You love your designer handbag and take it everywhere, but it’s important to remember, as you scrabble for a seat for your Chanel bag on the subway or plop your Louis Vuitton tote in the grass at the park, that a luxury bag is an investment, one that needs special care. Just like you care for and maintain your jewelry, you need to do the same for your favorite purse. Unfortunately, you can’t usually just take your bag to someone for a cleaning every six months and call it done, the way you take your favorite ring to the jeweler. 

To keep your designer handbag looking good as new, no matter how long you’ve owned it, here are a few care tips. 

Keep Things Clean — Inside and Out

Obviously you want to keep your handbag clean, but that’s easier said than done. A handbag is a constant companion throughout your daily life and, as such, it’s subjected to the same wear and tear as your most regularly worn pair of shoes or your cell phone, for example. Dust, dirt, weather, bacteria — it all can wreak havoc on your bag’s cleanliness, and therefore its overall condition and value. 

You can take care to keep your bag a little cleaner by never handling it with dirty hands or even hands that are wet or freshly moisturized. 

To keep things clean on the inside, make sure you’re storing all of your cosmetics and other liquids, pastes, creams, etcetera, properly, to avoid leaks. The last thing you want is a leaky bottle of hand sanitizer discoloring your bag’s interior, or your favorite bottle of body spray pouring out all over your matching wallet. Consider using separate cosmetics cases and bags that can easily tuck away inside your purse and always be careful to not overstuff or weigh your purse down unnecessarily. 

If you do notice any stains, inside or outside of your bag, address them as quickly as possible. Food stains can be removed with chalk (just rub the chalk over the stain, let it sit a day and then wipe it off). Ink or oily stains may need to be addressed by a professional. If you notice water on your bag, let it air dry and, if it leaves behind a mark, let a professional know. 

Find a Specialist 

On that note, you’ll need to actually find a professional. While purse specialists aren’t as plentiful as jewelers, you can find purse specialists in most major cities who can help to maintain and care for your luxury handbag, as well as make any needed repairs. In some instances, the bag’s designer will offer maintenance and repair services (for example, Louis Vuitton offers this both at its retail locations and via mail, if you can bear to send your purse by USPS). In other cases, you can find dry cleaner-like businesses that specialize in handbags only.

Do a Little Maintenance Work Yourself

There are some maintenance tasks that you can perform yourself. Purchase leather or suede care products designed specifically for high-end items, preferably purses. Do a little research to uncover what products will work best for your specific bag, as not all leather creams or protectant sprays work best for all leather products. Once you’ve settled on a specific product, be sure to follow the usage instructions to the letter, to avoid any accidental damage.

Keep Things Smelling Clean, Too

But it’s not just looks you should be worried about. Noticing an unpleasant odor inside your bag?  You’ll want to take care of that ASAP. Thankfully, unpleasant odors in designer bags are usually an easy fix. Just empty your purse, place an upright pack of baking soda inside, close it and then come back a few days later to find the smell absorbed. 

Choose the Right Storage 

Most luxury handbag owners boast a handful of bags in their collections, meaning there will be times when you’ll choose to swap out your purse for a season or just a special event (and you’ll likely want to rotate your bags out anyway, as doing so can increase your luxury bags’ longevity overall). When you do, make sure you’re storing your bags correctly when they’re not in use. Employ the dust bag that your purse likely came with and store the purse upright, if you have the closet and shelf space. You can also hang your bags on hangers, if space is tight (though storing your bag via hanging isn’t ideal, especially if you have a leather bag that can become deformed). 

If you want to stack your bags, put them in their original boxes first and stuff them with tissues, which will ensure they don’t lose their shape; don’t skimp on the tissues either, or think you can use magazine pages or some other kind of paper, as the ink can bleed onto the bag over time. No tissues? You can use sweaters instead. 

Whatever you do, don’t store your luxury bag anywhere it’s going to be exposed to sunlight. 

Don’t Forget the Hardware

Sometimes, it can be all too easy to focus entirely on caring for your bag’s fabric or leather, and forget all about the small details and all the hardware that make your bag the special piece that it is. However, you want to be sure to care for and properly maintain these elements, too. Whether they’re embellished, gold or silver, polish those pieces of hardware up with a microfiber cloth on occasion and, when you’re storing your bags, wrap those items in tissue paper to prevent them from discoloring or denting the fabric or leather after a few months of storage. 

H2: Keep Your Bag Off the Floor

Yes, it’s the easiest and most convenient place to put it, but why would you put something of such value the same place everyone’s been walking? If you can’t hold your bag, such as when you’re at a restaurant, place your bag on either a seat or purchase a portable purse hook so that you can hang your bag on the table (remember, though — hanging isn’t ideal for most luxury bags, so you don’t want to keep your bag in that position too long).

Consider bringing along your dust bag when flying, to protect the bag while it’s either underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead luggage compartment. 

In general, while traveling, if you have a light-colored bag, keep it away from any other dark or wet fabrics, whether those are your clothes or fabrics in your surroundings, as those colors can transfer to your purse, resulting in unsightly discoloration. 

Pick Your Bag with Care

Lastly, both when you’re shopping for a new handbag and when you’re picking what handbag to bring along on a trip or just a night out, do so with care. Think about its use and what you’re bringing along with you either on a specific outing or on a regular basis. Think about the environment you’ll be in and what elements you’ll be exposing a bag to by bringing it along. Will you be surrounded by jostling crowds? Is it going to be raining or snowing? Pick the best bag for your environment, to better ensure you won’t be exposing it to any unnecessary and damaging elements. 

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