Whether an expensive designer bag or a fancy straw handbag that have cost you a few dollars, one thing is for sure: you want it to look great for as long as possible. There is no doubt that handbags take a beating, especially those you carry to the office or follow you around during your daily endeavours. Be it because they are filled with things that leak and spill, overstuffed, or tossed on the ground or floor more times than you can imagine, purses and handbags get badly beaten and require some love and tenderness from time to time to help bring back their former glory and charm. And, since it is beach time for many holidaymakers, let us see how to can keep your straw, jute, fabric or canvas handbag clean and in great shape for a long time.
General Pre-Cleaning Steps (apply to all types of handbags)
First, empty all pockets and open all clasps and zippers. Then, shake the handbag upside down to remove as much trash and dirt as possible.
If you can turn the fabric of the bag inside out or pull the interior to the outside, then do so. You will be able to see the lining of the handbag. With the fabric brush attachment on your vacuum (great on straw finishes and exterior fabric) or a lint roller capture crumbs and dust.
Before you go on with cleaning your handbag, make sure you read the instructions on the care label and follow the recommended guidelines closely.
Some of the biggest challenges in the summertime are dingy straw totes, grimy espadrille shoes, and dirty fabric, canvas or leather purses. To help clean your seasonal accessories that have gone drab, here are some fast fixes you may find handy.
1. Restoring Straw or Jute Handbags
The woven texture that gives jute and straw handbags their lovely, summery look is also where dirt and grime accumulate the most, making cleaning them quite demanding and tricky. Wet cleaning is not recommended as it might damage the natural fibres of your straw or jute tote. Instead, visit an art-supply store and ask for a soft, slightly sticky kneadable eraser (aka putty rubber). Rub or gently dab the affected area, always going with the weave and never against it, to help keep the natural fibres of the handbag in shape. As you move on, the eraser will absorb the dirt and become dirty itself. Flip it, so you always have a clean portion working on the bag.
To clean the inside of a woven straw or jute bag, you will need a vacuum cleaner to help remove grime and dust. Use the upholstery brush and give it a good vacuum, focusing mainly on the crevices of the woven straw. If you do not have one, you can use an old, clean pantyhose. Place it over the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner and hold it into place with a rubber band. Now, if the bag has gained some nasty spots and spills, mix mild soap or a few drops of dish detergent in some warm water and dip an old toothbrush in the solution. Rub the stained area with the toothbrush and then remove any soap residue with a white cloth (clean, of course) that has been dipped in clean water.
Make sure you follow the grain of the straw when you clean the bag.
Allow the bag to air dry (do not expose it to direct sunlight).
Do not overwet the straw.
We prefer to use white cloths because coloured ones may bleed dye onto the fabric.
2. Freshening Fabric, Canvas or Leather Handbags
The drawback with light-coloured summer handbags is that they show body oils, dirt, and fingerprints, unlike their dark counterparts, which make them look prematurely old. The good news is that fabric and leather handbags can be cleaned with a simple solution. In two cups of warm water, mix a few drops of mild liquid glycerin facial soap. Note that this solution can also be used on bags that combine the above-mentioned materials (fabric and leather).
Dip a soft, clean cloth in the solution and squeeze out excess liquid. Blot the soiled areas to help remove grime (take some time if the affected area is heavily soiled). Place the cloth under running water and hold it there to help remove suds. Wring well and then wipe the soap off the handbag. Blot the fabric dry or buff the leather with a clean cloth (preferably an old T-shirt, dishtowel or any other absorbent cloth).
For sturdy canvas bags, things are not all that different. Many of them come with leather trim, which is why they cannot just be tossed in the washer or dryer. It is also wise to avoid soaking them in a sink.
The best way to clean such bags is by hand. Dip a soft, white cloth in plain water. Wring out the excess water and wipe down the bag. You will be able to remove an impressive amount of dirt with just plain water.
For soiled or stained canvas bags, add a few drops of dish detergent or commercial canvas cleaner to a quart of water. Dip the white cloth in it, wring, and rub away those soiled areas. Again, as you move on, you will notice that you cloth is getting dirty. Switch to a clean spot on the cloth and continue. Once done, rinse the cloth well and wipe any soapy residue away. Air dry in a shaded place, away from heat or direct sunlight.
To clean the hardware of the bag, dip a cotton swab in a brass cleaner or metal polish to bring back the shine. Better use a light hand, given that most of the hardware in canvas and fabric bags are plated base metal. Buff away the tarnish with a clean, soft, white cloth, making sure the polish does not touch the fabric of the bag (it might cause discolouration).
If, despite your efforts, your patent leather bag got dye transfer stains, use white vinegar. Dab it onto cheesecloth and rub the stain (gently). This should be enough to remove the blemish right away. If you can see still the stain, dip a cotton swab in nail polish remover (acetone based) and run it over the affected area (lightly).
If your fabric or canvas bag does not have internal structural supports or leather trim, you can hand-wash it with a gentle soap and some cool water like you do with your sensitive clothes. Do not wring. Rinse and let air dry away from direct sunlight.
Store patent leather away from coloured cotton handbags to prevent dye transfer. Rayon and polyester bags are fine.
Discolouration may also be caused if you let your leather handbags lean one against another.
If you feel that your handbag will not hold its shape (you can check while the bag is still damp), fill it with white tissue paper (never newspaper or coloured paper to avoid ink transfer).
Use your handbag when it is completely dry. Damp fabrics tend to catch stains more quickly than dry ones.
Always spot test in an inconspicuous area to make sure the selected cleaning product (no matter how natural) will not darken the colour, fade the fabric or cause discolouration. If your bag does not pass the test, go back to using your kneadable eraser (see Restoring Straw or Jute Handbags section above) and slowly work on the smudges.
3. Cleaning Braided Trims
Handbags with a braided trim (also the uber summery espadrilles shoes) are best to be kept away from the rain, and getting wet in general. To remove dirt from rope-trimmed bags that, admittedly, get dingy too easily, it is important to clean them without excess moisture. This will help prevent the braid or rope from becoming unglued or unravelled. You may use something as simple as a carpet & upholstery foam cleaner (yes, the same stuff you use when you want to clean your rugs). You only apply some foam to the handbag and work it into the braid (gently). Use a soft brush to get an aesthetically appealing result. Let the bag dry for about half an hour before you brush away any residue. No rinsing necessary.
Note: Always follow the direction of the cords when you clean a handbag with braided trim.
To make your life easier, it is best to take some precaution measurements to keep your summer handbags cleaner longer. We suggest you spray all your new summer purses, shoes to hats with a sol repellent before you wear them. It is also a good idea to clean bags, woven hats, and braided shoes every couple of weeks or so to help them stay bright. Just use a soft brush. Finally, better store pastel and white bags in old pillowcases. This will keep them smudge-free and dust-free when you are not using them. For the same reason, we recommend you keep your shoes in boxes too.
Now, if, despite your great efforts, you were not able to remove stains off your designer, leather, satin, suede, fabric, canvas or any other type of purse, or need to give your handbag some extra attention to bring it back to its old glory, we are here to help. Simply contact us and let our expert purse cleaners work their magic!