It’s really, really tempting to take handbags for granted, especially if they don’t cost the earth.
But you’ve got to wonder how you’ll feel one, two, five, ten years down the line when your favourite bags are trashed!
Sometimes when we love an item so much we use it until it breaks and that’s it - it’s done. Here at Gorjus London, we're obviously passionate about bags, and whilst we offer tons of superb bags are awesome prices, we still want to pass on some advice about how to squeeze the most out of them.
There is an alternative, though - looking after your handbags and taking care of your handbags properly will prevent them from meeting an early demise.
So, regardless of whether you own cheaper handbags, designer bags, bags priced somewhere in the middle, or a combination of loads of different types of bags, here’s our guide on how to take care of your handbag.
1: Don’t Hang It
Sure, bags hang from arms, hands or shoulders, but that doesn’t mean that they’re designed to hang from something like a coat peg or door handle, especially not for long periods of time.
Hanging your bag improperly will damage it by distorting the material. Plus, if someone brushes past it they might catch it, snag it or pull it. This could cause the straps to snap or weaken - you don’t want your bag straps to break halfway through the day!
“Don’t hang your handbag by the handle as it may distort the leather," Caraa Co-founder and Creative Director Carmen Chen Wu tells Byrdie.
Instead, keep your bag on shelves. And also, make sure they're not kept in direct sunlight as this will fade the bags and distort colours, particularly if they're black or other dark colours that absorb a lot of light.
2: Watch the Weather
Many modern handbags are pretty hard wearing and durable in adverse weather conditions. This does vary, though. Some materials are prone to shrinkage and colours might run or bleed if the bag is fairly new. Keep an eye on a new bag if you get stuck in torrid conditions (which is likely here in the UK).
Whilst it’s pretty unlikely your bag will suffer from rain or bad weather, make sure you dry it properly when you’re home. Propping it safely near a radiator should do the trick - but make sure it doesn’t touch the heat directly. Dry it over at least 24 to 48 hours and make sure the insides are bone dry.
3: Consider a Handbag Liner
If you’ve got an expensive bag that you’re starting to use a lot, you might want to consider a handbag liner. Handbag liners protect bags from spillages and rippage if you carry a lot of items including liquids and makeup. You can also place makeup and other liquid items in their own waterproof bags (which most of you probably do already).
A makeup spillage can be pretty catastrophic, especially if some of it runs through the outer layers and potentially ruins the exterior of the bag. If you’ve paid a few hundred quid for your bag then consider a handbag liner.
4: Clean Your Bag, But Gently
Bags will get dirty over time - that’s guaranteed. Cleaning them should be pretty simple using a damp cloth and light detergent or soap, but don’t overclean, especially if the bag is made from real leather. Leather should be cleaned using specialist leather cleaners.
Use a microfiber cloth or other soft cloth with minimal friction to avoid scuffing the bag when you clean it.
5: Wear and Tear Builds Character, Within Reason
Loads of types of clothes look better when they look used and bags are no different. Once you get some use into a bag, it’ll start looking and feeling more ‘you’. The authenticity of use is a good thing, within reason of course.
For example, whilst some minor scuffs and marks are minor issues, larger rips and repairs should be tackled ASAP to prevent irreversible damage, which brings us to the next point…
6: Repair Bags Before You Lose the Chance to Save Them
Bags can be repaired over and over, either DIY if you have a knack for sewing and repairs (superglue can work wonders), or professionally.
By repairing a bag, you can keep it going for way longer than its standard lifespan. Von Baer says a high-quality leather bag can last some 30-years if it’s maintained properly, but that the theoretical lifespan of good leather is more like 100 years.
7: Leather Bags Need Specialist Treatment
Genuine leather is a complex material that needs special treatment with oils. Oil replenishes and nourishes the leather, making it brighter, stronger and more flexible. Carl Friedrik has an excellent post on leather oils and when to use them here.
You won’t need to use leather oil often, but it’s still crucial for keeping genuine leather looking at its best for years to come. With proper maintenance, expect your leather handbag to last well over 20 to 30-years. After then, it’ll still be usable but will be looking a little more ‘vintage’.
8: Stuff the Bag When it’s Not in Use for Long Periods of Time
If you’re leaving your bag in storage for a long time then stuff it with some sort of soft material (like a sheet or blanket) to prevent it from collapsing. Bags will collapse in on themselves after a while unused or unfilled with items.
9: Use Dust Bags
Dust bags are typically made from linen or cotton and come with some high-end designer handbags. They’re supposed to protect the bag during storage or transport. Make sure your dust bag is soft, clean and fit for purpose. Don’t improvise by using a plastic bag or something like that because it could meld to the surface of the bag and stick.
10: Keep an Eye on Surfaces You Place Your Bag On
Whether you’re at a party, on a bus, on the tube or at work, watch where you put your bag. Anything from spilt liquids to chewing gum or worse can stain or damage your bag - and you might get a nasty surprise when you pick it up! Watch where you’re putting your bag - it might save you from a serious catastrophe!
Summary: How to Properly Take Care of Your Handbag
Handbags are great and once you find one you like, it’s a good shout to take care of it.
After all, taking care of handbags is not rocket science. With a little TLC you can keep your handbag rocking for years to come!
Handbag Care FAQ
Can I wash my handbag in a washing machine?
Some handbags can be put in the washing machine, but this is generally only recommended for synthetic bags, e.g. rucksacks, sports bags, or cotton bags like tote bags. Never wash leather in the washing machine. Use specialist upholstery or handbag cleaner, or wash with a damp cloth and minimal soap or detergent. Leather should be treated with specialist leather oil or cream.
How long do leather handbags last?
Leather handbags can last some 30 years or more with special treatment. Real leather itself can last some 100 years before it begins to naturally disintegrate. This really depends on how well you look after your leather handbag and how often it gets wet. Heat will also accelerate the disintegration of real leather.
How do I look after my bag?
Wash your bag gently, don't hang it up (put it on a shelf instead), keep it out of the light and also stuff it with a soft material when not in use to maintain the shape. Use dust bags to protect bags in storage or when travelling. Bags are pretty durable these days but might need repairs at some point. Specialist repairers can perform invisible repairs, or you might need the service of a professional leatherworker if you have a leather bag that needs professional TLC.