How to Get Smell Out of Handbag: Freshen Up Your Favorite Accessory

Ever had that moment when you’re about to head out, you grab your favorite handbag, and whoa—what’s that smell? It’s not just you; handbags can trap odors like nobody’s business, turning your chic accessory into a bit of a party pooper.

bag vanity featured image

Don’t worry, though! You’re about to learn how to freshen up your beloved bag and get it smelling great again. Whether it’s a lingering perfume scent or a forgotten gym sock ordeal, there are simple, effective ways to tackle those pesky smells.

Identifying the source of the smell

Before diving into deodorizing techniques, it’s crucial to pinpoint what’s causing the odor. Start by emptying your handbag completely. Every item could potentially be the culprit—from that half-eaten snack you forgot about to the lipstick you’ve been missing for weeks.

Check for signs of spills or stains. They often leave a scent trail that’s hard to miss. Pat down the interior with a paper towel to find any wet or sticky spots you may have overlooked. Lingering moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, both of which are notorious for creating unpleasant aromas.

Look for forgotten pockets and compartments. It’s amazing what gets tucked away and forgotten in the nooks and crannies of a well-loved handbag. Pay special attention to zippered sections and side pockets as these are common odor traps.

Inspect the lining. If your handbag has a removable lining, take it out and give it a good once-over. Spots or discolorations on the lining could be symptomatic of something that has soaked through and started to decay, bringing with it a whole host of smell issues.

Consider the material of your handbag. Leather absorbs oils and perspiration from hands, while synthetic materials might retain smell from spills and fragrances. Understanding the material type helps you choose the appropriate cleaning method that won’t damage your accessory.

Remember, taking a moment to find the source will save you time in the long run. You don’t want to treat your handbag only to discover later that the odor remains because you missed the real cause.

Removing the contents and cleaning the interior

Once you’ve pin-pointed the culprit for your handbag’s unpleasant odor, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start the cleanup process. First things first, empty your handbag. Check all pockets and compartments to ensure nothing’s left behind. It’s often the small, forgotten items that contribute to the funky smell.

Next up, tackle the interior. If your bag’s lining is removable, take it out and shake off any debris. For a fabric lining that’s fixed, turn it inside out as much as possible to expose the inner surface. A thorough vacuuming can capture any lurking crumbs or dust particles that could be hanging onto odors.

For spot cleaning, use a mild soap solution and a soft cloth. Be gentle to protect the integrity of the material. If the lining is extremely soiled, consider a specialized cleaning product designed for the specific fabric of your bag. When applying any liquid cleaner, avoid saturating the material — a damp cloth is your best friend here.

For leather interiors:

  • Opt for a cleaner specifically formulated for leather.
  • Apply a small amount to a soft cloth.
  • Work in gentle, circular motions to clean the leather without soaking it.

If dealing with synthetic materials:

  • A mix of warm water and gentle soap usually does the trick.
  • Wipe with a soft cloth and rinse with a second cloth dampened with just water.

For suede interiors:

  • Stay clear of water-based cleaning. Water can stain suede.
  • Use a suede brush to remove dirt and refresh the nap.

Air out the handbag after cleaning to ensure that no moisture gets trapped, as this can lead to mildew and more unwanted scents. Patience is key — allow your bag to dry completely before returning your items. This tedious but necessary process restores freshness, setting the stage for a vibrant accessory life.

Treating specific smells

Sometimes you’ll find that general cleaning doesn’t quite eradicate those stubborn odors. That’s when targeting specific smells becomes essential.

Mold or Mildew is a common culprit in musty handbags. To tackle this, create a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. Apply it sparingly to the affected areas. The vinegar’s natural acidity helps neutralize the mold smell. Always spot test to ensure you’re not damaging the material.

If you’re dealing with something sour or food-related, consider a baking soda treatment. Sprinkle it inside the bag and let it sit overnight. Baking soda absorbs the unpleasant odors, leaving a more natural scent.

For cigarette smoke, activated charcoal works wonders due to its odor-absorbing properties. Place a small bag of activated charcoal inside your handbag for a day or two. Remember to remove all the contents and leave the pockets open for the charcoal to work effectively.

When perfume or scented lotion has spilled, mix a small amount of mild detergent with water to clean the lining. Perfumes and lotions can leave a strong, lingering smell that’s hard to neutralize. A gentle hand wash can often remove these scents from synthetic linings.

For leather handbags particularly, specialty leather cleaners can help. They’re designed to not only clean but also maintain the leather’s condition while removing odors. Many of these cleaners contain deodorizers specifically for strong scents like smoke or pet odors.

Remember to always let your handbag air dry after treating any specific odors. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources, which can damage the material. Patience and proper ventilation are key in ensuring that those stubborn smells are gone for good.

Using natural remedies to eliminate odors

Sometimes, the solution to your handbag’s persistent stench is found right in your pantry. Natural deodorizers are often safe for most materials and can be very effective.

Baking soda is a powerhouse when it comes to neutralizing smells. Here’s how to use it:

  • Fill a small sachet with baking soda.
  • Place it inside your handbag overnight.
  • Remove it the next day and enjoy the freshness.

Another great option is white vinegar. Its acidic nature breaks down odors without damaging the bag:

  • Dampen a cloth with white vinegar.
  • Wipe the interior surfaces gently.
  • Allow your bag to air out in a well-ventilated area.

If you’re wary of moisture, consider coffee grounds:

  • Place a bowl of dry, fresh coffee grounds inside your bag.
  • Close the bag and let it sit for a day.
  • The coffee grounds will absorb the unpleasant scents.

For a refreshing scent, turn to lemon peels:

  • Insert fresh lemon peels into your handbag.
  • Replace them every few hours until the smell is gone.

Don’t forget about activated charcoal:

  • Get an activated charcoal deodorizing bag.
  • Just like with baking soda, leave it in your handbag overnight.
  • It effectively traps the odors, leaving your bag smelling clean.

Remember, the effectiveness of these remedies can depend on how deeply embedded the odors are. If one method doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to try another. Your persistence will pay off, as these natural deodorizers are gentle on materials and tough on smells.

Preventing future odors

After banishing the current unpleasant fragrance from your handbag, you’ll want to ensure that it remains fresh. Proactive measures can help you avoid a repetition of the deodorizing process.

Store Wisely: Always empty your bag after use. Crumbs, receipts, or forgotten food items can start to smell if left ignored. Store your handbag in a cool, dry place. Humidity can encourage growth of mold and mildew, which contribute to bad odors.

Use Pouches: Separate items that could potentially spill or have strong scents in their own containers or pouches. This serves as a first line of defense against odor absorption into the bag’s material.

  • Makeup and lotions should be sealed properly.
  • Food items should never be directly placed in your handbag.

Maintain Regularly: Clean the inside of your bag periodically. A simple wipe down with a damp cloth can prevent buildup of dirt and residues that might lead to smells.

Absorb Moisture: Silica gel packets are handy tools for keeping the interior of your bag dry. These can absorb excess moisture and are especially useful in more damp environments.

Consider Liners: Invest in a removable handbag liner. It offers an extra layer of protection and can be easily cleaned or replaced if necessary.

Ventilate: Don’t underestimate the power of air. Leave your bag in a well-ventilated area open whenever possible. This helps to clear out mustiness and ensures that any lingering scents don’t settle.

Remember that prevention is key. By being mindful about what goes in your handbag and how it’s stored, you can keep your favorite accessory fresh and ready for any occasion. Keep the freshness lasting by incorporating these habits into your routine, and your handbag will thank you.


With these easy steps, you’ve got all you need to tackle that stubborn smell in your handbag. Remember, staying proactive with your bag’s hygiene can save you from the hassle down the road. So go ahead, give your favorite accessory the care it deserves, and enjoy that fresh, clean scent every time you reach for your handbag. You’ve got this!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the first step in freshening up a handbag?

The first step in freshening up a handbag is to identify and eliminate the source of the odor. This may involve cleaning or removing any items from the bag that may be causing the smell.

How important is the condition of the handbag lining when dealing with odors?

The condition of the lining is crucial as it can harbor odors. A clean and intact lining helps prevent smells from becoming entrenched.

What are some preventative measures to avoid future odors in handbags?

Preventative measures include properly storing the handbag, using separate pouches for different items, cleaning the bag regularly, using silica gel packets to absorb moisture, considering a removable liner, and ventilating the bag to prevent odor buildup.

Why is it beneficial to use silica gel packets in handbags?

Silica gel packets absorb moisture, which can help to prevent the growth of mold and mildew that could potentially cause unpleasant odors in a handbag.

Can a handbag liner be helpful and why?

Yes, a removable handbag liner can be helpful as it can be easily cleaned or replaced, thus maintaining a fresh environment within the bag and preventing odors from penetrating the bag’s material.

How does ventilation contribute to a fresher handbag?

Ventilating your handbag helps to air out any trapped odors and prevents the accumulation of moisture, thereby maintaining a fresher-smelling bag.

Scroll to Top