Friday, 24 April 2009

To Clean or Not to Clean Vintage Bags

When I buy vintage bags for my website, I try to buy bags that are in really good condition with little damage and no stains. However, there is often a small amount of where and tear due to the age of the bag and the fact that someone has used it and loved it in the past.

Occasionally, I will buy a bead bag with a small amount of bead loss, just because I really like the bag. In that case, I will do my best to repair the bag sympathetically and have a couple I am working on at the moment. Sometimes I will get a bag in a job lot which has got some staining and I do my best to spruce it up a bit for sale. Buying handbags over the internet or even at outdoor sales can catch me out, as you don't always realise a bag smells of cigarette smoke. The odour is really hard to remove.

When I think it will be possible, I tend to gently handwash handbags in warm water with a mild handwash detergent. It is amazing how many light stains can be removed and how sparkly beads can become afterwards. Needless to say, completely washing a bag is not always possible and really depends on the structure of the bag and materials used. Sometimes I can get away with just spot cleaning a particular area.

Most of the time, the results are quite successful. However, one vintage clutch bag does spring to mind. It came with a couple of other bags and was a white clutch bag, probably 1960's, with small beads dotted over it. It was very dirty and badly stained, so it was either try and clean it or throw it away. I decided to soak it for a while before rubbing at some of the stains to try and loosen them. What I didn't realise was that the bag was not as solid as I had first thought. The internal structure was made of cardboard and soaking it wasn't really the best idea. As I worked on the stains, the seams came apart and the bag disintegrated into a soggy mess in my hands! The only place left for the poor bag was the bin.

It was quite funny at the time and I didn't really have much to lose as the bag was in such a poor state to start with. I am definitely a bit more careful with others now though!

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  1. You know what they say,"We learn best from our mistakes!" Luckily you did not lose a great deal of money in the learning process. Glad I read this as I will keep this in mind when trying to clean some of the vintage bags we have in our current collection, but have not listed for sale yet! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us, as it will save us from making the same mistake!
    Ruth and Marilyn
    Two Artisan Sisters

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I recently bought a job lot of vintage handbags and some are in a very bad state. Like you I think for some it is a case of try to clean or bin! Am about to give them a soak, wish me luck xx

  3. Definitely wish you luck! I have ruined a few in my time trying to wash them, as long as they don't have cardboard in them you should be OK.