10 Realistic Tips for Luxury Handbags Care

blog cover tips for luxury handbag care

Designer handbags are a significant investment. You want them to stay looking fabulous for years to come. But daily wear and tear can take a toll if you’re not careful. The good news is, by developing some simple habits and knowing the right cleaning and storage techniques, you can keep your luxury bags in mint condition.

At Startown Bag, we’re all about practical, real-life advice to help you get the most out of your designer bag collection. I’ve been building my own quality handbag wardrobe for over a decade now, and I’ve learned a lot along the way – sometimes the hard way! Today I’m sharing my top realistic tips for luxury handbag care that anyone can incorporate into their routine.

These little habits have become second nature to me now, and they’ve made a huge difference in maintaining my bags, from lambskin Chanel flaps to structured Givenchy Antigonas. If you’re ready to treat your designer bags with the TLC they deserve, keep reading! Your handbags will thank you.

1. Clean Hands Are Key

The first and most basic rule of handbag care actually starts before you even touch your bag – and that’s keeping your hands clean. Our hands come into contact with so many substances throughout the day that can transfer to and potentially stain or damage our bags, from moisturizer and makeup to food residue.

Whenever possible, wash your hands thoroughly before handling your luxury bags. Make sure to rinse away all traces of soap, cream, or makeup. Then dry your hands completely. If you’ve just applied hand lotion, give it a few minutes to fully absorb before touching your bag.

I’ve gotten in the habit of always washing my hands as the very last step in getting ready before I pack up my purse for the day. That way there’s no chance of any residue rubbing off. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference over time in keeping my bags pristine.

2. Check the Forecast

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but always check the weather before heading out the door with your designer bag. If heavy rain is on the horizon, consider reaching for a more durable, waterproof option like coated canvas or treated nylon.

Personally, my go-to bag for rainy days is from Longchamp. Their nylon bags are lightweight, sturdy and stand up beautifully to a downpour. I don’t have to worry about water spots or damage. Plus, they fold up small so I can keep one in my car or another bag as a just-in-case option.

That said, you don’t need to completely avoid leather bags every time a few drops are in the forecast. If it’s just a light sprinkle, I still carry my lambskin and calfskin bags. The key is to wipe them down gently with a soft cloth as soon as I’m out of the rain to avoid water marks. Never let moisture sit on the leather – dab it away immediately.

3. Avoid Color Transfer

Color transfer is the enemy of light-colored luxury bags. Denim is often the biggest culprit, especially darker washes. If you get blue-black dye on a cream bag, it can be almost impossible to completely remove.

I’ve made the mistake of wearing new dark jeans with a pale bag and ending up with regrettable rubbing and stains on the leather. Learn from my experience and never pair colored denim with white or pastel handbags! If you really want to wear the two together, add a protective layer in between, like a long coat or cardigan that covers the bag fully.

Another option is to carry your bag in a shorter shoulder style that sits higher on the body and won’t come into contact with your jeans. If the bag has an adjustable strap, cinch it up to its shortest setting. Or for a small bag like a mini Fendi Baguette that allows it, wear the bag crossbody so it sits in front and away from your pants.

4. Be Cautious With Food

You may not think twice about tossing a quick snack or your lunch leftovers into your purse when you’re on the go. But taking a few precautions can save you from some very unpleasant clean-up jobs and stains.

I once popped a couple squares of wrapped chocolate into my bag on a 90°F degree day without a second thought. Well, you can imagine how that turned out. The chocolate melted into a gooey mess all over the lining of my bag. Getting that chocolate stain out was definitely not a fun task!

Now I keep a little Ziploc baggie inside all my purses and always use it as an extra barrier for any food items, especially on hot days. Anything that could potentially melt, crumble or leak goes into the plastic bag before being placed in my luxury bag. That one small step has saved me from many would-be messes.

5. Protect the Interior

The exterior of your designer bags may be what the world sees, but the interior needs love too! Taking some preventative measures will help keep the inside of your bag clean and stain-free, which protects the overall value and integrity.

One easy thing you can do is pick up an inexpensive pouch or cosmetic case to corral items that could leak or leave marks, like pens, makeup, hand sanitizer, etc. I have a simple Michael Kors canvas pouch from years ago that I still use all the time. It’s kept my pricey bag linings safe from many an ink stain or spill.

You can also look for bags that have protective lighter-colored interiors to begin with. For example, the Antigona comes with a durable canvas lining that’s much easier to clean than some of the more delicate silks or suedes you’ll find in other bags.

6. Avoid Overstuffing

It can be tempting to load up your bag to the brim, especially with a larger tote or satchel. But consistently carrying an overstuffed purse is a surefire way to cause wear and tear prematurely. The weight puts stress on the straps and structure over time.

Plus, cramming in too much makes it harder to find what you need, leading to more rummaging around. All that friction of items rubbing together can cause the lining to thin or tear and hardware to scratch. It’s just not good for the bag.

I try to regularly reassess what I’m carrying and remove anything nonessential to keep the contents manageable. My everyday essentials include:

  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Phone
  • Lip balm/gloss
  • Sunglasses
  • Small pouch with hygiene items
  • Water bottle
  • Snack in plastic bag

By sticking to the basics and resisting the urge to overpack, my bags stay in much better shape. If you really need to haul around a lot, consider a dedicated work bag and keep your luxury bag light for afterhours.

7. Handle With Care

How you physically handle your bags when you carry them makes a big difference in preventing damage like corner scuffs and scratches. A little mindfulness goes a long way.

When I’m out and about in crowded areas, I’m always aware of keeping my bag close to my body and covering any exposed corners with my hand. Especially with soft leathers like lambskin, it’s so easy to accidentally bump into something and end up with a scratch.

If I’m running errands and have my hands full, I’ll often carry my designer bag in the crook of my arm, almost like a clutch, to protect it from swinging and hitting anything. It’s become second nature to me now to always have a protective hand on my bag when navigating crowds or tight spaces.

The same goes for placing your bag on any surface. Take a few seconds to wipe the area down first to make sure there aren’t any spills or debris that could stain or scuff the leather. I usually grab a napkin or use my hand to quickly brush off a chair or table before setting my bag down.

In the Car

Unless you’re in the habit of buckling your handbag into its own seat, your luxury bag needs some extra care in the car to keep it safe (although I must admit I have actually belted in an Hermès Kelly bag on occasion!)

When I’m riding in the passenger seat, I keep my bag on my lap. But if I’m driving solo, I’ll usually place it on the seat next to me. If you have a pristine interior this is fine, but if your seats tend to collect crumbs, wrappers and other debris, the floor of the car is actually safer. Just make sure to keep a clean towel or blanket down there and place your bag on top of that rather than directly on the floor mats.

Another good option if you drive a lot is to invest in a small felt bin that fits on your seat to keep your bag contained. That way it’s not sliding around or coming into contact with anything else rolling around on the seat. Plus, a designated spot for your bag means you always know where it is and aren’t tempted to place it on the floor if the seat is covered in stuff or, even worse, if the floor is wet.

At a Restaurant

When dining out, I’m always strategic about where I place my bag. I never put it on the floor – that’s just asking for it to get kicked, stepped on or come into contact with mystery gunk. If the restaurant has hooks under the bar or table, that’s usually a safe bet as long as they’re clean and sturdy enough for the weight of your bag.

Otherwise, I’ll place my bag in an empty chair next to me, or on the table next to me, out of the way of any food or beverage spills. Even with the latter placement, I still like to lay down a napkin first as a barrier against any residual moisture or crumbs on the table surface.

If I’m carrying a smaller bag, I’ll often wear it crossbody to keep it close and off the floor or furniture entirely. For me, this works well with mini bags all the way up to medium-sized options like the Loewe Puzzle bag – anything bigger starts to feel awkward dining crossbody.

At Home Storage

After a long day of wear, your luxury bags needs a little refresh and rest when you get home. As soon as I walk in the door, I have a designated drawer where I always empty out the contents of my handbag.

This serves two important purposes. First, it lets me give the bag a quick inspection to check for any new scuffs or stains that need immediate attention while they’re fresh. Second, it keeps me organized and sane. I can’t tell you how many times I used to misplace my keys or favorite lipstick in the black holes of my purses before I started this ritual!

If you don’t have drawer space to dedicate, you can also keep a small catchall tray or box on your entryway table for handbag overflow. The point is just to be consistent about unpacking your bag at the end of the day. Not only does this keep the contents orderly, but it also prevents unnecessary strain on the bag’s structure from carrying weight while being stored.

8. Tackle Marks Immediately

Even with the utmost care and precaution, chances are you will still end up with a scratch or stain on your leather bag at some point. It’s just a reality of regular use. But attending to any marks as soon as you spot them will give you the best shot at getting the bag back to its original finish.

How you treat a blemish will depend on the leather and the nature of the mark, so always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous spot of the bag first to make sure it doesn’t cause further damage. For small scratches on smooth leather, a very soft cloth with a tiny bit of leather conditioner can sometimes buff them out.

I’ve also had great success with gently massaging scratches on lambskin with my fingers to help minimize their appearance and reblend the leather’s finish. Seriously, the heat and natural oils from your skin can work magic!

With more significant marks or serious discoloration, your best bet is to take the bag to a professional leather cleaner for an expert assessment. It’s worth spending a little money to have your bag repaired correctly.

9. Condition Regularly

Speaking of leather conditioner, this is one product that every luxury handbag lover should keep on hand. Regularly conditioning your bags will keep the leather supple, prevent cracking and restore luster.

How often you need to condition depends on how frequently you use the bag and its leather type. For your everyday bags, aim for at least once per season, or whenever the leather is starting to look and feel a bit dry.

I like to make a ritual of it and condition several of my most-used bags at a time. Always use a conditioner formulated for the specific leather of your bag (i.e. one for smooth calfskin may be too harsh for delicate lambskin, etc.) A small amount goes a long way – you never want to saturate the leather. Use a very soft cloth and apply the product in circular motions, taking care to get into any creases or crevices along seams or piping.

10. Store Bags Properly

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to keep your designer bags in pristine condition is to store them properly when they’re not in use – both for short periods between wears and for long-term keeping. Throwing bags haphazardly into your closet is a recipe for shape distortion, color transfer and general wear.

For everyday storage, keep bags in their original dust bags to prevent scratches and protect from sunlight, which can cause fading over time. If you don’t have a dust bag, a clean white pillowcase works too. Never store light and dark colored bags touching each other, as the dye can migrate between them. Stuffing your bags lightly with tissue paper or a balled up white T-shirt will help maintain their shape and structure while sitting on the shelf.

When it comes to more delicate or infrequently used bags, the same storage principles apply but with an extra level of care. Store exotic skin bags separately from any other material, as the scales can easily get scratched. For very soft, slouchy bags, consider keeping their structure by using a bag shaper insert while in storage, which you can buy or DIY with plastic canvas and batting.

One big storage don’t? Never hang your bags by the handles or straps for extended periods, even if they have dedicated hooks in the dust bag. The weight of the bag will stretch and strain the leather or stitching over time, leading to permanent damage. Always store bags sitting upright.


There you have it – my realistic, real-life tips for caring for your luxury handbags and keeping them looking their best. At the end of the day, designer bags are meant to be used and enjoyed, not just admired from inside a dust bag.

By developing these easy habits and care rituals, you can carry your bags regularly while maintaining them to last a lifetime.

Remember that even with the most meticulous care, all bags will age and show signs of wear eventually. A few scratches or a bit of patina are the natural result of loving our bags! Aging gracefully and developing character are part of what makes luxury bags so special.

With a little know-how and TLC, your investment pieces will stay glowing for many years to come. If you found this guide helpful, check out our other handbag care articles, including an in-depth look at the special needs of specific leathers, plus a roundup of our favorite cleaning and conditioning products.

Let us know in the comments how you keep your designer bags looking fabulous, and which ones you’re most excited to take out for their first spin! Until next time, keep loving those luxury bags.