Begin by emptying the purse and all its pockets. Open all zippers and clasps, and shake the bag well upside down to remove dirt and trash.
Next, if possible, pull the interior of the bag to the outside, or turn a fabric bag inside out so you can see the lining. Use a lint roller to capture dust and crumbs. Then use the fabric brush attachment on a vacuum to tackle the interior and exterior.
Examine the bag for care labels and/or type of materials used. Follow any recommended care guidelines, and attempt to identify any stains.
Beige fabric handbag prepped with lint roller to catch dust
Wipe Down the Bag
Begin by simply wiping down the bag with a soft white cloth (colored cloths could bleed dye onto the fabric) that’s clean and dampened with plain water. Wipe down the bag completely from top to bottom.
Beige fabric handbag wiped down with damp cloth
Treat Stains and Heavily Soiled Areas
If stains and soil remain, add a few drops of dishwashing detergent liquid to 1-quart water. Dip a white cloth in the solution, and blot heavily soiled areas. Keep moving to a clean spot on the cloth as grime is transferred. If there are stubborn stains, use a toothbrush dipped in the soapy solution to scrub them out. Finish by rinsing the cloth well in water and wiping away any detergent residue.
Fabric handbag stains treated with toothbrush and dish detergent solution
Clean the Hardware
Use a good-quality metal polish or brass cleaner to help bring the shine back to the purse’s hardware. This will work best if you use a light hand because most hardware is simply plated base metal. Dip a cotton swab in the polish, and apply to the metal. Use a soft white cloth to buff away the tarnish. Be very careful to keep the cleaner off the handbag fabric as it can cause discoloration.
Fabric handbag strap hardware cleaned with cotton swab and metal polish
Allow the Bag to Air-Dry
Allow the bag to air-dry in a cool place away from direct sunlight or heat. If the bag won’t hold its shape while damp, fill it with white tissue paper. Don’t use colored paper or newspapers because ink can transfer. Don’t use the bag while it’s damp because damp fabric picks up stains more quickly than dry fabric.