It starts with a scratch, maybe an unsightly wrinkle, or even a small stain—we’ve all been there. The handbag you once loved slowly becomes tainted, and before you know it, you’re left with a remnant of what once was. Neglecting the upkeep of your handbag is something that everyone’s guilty of, but if you’ve ended up having to let go of a purse you used to adore, then you now understand the importance of properly taking care of them. Regardless if it’s a designer investment or a more affordable version, any handbag in your repertoire is worthy of a little TLC. That's why we tapped a few designers to share their tips on how to care for your handbags. Ahead, they fill us in on purse storage methods, cleaning hacks, and the best techniques for maintaining your handbag's shape.
Don’t Hang It
While you might be inclined to sling your bag over a doorknob or hook, resist the urge. "Don’t hang your handbag by the handle as it may distort the leather," Caraa co-founder and creative director Carmen Chen Wu says. "I recommend standing it upright on a shelf, instead."
Keep It Out of the Light
Chen Wu also warns that letting your handbag sit in the light for too long can cause damage. "Store it somewhere without direct sunlight to prevent any discoloration, and with low humidity to avoid mold," she says.
Use a Dust Bag
Hobo co-founder and chief visionary officer Koren Ray has a storage solution that keeps your bag out of the light and safe from the elements. "Dust bags are always a good idea," she says. When you purchase your handbag, it should come with a dust bag, but if it doesn’t, you can find eco-friendly options pretty easily.
Invest in Maintenance Products
Ray notes that while leather ages gracefully on its own, a little protection and nourishment go a long way. "Certain leathers work well with leather cream, while other leathers should only be treated with a cleaner or protectant, depending on the nature of the grain,” she notes. "I am a big believer in spraying a suede bag with leather and suede protectant before use, so that the suede will have a protective layer and be better suited to handle the elements. I do believe less is usually best when it comes to applying product to leather, in effort to keep the hides in their natural state as much as possible."
Hobo’s leather care collection includes a leather cream, leather spray, and leather and suede protector, all of which are made with natural ingredients and in the United States.
Clean It, But Not Too Much
If your bag is nylon, you’ll clean it differently than leather. "Gently hand-wash nylon with mild soap, rinse with water, press almost dry with a large clean towel, and air dry for a couple of hours," Chen Wu says. For leather bags, she advises to "mix a solution of warm water and dish soap, dip a soft cloth into it, wring it out, and gently wipe the leather surfaces. Use a second clean, damp cloth to wipe off the soap. Dry with a towel. Warm, soapy water will also help remove water stains and scuffs." Keeping this in mind, she also recommends not going overboard. Chen Wu recommends only cleaning your handbag when it needs a refresh to avoid wearing it out more quickly.
Ditch Plastic Poly Bags
If you’ve been using a plastic polybag in lieu of a dust bag—halt! "Never store your leather handbag in a plastic polybag," Chen Wu warns. "The plastic can stick to the leather over time and damage it." Aside from avoiding the damage concern, a traditional dust bag is a far more aesthetically pleasing option so this tip should be easy to follow.
Maintain the Shape
There’s nothing sadder than a sunken-in handbag. However, this structural catastrophe can be avoided completely. According to Ray, rolling sweaters inside your bag helps them maintain their shape.
Both Ray and Chen Wu agree that while taking care of your handbag is necessary, it’s important to love and carry it, too. "Age equals beauty and the more you carry your bag the more beautiful it will become over time," Ray says. "As the leather softens, the shape can change slightly and that is part of the charm of something well-loved." Chen Wu adds that "worn-in bags develop a patina that can make them even more beautiful."
Do Not Wait Until the Last Minute to Make Repairs to Your Handbag
Don't wait to get those small repairs done because you may cause more harm than good if you do. At the first sign of damage, visit your local seamstress or leather repair shop, depending on what damage has occurred.
Consider Using a Handbag Liner
Protect the inside of your handbag from things like spills, especially if you frequently change your bag, by using a handbag liner. Not only will your bag be protected, but you'll also get even more pockets for storing things, and a liner makes it easy to swap out bags quickly.
Be Sure to Zip or Fasten the Handbag and Overlap Handles on Top of It
Leaving handles with heavy hardware to hang on the sides of your bag when not in use will put added stress on the handbag or may cause tearing, so make sure that you always zip or fasten your handbags and then overlap any handles on top of it.