Restore the beauty of your vintage handbag with a gentle cleaning.

How to Clean and Polish Antique Purses

by Mimi Abney

Just like a sophisticated black sheath or an elegant strand of heirloom pearls, a well-made vintage handbag never goes out of style. A retro-beaded clutch purse or an exquisite 1950s leather handbag are the perfect accessories to dress up your favorite wardrobe basics. After scoring a vintage leather bag at a small boutique or consignment shop, you will need expert tips to clean, polish and extend the life of your retro purse.

1 Remove oil stains on your leather handbags with cornstarch. Set the leather bag on a flat surface with the stain facing up. Pour cornstarch over the stain. Place a desk lamp with a small, low-wattage light bulb over the cornstarch to add heat. The warm light aids in the absorption of the cornstarch into the bag. Let the cornstarch remain on the spot for 5 to 10 minutes to absorb the oil. Brush the powder off the bag with a clean white rag. Gently rub the stained area with a pea-size amount of mild leather cream and a white cotton cloth to complete the cleaning process.

2 Polish your vintage leather purses with a neutral cream polish. A wax polish adds shine, but is too heavy for use on a handbag. Buff the cream polish until the product melts into the leather. To add polish to patent leather, wipe these bags with a clean white cloth after each use.

3 Brush your antique suede purses with a nylon brush or a small-bristle suede brush. Gently rub the surface of the material with the brush to lift any dirt and grime from the nap. If there are scuff marks on your light-colored vintage bag, use a suede stone or suede eraser to remove the black marks.

4 Spot clean your fabric handbags with a white cotton cloth dipped in warm water. Remove dirt stains by blotting the stained area with a damp cloth. Let the fabric bag dry overnight. Stuff the bag with white tissue paper to help preserve its shape.

5 Clean your exotic alligator, crocodile or snake skins with a combination leather cleaner and conditioner. Apply a pea-size amount of the product to the vintage bag with a cotton cloth. Rub the product into the vintage purse using a circular motion. Polish with a neutral cream polish, as needed.

Items you will need

  • Cornstarch
  • Small desk lamp
  • Low-wattage light bulb
  • Leather cream
  • Neutral cream polish
  • White cotton rag or cloth
  • White tissue paper
  • Nylon brush
  • Suede brush
  • Suede stone
  • Suede eraser
  • Leather cleaner and conditioner
  • Leather protectant

Tips

  • Have your exotic, vintage handbags professionally cleaned once a year.
  • If your bag has embellishment, or is made with silk or metallic fabrics, store it in a box when not in use.
  • Keep your vintage leather bags pristine by moisturizing them with a non-staining moisturizer.
  • Spray your antique purse with a leather protectant. This clear spray keeps spots from setting in the leather material.

References

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