8 Ideas for Cleaning a Handbag

Your handbag is probably dirtier than you think. Learn how to properly clean a handbag so you can rest assured it's not harboring any nasty germs.

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A study revealed that more than 95 percent of handbags harbor some kind of bacteria. If that wasn’t bad enough, viruses can live on handbag surfaces for hours or even days at a time. The good news is that regularly cleaning your handbag can help keep pathogens at bay. Here’s how to do it.

Clean Out Your Handbag

Those old tissues and tubes of lipstick are probably only adding to the germ count. Plus, it’s a lot easier to give your handbag a good cleaning with less stuff in the way. Remove everything from your handbag, making sure to ditch anything that’s old or that you don’t use. Also, take some time to clean your wallet.

Clean Your Payment Cards

Don’t neglect to disinfect your credit and debit cards, which research shows are the dirtiest items in your handbag. There are two ways to clean payment cards: with good old soap and water or with an EPA-approved disinfectant for killing viruses. Just check to make sure your signature is still visible. If not, sign the card again after it dries.

How Often to Clean Your Handbag

As a general rule, once a week is a good goal. However, if your bag is in heavy rotation or you’re sick (or worried about getting sick), you should clean it more often. Only have time for an express clean? Then wipe down your handbag’s handle and bottom, which are typically the dirtiest areas. Definitely do a complete interior and exterior clean if you aren’t in a rush — chances are, your handbag needs it!

How to Clean Leather Handbags

First use a dry cloth to remove any surface dust and dirt. With another cloth, apply a quality leather cleaner like Skidmore’s Original Leather Cream and work it in with circular motions. For fast and convenient cleans you can do on the fly, consider handbag wipes like HandBagRescue All-Natural Cleaning Wipes.

How to Remove Leather Handbag Stains

Get rid of water stains by rubbing a lint-free cloth over the stain, then letting it dry. Ink stains can be handled by wiping a cotton ball dampened in rubbing alcohol over the stain. (Patch test somewhere inconspicuous first.) If it’s an oil stain, dab the stain with a microfiber cloth then leave corn starch on it overnight.

How to Clean Canvas Handbags

If your canvas bag has a delicate print, leather trim or any other kind of special feature, it’s best to hand wash it in a basin of warm water with a few drops of dish detergent. Use a plain white cloth dipped in the solution to rub out any stains. Once the canvas handbag is clean, rinse it in a basin of cool water before wringing it out and letting it air dry. If your bag doesn’t have special features, you can machine wash it according to the care instructions. (When in doubt, use cold water on a low-speed setting.) Pretreat any stains with dish detergent and water and let the bag air dry.

How to Clean Vinyl Handbags

Mix a tablespoon of mild laundry detergent in a bowl of lukewarm water. Then dip a sponge in the solution and clean off the entire bag. When done, rinse the sponge, then dip it in plain water to rinse off the detergent. Wipe a dry cloth over the handbag to dry. If you notice a stain, apply a drop or two of the laundry detergent directly on the stain, and then rub it with your fingers until the stain fades. If there’s an ink stain, mist some hairspray directly on the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes before rubbing it out with a soft cloth.

Consider Using a UV Light

Research shows that ultra-violet (UV) light can kill bacteria and viruses thanks to its high-frequency that damages the DNA and RNA of pathogens. There are many UV sterilizing devices on the market, but often they can’t be used on all surfaces. One that can work on virtually any handbag material is the VeriClean™ Portable UV-C Wand.

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.