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How to Get Mildew Smell Out of Handbags

by Kimberly Johnson

If that cute, vintage handbag from your great aunt’s closet smells like Grand Central Station for mold spores, a thorough cleaning is in order. However, deodorizing the bag requires more than a once-over with a wet wipe. You also have to kill the spores that cause the odor. With a gentle cleaning and some fresh air, that bag will be the center of attention once again.

Take the handbag to an outdoor location before cleaning it. This prevents mold or mildew spores from getting in the air and settling on other items inside the home.

Saturate a soft cloth using warm water, then wring it out as much as possible.

Wipe all surfaces of the bag using the cloth to remove the majority of the mildew. Rinse the cloth in clean water frequently as you do this so that you don’t just rub the spores around.

Fill a bowl with 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water. Soak the cloth in the solution until saturated, and then wring it out.

Wipe all surfaces of the bag with the diluted vinegar solution to kill the invisible spores on the surface of the handbag. Get into as many crevices as possible using the cloth.

Pour the entire contents of one box of baking soda inside a sock or an old pair of pantyhose. Tie a knot in the end of the hose or sock to keep it closed, then insert it into the handbag. Close up any zippers or snaps on the handbag to help the baking soda absorb the odor better.

Insert the entire handbag into a clear storage bag large enough to accommodate it. Seal up the storage bag, insert it into the freezer for at least two to three hours, and then remove it. Freezing temperatures kill any remaining mildew spores.

Remove the handbag from the plastic bag, then safely discard the sock or hose inside of it.

Items you will need
  • Cloth
  • Bowl
  • White vinegar
  • Sock or hose
  • Baking soda
  • Clear storage bag
  • Mask and gloves (optional)

Tips

  • To prevent mildew odors in the future, never store handbags inside containers or in areas with high moisture.
  • Instead of killing mildew spores in the freezer, do it in the sunlight. Just place the plastic bag in direct sunlight, and leave it for two to three hours.

Warning

  • If you have asthma or other breathing issues, wear a mask and gloves to avoid touching or inhaling any of the mildew spores as you clean the handbag.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images