We’ve covered vintage clothing and shoes, but what about caring for your bags? Purses, totes, and luggage can be great vintage finds, but have often already seen a lot of love. I’ve reviewed some of my fix-it techniques before, but now’s a time to go through my tool kit and see what’s what. Skip to the bottom to see what to use on the zippers and trimmings that come on every kind of bag.
For vinyl/plastic: Your favorite spray cleaner (I like Seventh Generation) will usually do wonders–just stay away from harsh cleaners (aka the antibacterial ones). Spot clean lining with a tiny dab of Woolite on a damp washcloth. Paper towels won’t do you much good here. Use a soft cloth.
For leather: We went over this with shoes: your leather cleaning/conditioning liquids are essential here. Never use a kitchen spray cleaner on leather. Always take the second step to condition. When your soft cloth is damp with leather cleaner, use it on rings or zipper tabs that have gunky green stuff to make a dent in the build-up.
- 10 qt. bucket
- An old towel
If a fabric clutch could use a boost, I dunk it. Warm water and Woolite will work out much of the musk. If the bag has a metal frame or clasp, don’t let it sit in the water for long. Rinse well under running water, squeeze out extra water with a towel, and keep an eye on it as it dries. Always dry open, but don’t leave it flat on one side for two long, or it will never dry. Stick it outside in the shade for a bit for extra air circulation.
For large plastic suitcases:
- The sunniest day of the week
- A garden hose
- A sponge (with a coarse side, for maximum scrubbage)
Yep. I hose out my big suitcases. It’s a recommendation I make with much caution–you need to be confident of the overall sturdiness of the suitcase in question. Never try this method on a designer item like, say, a Louis Vuitton trunk. But if you’ve got a lower-end suitcase that has general ick, stained lining or a super-musty smell, get the to the patio!
My method: Start early on a sunny day and blast the open suitcase with the hose. Dab a bit of Woolite on the sponge and give the inside and outside a good once-over. Stand the open suitcase on an end and hose off thoroughly. You’ll probably need to get close and hold the suitcase upright, so be ready to have wet feet! When you’ve satisfied the rinsing requirement, stand the suitcase on its end, open, where it will get plenty of air and sun. Check it in the afternoon and flip it over. Bring it in after dinner, and marvel at the difference over dessert. And wine.
For fixtures and trimmings:
- I love this list of rust remedies from Apartment Therapy. Try them out, choose one that works for you, and be sure to have those items handy. Vinegar is an easy remedy to keep in your arsenal–after all, what home doesn’t stock a little bit of vinegar? Baking soda is also great, and on your particularly punchy days, you can mix them together and make a home science-fair volcano.
- An old toothbrush (or a new one): Just make sure you keep it in a designated spot, and not in your medicine cabinet. When using rust remedies like baking soda, you’ll need a little extra elbow grease. A toothbrush can get into the nooks and crannies that you can’t conquer alone.
- Always rinse (carefully, if the fixtures are still attached- dampen a rag to wipe clean) and dry with a soft cloth or old tee shirt.
- Rub a bar of soap on a sticky zipper to get it moving smoothly again.
Finally, these cleaning tools and tips from Goodwill Industries of Northern New England are worth bookmarking.
What tools and remedies do you turn to when you’re cleaning up a vintage bag?