Handbag 101: Rebag-Approved Cleaning Techniques

Insider Tips To Keeping Your Bag In Top Shape

When it comes to caring for handbags, Rebag knows the best practices, techniques, and products to use when bags come in-house. Our operations team processes, cleans, and conditions hundreds of bags a week. Not every bag passes our internal inspection procedure, but every bag does go through a series of cleaning steps that ensure we are able to accurately describe any signs of wear to our future buyers. We sat down with our head of operations to discuss the best practices and products that our in-house team uses to make sure that every bag is in its optimal condition.


When cleaning your handbag, take note of the materials it’s constructed of and any major issues so you use the appropriate cleaning techniques and products. Rebag Tip: If you come across ink stains (not to be confused with pen marks), it is best to leave them as is or send your bag to a professional cleaning service that specializes in this type of stain removal. If you tackle this type of stain on your own, there is a good chance you may make it worse.

Exterior Cleaning

You can start with cleaning the exterior or the interior first, but let each dry before moving onto the next.

  1. Wipe down the canvas of your bag with baby or leather wipes, or even both depending on the construction elements of your bag. Use light pressure overall and additional pressure for those stubborn spots. For coated canvas and other slick materials, the baby wipes you use should be fragrance, oil, and alcohol-free. Rebag trusts Seventh Generation Free & Clear Baby Wipes and Weiman Leather Wipes. If you opt to use a leather spray rather than a wipe, Rebag urges you not to spray directly onto the material of your bag.
  2. Once you’ve done a general overall cleaning of your bag, use a microfiber cloth to wipe off any potential excess cleaning product that may be left behind.
  3. If your bag has a bit of tarnishing on the hardware, we recommend using a polishing cloth. We trust Tiffany & Co’s polishing cloth. We don’t recommend using liquid forms of tarnish remover as they can potentially ruin other parts of your bag.
  4. Patent leather bags can easily get scuffed. As long as the scuff marks are superficial, they can be easily removed. Rebag trusts Fiebing’s Spot Remover as a solution to this common problem. With the use of a Q-tip and light feathery strokes, these scuffs can be removed and your patent can look new again. It is absolutely crucial you use a Q-tip and work in tiny areas at a time, and as soon as the mark is removed, you must immediately cease and wipe the remaining product off with a microfiber cloth.
  5. If your bag is constructed with pony hair, a suede brush is best to lightly groom the hair to get out anything that may be stuck in it. If there is staining, unfortunately, this unlikely to be removed. It is best to be proactive and preventative when it comes to types of hair.

Interior Cleaning

Start with turning your bag inside out if you are able to do so. This will allow the area around the seams to open up, making it easier to dislodge any debris and get into those hard to reach areas.

  1. Using Air in a Can, spray into the bag from at least eight inches away. The air will circulate similar to a wind tunnel, forcing everything that is remotely loose to come out. If you are able to turn your bag inside out, you’ll notice quite a bit of dirt and debris in the seams and bottom corners.
  2. Using a suede brush, dislodge any dirt and proceed to spray at your bag from every angle, making sure you are still at least eight inches away. If you can, turn it inside out (certain models) and use the suede brush to loosen impacted dirt and use the spray can to alleviate.
  3. For suede or raw leather interiors, start with a lint roller to pick up small particles within the pile. Move on to use your suede brush to loosen and remove dirt and lighten stains. If you have deeper set stains or marks, you will need to seek out a professional cleaner that specializes in this type of material. If you attempt to clean such materials with liquid solvents on your own, you risk further damage and discoloration.

Spot Treatment

Sometimes there are small spots that are not very noticeable but they just irk you. Many small spots can be removed, and depending on the material, it can be fairly easy to do so.

  1. For small fabric stains, using a soft laundry stain remover on a microfiber cloth, dab minor stains out. Avoid applying product directly to your bag. For stubborn stains that require a bit more care, Rebag trusts the Tide To Go Pen.
  2. For vachetta leather trim, and only if you feel confident in using this method, cut a small piece of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and very lightly scrub off stubborn marks and water stains.
  3. Sticker residue may require a bit of extra care. Rebag trusts Goo-Gone to remove these issues from non-porous and coated materials.
  4. A common problem in the interior of bags is makeup. Generally, powder-based stains on textiles with satin weave characteristics and leather can be removed with an oil-free makeup wipe. We do not advise using these products on interiors with roughly woven textiles.
  5. Pen marks: occasionally a suede brush works to lighten on higher pile materials.
  6. For cotton and canvas materials Spray n Wash does not leave a stain when dabbed on lightly.

Odor Elimination

Odor is the toughest type of “wear” there is. This can even happen at no fault of your own. However, the toughest odors to get out of materials are smoke and perfume. Leather is fairly easy to remove odor from, as it doesn't give odor an opportunity to “stick”. Woven fabric interiors and suede are also the hardest to remove odors from. At Rebag, about 20% of the bags that come to us have an interior odor, and we are able to lessen or eliminate it 85% of the time with these techniques.

  1. For light odors attached to fabric interiors, Febreze Free-Nature can be sprayed into your bag from a far distance. Once sprayed, immediately place your bag open and in front of a fan to speed up dry time, as leaving moisture can cause spotting.
  2. For severe smells in suede and fabric, Rebag trusts Absorbent Bad Air Sponge. Place the sponge container in your bag with the opening propped open facing a fan to allow circulation of air within the interior. The sponge has a slight perfume odor, so only use for 2-3 days at most then air out your bag on its own. Occasionally dryer sheets are a good alternative depending on your preference of smell.
  3. With leather interiors, wipe them down with a leather wipe, spray with Febreze, and air them out. Odors don’t have as much of a tendency to stick to these types of materials.
  4. Unfortunately, items with exterior odor are not able to be removed.

When To Let It Be

There are some stains that should not be handled on your own or at all. Attempting to clean these may cause further damage to your bag.

  1. Pen and ink: While many types of pen marks can be lightened and sometimes completely removed, as mentioned above, they are difficult stains to remove and should only be tackled if you are comfortable doing so. If you are unsure how the ink will react to your methods, it is best to leave them as is.
  2. Liquid and oil-based stains: Lipstick, melted candy, and nail polish should not be touched. These stains require special solvents that should not be used on the materials of your bag and will cause them to spread further should you decide to try.
  3. Sticker residue: If you find that you have some sort of sticker residue on either microfiber, suede, or similar textile interior, it can be lightened with a suede brush but is best to leave these as is as moisture should not be applied to these materials.
  4. Oil slick: While this is not a common issue, occasionally darker leather bags may be prone to “oil-slicking.” This is when the surface begins to change color in a way that looks like the surface of oil. The problem with this issue is that you can get rid of it for a time but it will continue to return and requires constant upkeep.

Avoidable Issues

Occasionally, we see signs of wear that can be avoided with proper preventative care.

  1. Corner wear: One of the most common issues that we see here at Rebag is wear and tear on corners. This isn't completely avoidable but can be lessened is you're cautious about where you place your bag.
  2. Handle wear: This is probably the most severe issue that we come across. There are many ways handle wear can be lessened or avoided altogether. With handles that are lighter or made of untreated leather, it is best to avoid the use of hand lotions and to wipe them down after use. Hand oils accumulate on the handles and darken over time, making them harder to remove in the future. If you want to take it a step further in protecting your handles, a fashionable and prudent trick is to wrap them in decorative scarves. Not only do these add a personalized touch, but they also protect your handles from much of the normal wear and tear.

Use Caution

There are some bags that will require these tips to be used differently because they go through special dye processes and should be treated a bit more delicately.

  1. Only use baby wipes on Hermes bags. The dye process that Hermes uses goes very deep into the leather, and leather wipes may change the overall coloring of your bag. If you do need to use a leather conditioner, only use it indirectly by first putting the product on a cloth and being sure to wipe excess off with a microfiber cloth.
  2. For Chanel lambskin and caviar bags, it is best to use leather wipes as baby wipes have a tendency to change the texture of the leather. It is best not to directly apply liquid products to these, indirect is best and working in small sections at a time is important.

List of Supplies Mentioned

  • Seventh Generation Free & Clear Baby Wipes
  • Amazon Basics Microfiber Cloth
  • Fiebing’s Spot Remover
  • Weiman Leather Cleaner
  • U-Line Air In A Can
  • Suede And Nubuck Brush
  • Tide To Go Pen
  • Goo-Gone
  • Absorbent Bad Air Sponge
  • Febreze Free Nature Fabric Spray
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