintaining them down to a science. Great tips- you've got me keeping my eyes open at the thrifts lately :)

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  5. Thanks for all this information, Gina. You are so generous to share all this .... I wanted to ask ... please, how to clean velvet bags ....

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    1. Rosy, that's a great question, you are a lucky lady to have a vintage velvet bag. I don't have one, but I did have a vintage, velvet table runner. My thoughts are that a dry cleaner is the best option, especially if the velvet is worn or old. Water on velvet can make it pull apart and bits will start coming off if water mixes with it too much. I did have some luck spot cleaning my runner, with a spray foam cleaner that has no bleach in it! Because these cleaners have very little water in them they can pick up stains pretty good, test it first. I am still leaning towards a good good cleaner. Good luck!

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  6. I just can't believe how fabulous your handbags look! Colours are so vibrant they look like brand new! I think I really needed these tips because my growing bag-collection needs some maintenance urgently. Thank you so much!

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  7. Brilliant idea.
    I have found you through Rosy, and I love your blog.
    Following and adding you to my blogroll this second.
    I do hope we become excellent blogger friends.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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    Replies
    1. Welcome! Good to meet you Sacramento! Blogger friends are the best. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Hello,

    I have come upon a lot of really nice vintage purses from the 40s and 50s but I am having a really hard time cleaning some of the marks time has left on them. One seems to be made of suede and a fine black powder keeps coming off of it every time I touch it. Any suggestions? I also have a few that are faille rayon and they seem to have some minor smudges. I tried a wet cloth with some soap but it seems to make the smudges even worse. There is also one which appears to be made of some sort of coarse linen or cotton canvas with something like water/ rust stains. Any recommendations on how to clean these beauties would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Hello, Suede is a tough one. I know there are suede cleaners also there is a web site that suggest a little white vinegar. Check it out at http://www.wikihow.com/Clean-Stains-off-a-Suede-Purse As far as rayon, Most the time these kinds of fabrics are dry cleaned, I have had luck with Oops product with stains like ink & greasy stains. Test first, please! Also read this for rust stains I thought it was good information, http://www.emsheart.com/info/linen%20care.htm

      Good luck!

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    2. Thank you so much. I will give it a try.

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    3. So I tried cleaning the black suede purse and realized that it isn't dirt but it almost appears as if the suede is shedding this really fine black dust. No matter how much I wipe it, every time I touch it my hand looks like I am covered in soot. Ugh! Any ideas? Is the suede deteriorating and irreparable? I tried everything on the rust/ water stain and it just won't come off. I did Oxiclean, nail polish remover, shaving cream and just about everything else I found online. I would dip it in bleach but the silk lining which is in virtually mint condition would get ruined. Any other thoughts or should I just give up on these?

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    4. I know it can be frustrating preserving an item. What you are describing sounds like deteriorating suede. I have seen this to, what appears to be "dust partials" coming up from the fibers. Without seeing the purse, I would still suggest going to a dry cleaner who has been in business for many years, speak to the owner. They will be able to tell you if this purse can be saved. Purses do wear out over time. It sounds like you have a badly stained lining too, the Oops may work or the dry cleaner may be able to help, if not maybe think about replacing the lining if the spot bothers you too much, it's so easy, I made a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qD7OlFz6xc Good luck, I hope it works out!

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  9. Hi,

    Thanks for the very useful information. I also liked your display shelf. I wonder where I can find one like this?

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  10. Hi what a helpful blog! I have a couple of vintage purses in which the lining (I thought was fine leather?) is really sticky. I know one of them became this way while I had it stored away (in a cloth dustbag). I live in San Diego and it can be very humid here. Any suggestions regarding restoration and prevention? Thank you!

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  11. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!











    Leather Organizer

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  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  13. Very good text, I enjoyed reading this. But I manage to find very good text here also: How to clean leather purses ?

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  14. Fabulous information. I have shared this on the vintage clothing group on The Vintage Village. Please join us.
    Sandy

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  15. I have a vintage wood bag, made in Palm Beach Florida, probably in the 1950s. The bag has painted vignettes and years of grime. How do you suggest I clean it. I love your blog and recently found it. Thanks for the information.
    Pat

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  16. I have a vintage wood bag, made in Palm Beach Florida, probably in the 1950s. The bag has painted vignettes and years of grime. How do you suggest I clean it. I love your blog and recently found it. Thanks for the information.
    Pat

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  17. Hi Pat, this is a tough one, without seeing it I would say tread lightly and go slow. With it being wood you may find Murphy oil soap may take some of the grime off. I have also had luck with magic erasers, but be warned that they take paint off as they clean. So press lightly and check to make sure only the grime is melting away. Sounds like a beautiful bag, thanks for stopping by.

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  18. Because of your blog, I will not toss my vintage purse out or put in the bin for my next yard sale. I thought I was the only one who actually had a preference "vintage" purses, scarves and jewelry. I am inspired to take better care of my items. Thank you, Vintage Girl, for all your excellent information.

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  19. My sister recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

    ReplyDelete
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