I have a handbag from Not Rational that is the perfect shape and size for daily use. The “Amy”. I’ve had it for years. It’s just big enough for my little 11 inch macbook air and not so big that I get weighed down. The pockets are perfect for handing out and collecting business cards at conferences and my phone fits perfectly in the front pocket. There are comfy shoulder straps and a long crossbody one too.
My first Amy bag, purchased new, is made from patent leather – a gorgeous shiny melted-caramel colored patent. I adore this bag with all my heart but patent is not so practical for daily use or in fashion at the moment. This post is not about that bag. It’s sitting safely in a dust bag in my very dry closet, on a high shelf.
This post is about my second Amy bag, purchased two weeks ago, off of Ebay. Amy the second appears to have had a tougher life.
For almost a year I’ve had an Ebay alert set up, in the hopes of finding a non patent leather version of my favorite bag. In particular I wanted the bag in a cognac colored leather. I even contacted the designer about future production runs.
What can I say? I’m an uber fan of this line. I just purchased a Not Rational Noha tote from her Etsy shop for travel as well!
Suddenly, a few weeks ago, there it was. A beautiful used bag in soft cognac leather.
The seller noted that the leather was “a little distressed” but I didn’t think twice. I know from personal experience that these high quality bags only improve with age and judging by photos this bag appeared to be in good shape.
So I bid. And I won.$25. Wow! The deal of the century!
I was elated, until I unpacked the bag. It arrived with a little extra something. A faintly damp smell. Like basement. Or forgotten towels in the laundry. A sad little packet of crystals inside did little to suck up that smell. Those things are futile in these cases.
As dismayed as I was, I knew I could fix the smell and it would be worth my while. A $600 bag for $25 is worth the effort. Especially when it’s a custom made bespoke bag that is so hard to find.
Years and years of thrifting and vintage shopping have taught me a few tricks.
Note: I am VERY sensitive to smells and damp smells really set me off. I wouldn’t bother trying to save a bag that really stank badly or had serious water damage. But if it’s a faint lingering scent, this should do the trick.
Here is how to deodorize vintage bags
1. First wipe down the bag with a rag saturated with white vinegar and place it in the sun to dry. Not for too long – you don’t want to bleach the leather, just kill any spores on the surface.
2. Next wipe down the bag again, paying attention to crevices and zippers, with a rag saturated with 90% rubbing alcohol. This time. also wipe down the interior as best you can, pulling the lining inside out for more air circulation if possible. Be careful not to saturate any fabric that might bleed onto the leather. Leave the bag to dry indoors, it should dry fast as the alcohol evaporates quickly.
3. Fill a length of nylon stockings with baking soda and place inside the dry purse. Then place the purse in a plastic bag and freeze it for at least 6 hours, up to a day or two.
4. Put a few drops of essential oil on a cottonball and leave this, wrapped in some bunched up tissue, inside the bag, to keep it fresh while being stored.
5. Treat the exterior leather with a high quality leather conditioning lotion, to which I like to add a scant drop of essential oil (to the entire container)
The yucky smell is gone and it was worth the extra effort. I finally got the bag I’ve been hunting for and it looks, feels and smells great!
Everything you need to de-stink a bag:
- Tissue paper
- Cotton balls
- A few soft rags (I recommend old cloth diapers)
- High proof (I use 90%) rubbing alcohol
- White vinegar
- High quality essential oil
- High quality leather conditioner lotion for use when you are done to restore leather
I highly recommend investing in a brand spanking new Not Rational bag if you are someone who loves high quality leather and a great bag. But if you are on a budget, and/or want to add to your existing bag collection and are willing to do a little rehab – keep your eyes open for second hand bargains of your favorite bags and vintage leather. You never know what you might score!