How to clean the inside of a leather purse

One of the reasons we invest in quality handbags is that they last for a long time. But if we don't take care of them regularly, they become both dirty and broken, or they end up being the breeding ground of bacteria. And the things we put inside our bags might even become contaminated with bacteria.

Several smaller studies have shown significant bacteria growth both on the inside and outside of handbags and purses. And there's plenty of time for bacteria to grow, when one study showed that 81.5% never even emptied their purses. And only 2.1% cleaned their purses at least once a month.

Follow the 7 steps below on how to clean the inside of a leather purse so you can feel good about where you store your things.

Find out what your purse lining is made of

The best way of cleaning the inside of a leather purse depends on what the inside is lined with. The lining is a piece of fabric that is glued to the back of the leather in your purse, and it's what you can feel and touch on the inside.

The most common linings of handbags and purses are suede, microfibre, or a cotton blend. You should always ask the producer of your bag how the inside should be cleaned, but there are some key principles to follow for each of the different lining types.

For example, is Frost & Forest's handbags lined with a special microfibre made from 40% recycled materials. Like a lot of microfibre linings for luxury bags, it's washable, but you should not soak it in water.

1. Clean out the contents of your purse

Before you begin to clean any part of your purse, you need to empty the contents. This could be a good time to throw away anything you no longer need and to disinfect things like pens, makeup and phone before you put them back into your handbag again.

Emptying a handbag

2. Brush the lining with a soft brush

For suede and microfibre, small particles can get stuck in the lining, so you should start by brushing it lightly with either a suede brush, a soft toothbrush or brush it with a fluffy towel. For purses with a cotton lining, you can skip to the next step.

brushing the lining of a purse with a suede brush

3. Vacuum inside the bag

Use a small vacuum to remove all the small particles left in the purse after brushing the lining. If you don't have a small enough vacuum cleaner, you can also pull the fabric out or tip the handbag on its head and gently brush it, so the particles fall out.

vacuuming inside a leather purse

4. Spot removal

If your handbag allows you to turn the lining inside out, pull it out of your bag and clean it with a towel underneath it so it doesn't get soaked. If the lining is stitched to the leather of your bag, which is the case with most high-end brands, you have to be very careful to do the spot removal inside.

Use a q-tip or small cotton pad and soak it in a cleaner. Either use a makeup-remover, dishwashing soap, detergent or rubbing alcohol. Start by using makeup-remover and continue with harder things like soap or alcohol if the stains don't come off. You will often have to spend quite a bit of time doing this to get all the stains off.

Different types of stains need a different treatment, and you can read more about removing stains from lipstick, foundation and pens inside your purse here.

Using a q-tip to clean spots on a leather purse

5. Gently wash the lining

Once you have removed any stubborn spots, the entire inside of your purse could do with a light clean.

Dab a cloth in soap and water, but make sure that it isn't excessively wet. If the lining can be turned inside out, you can keep a towel on the other side of the lining so it soaks up most of the moisture.

6. Dry with a towel or hairdryer

If your handbag isn't too wet, you could leave it to air dry, but you could risk getting water stains on the lining, which doesn't look very nice. Instead, you can use a towel to pat it dry or a hairdryer on a low heat setting.

Heat has the potential to damage some fabrics, including microfibres, so you need to be very careful about turning the heat up too high or keeping the dryer directed at the same spot for a long time.

drying the inside of a purse with a hairdryer

Bonus step 7. Polish the outside leather with a cleaner

Use a leather cleaning spray to spray on every leather surface on the outside of your purse. Gently rub this off the bag with a clean microfibre cloth. Make sure you also clean around the handles since you will be touching these the most.

Most leather cleaners will contain some oils for the leather to absorb, and it's important that you use this instead of normal dishwashing soap.

Spraying a leather purse with a cleaning spray

Bonus step 8. Clean the hardware of the bag

You can find hardware both inside and outside of a leather purse. Hardware is everything made in metal and usually comes with a gold or silver finish.

This finish can become tainted as you use it and seem less shiny. The easiest way to clean this is to use a dry microfibre cloth. If this doesn't take off everything, you could use it with a bit of water on the cloth before you polish the hardware again.

But the best trick to remove stains that won't leave your hardware is to use a bit of glass cleaning spray and then polish with a dry microfibre cloth.

polishing hardware on a purse

No matter what you do, don't to this

Whether your handbag lining is made from microfibre, suede or cotton, there are a few things you want to avoid doing. Never soak the inside completely with water, don't use bleach and never use acetone which can be found in some nail polish removers.

Doing any of these things could potentially damage the lining of your leather purse. And having no bag at all is probably worse than having a handbag with stains.

Set up systems to avoid further spills and damage

There are of course also many steps we can take to minimise the risk of spilling or staining anything inside our handbags. And avoiding major spills will both help the inside of your leather purse stay nice and clean, but it will also protect valuable things like phones and computers from getting damaged.

When you have cleaned the entire inside of your leather purse, you should take the opportunity to properly sort through your things and set up a system to keep it tidy going forward.

For more handbag inspiration and tips, follow us on Instagram or sign up to our Women in Business Newsletter.

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