How to Remove Smell from Handbag: Freshen Up with These Pro Tips

Ever opened your favorite handbag only to be greeted by an unpleasant smell? You’re not alone. Whether it’s from a forgotten gym sock or a spill, odors can cling to the fabric and ruin your bag’s vibe.

Why do handbags develop odors?

When you’re carrying a handbag day in and day out, it’s exposed to various environments and substances. Frequent use often leads to a build-up of usual suspects that contribute to an undesirable scent. Think about leftovers from your on-the-go snacks or that accidental coffee spill during your morning commute; these mishaps are not just an annoyance but a source of lingering smells.

Handbags, like any other accessory, absorb odors from the world around them. It’s no surprise that after a while, they might start to smell like a mix of your perfume, lunch, or even the gym clothes you shoved in there last-minute. The materials used in handbags, especially fabrics like canvas or leather, can retain scents quite aggressively.

Moisture is another culprit. If your handbag isn’t stored properly and encounters rain or spills, it can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. These not only carry a potent smell but can also damage the bag’s material over time.

Aside from these common causes, sometimes the smell originates from the less obvious. Consider the storage space for your bag. If it’s kept in a closed-off area with poor ventilation, smells can build up within the handbag itself.

Here’s a quick hit list of what might be making your handbag smell:

  • Spilled liquids like coffee or soda
  • Leftover food or wrappers
  • Perfume or scented lotions
  • Moisture leading to mold or mildew
  • Regular exposure to strong smells like tobacco smoke

Staying ahead of these issues means being proactive about the care and maintenance of your bag. Regular cleaning, being mindful of what goes in and out of your handbag, and proper storage all play a significant role in keeping your handbag fresh and extending its life.

Remember, your handbag can be a $20 find or a $2000 investment. In both cases, the aim is to ensure it stays in top shape, keeping those pesky odors at bay.

Identifying the source of the smell

Before you tackle the odors in your handbag, it’s crucial to pinpoint where they’re coming from. Trapped moisture is a common culprit. You might find it lurking in the lining or pockets, especially if you’ve been caught in the rain or spilled a drink. Inspect your handbag for any signs of dampness or staining – these are telltale indicators.

Another common issue is leftover food. Even small crumbs can create a breeding ground for bacteria, which in turn can lead to foul smells. Empty your handbag and shake it out to dislodge any food particles. If you often carry snacks, consider using a separate pouch to minimize residues.

If you’re someone who loves fragrances, note that perfume can saturate the fabric or leather, the scent morphing over time into something less pleasant. To check if this is the issue, take a sniff test near areas where you usually spray perfume or scented products.

Tobacco smoke has a persistent nature and can deeply embed itself within your bag’s materials. If you’re around smoking or frequently pass through smoky environments, this could very well be why your handbag holds an odor.

Lastly, consider the bag’s storage area. If it’s stored in a musty closet or a non-ventilated space, it’s likely to pick up those scents. Smell the spot where you usually keep your handbag. Does it match the odor within?

  • Check for moisture or dampness
  • Look for residual food particles
  • Assess impact from perfumes or scented products
  • Evaluate exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Smell the storage area for similar odors

Remember, identifying the source is half the battle in odor removal. Once you’ve found it, you’re well on your way to having a fresh-smelling handbag again.

Do’s and don’ts of cleaning your handbag

Tackling a smelly handbag requires a balance of careful cleaning without damaging the material. Understanding the proper ways to freshen up your accessory is crucial.


  • Air it out. If the weather permits, leave your handbag outside for a few hours to allow fresh air to circulate through it.
  • Use baking soda. Place a sachet inside your handbag overnight to absorb odors.
  • Wipe the interior with an appropriate cleaner. If your handbag’s lining is fabric, a mild fabric cleaner can do wonders.
  • For leather exteriors, apply a specific leather conditioner. This helps eliminate odors while keeping the material supple.
  • If it’s safe for the material, lightly steam the inside of your handbag to kill bacteria causing the smell.
  • Never submerge your handbag in water. It can damage the structure and fabric.
  • Avoid excessive heat. Don’t try to speed up the drying process with a hairdryer or radiator.
  • Don’t use harsh chemicals or undiluted alcohol. These can discolor and damage your handbag’s materials.
  • Skip the fragrance sprays. Covering up the odor doesn’t eliminate it and can make matters worse.
  • Avoid overstuffing your handbag with newspaper or fabric sheets to absorb the odor; it can distort its shape.

When cleaning, always test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure there’s no damage or discoloration. If your handbag is a luxury item or of sentimental value, consider a professional cleaning service. They’re equipped with the expertise and tools to rejuvenate your accessory without harm. Remember, frequent care and preventive measures are your best defense against future odors.

Natural remedies for removing odors

When dealing with a smelly handbag, natural remedies can be particularly effective. These options are not only cost-efficient but also gentle on your handbag’s material.

Activated Charcoal is a potent natural deodorizer. It’s safe for fabrics and excellent for absorbing odors. You simply place a few charcoal bags inside your handbag and leave it overnight. For most cases, the smell will be significantly reduced by morning.

Fresh Coffee Grounds also absorb unwanted scents. Put some in a breathable fabric bag and tuck it into your handbag. The strong aroma of coffee often overwhelms other odors, which can be helpful if you need a quick fix.

White Vinegar is another odor-neutralizing agent. Dampen a cloth with vinegar and gently wipe the bag’s interior. Don’t saturate the material. Instead, allow the natural properties of the vinegar to lift the scent as the cloth dries.

If you’re leery of vinegar’s own smell, Essential Oils can be your go-to. They not only mask odors but also provide a pleasant fragrance. Mix a few drops with water in a spray bottle and lightly mist the inside of your bag. Opt for oils like lavender or lemon for a clean, refreshing scent.

Finally, Sunlight can serve as an excellent odor eliminator. Sometimes, all it takes is leaving your handbag outdoors for a few hours. Make sure it’s in a safe, dry place where direct sunlight can help neutralize odors without damaging the material.

Remember, before trying any of these natural remedies, test them on a small, inconspicuous area first. It’s crucial to ensure that there will be no discoloration or damage to your beloved handbag.

Using specialized products to remove smells

Not all heroes wear capes; some come in tiny bottles and packets specifically designed to combat handbag odors. Specialized products can be game-changers in refreshing your prized accessory. Odor eliminators made for fabrics are a solid pick. They’re formulated to neutralize smells without leaving behind a heavy scent. Look for options that mention “safe for fabrics” to ensure they won’t harm your handbag’s interior.

Enzymatic cleaners are another secret weapon. They break down the organic matter that often causes foul smells. Whether it’s a forgotten sandwich crumb or a spill, these cleaners tackle the root of the problem. Keep in mind they are usually applied to a clean, dry surface, and you should let them act for the time specified on the label.

For leather exteriors, you’re dealing with a sensitive surface. Opt for a leather cleaner that’s gentle and designed to maintain the material’s integrity. There’s a plethora of options, but those that clean while conditioning are particularly beneficial. They remove odor-causing particles and keep the leather supple.

Moisture absorbers are yet another option for your repertoire. These clever packets help remove the dampness that can contribute to unpleasant odors. Silica gel packets are a common moisture absorber—yes, those little packets you often find in new handbags. They’re not just packing materials; stash a few in different compartments to help combat the smell.

When you’re on the go and you notice your handbag seems less than fresh, handbag deodorizing sprays are convenient to carry with you. A quick spritz can provide immediate relief from odors. Just ensure the spray is appropriate for your handbag’s material to avoid any damage.

Remember, testing a small, inconspicuous area first is essential. This extra step can save you from potential heartache if a product doesn’t play well with your handbag’s material. With these specialized products, keeping your handbag smelling clean and fresh becomes a simple task that you can easily incorporate into your regular maintenance routine.


You’ve got this! With the right approach, your handbag can smell as fresh and clean as the day you bought it. Remember to treat it gently and avoid shortcuts that could harm its material. Whether you’re freshening up a daily carrier or a cherished accessory, your handbag deserves the best care. Go ahead and give these tips a try – your nose (and your handbag) will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I remove odors from my handbag without damaging it?

To safely remove odors, air out your handbag, use baking soda sachets, wipe the interior with cleaners suitable for the bag’s material, and condition leather exteriors. Avoid submerging in water and harsh chemicals.

Is it safe to use fragrance sprays to deodorize my handbag?

Using fragrance sprays is not recommended as they can cause damage. Instead, opt for natural deodorizers like baking soda sachets or specially formulated handbag deodorizing sprays that are gentle on materials.

Can I wash my handbag in water to get rid of the smell?

Submerging your handbag in water can damage it, especially if it is made of materials like leather. It’s best to wipe it with a slightly damp cloth using appropriate cleaners.

What should I do before using specialized cleaning products on my handbag?

Before using specialized products like odor eliminators or leather cleaners, always test a small, inconspicuous area first to prevent damage to your handbag.

Is it okay to use heat to dry my handbag after cleaning it?

Using excessive heat to dry your handbag can cause warping and damage the material. Let it air dry naturally away from direct heat sources.

What is the safest way to maintain a clean, odor-free handbag?

To maintain a clean, odor-free handbag, regularly air it out, use gentle cleaning and conditioning products as necessary, and store it properly without overstuffing.

When should I consider professional cleaning for my handbag?

If you have a luxury or sentimentally valuable handbag with stubborn odors or stains, professional cleaning is recommended to ensure the best results without risking damage.

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