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.
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.
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.|
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.
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.|
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.
Above all enjoy your vintage bags and use them!
Next post repairs.
Have a wonderful vintage day!