How to Get Musty Smell Out of a Handbag

Are you struggling with a musty smell coming from your beloved handbag? A musty odor can make your bag unpleasant to use and even affect the items you store inside. Don’t worry, though, because in this article, we’ll guide you step-by-step on how to eliminate that musty smell and restore freshness to your handbag. Whether you have a leather or fabric handbag, these techniques will help you get rid of the musty odor and keep your bag smelling delightful. So, let’s dive in!

Handbags are not just accessories; they’re an essential part of our daily lives. They carry our belongings and reflect our personal style. However, when a musty smell develops, it can be quite bothersome. The musty odor is often caused by moisture, mold, or mildew, and it can affect both leather and fabric handbags. But fret not, as we have the perfect solutions to help you get rid of that unpleasant smell and restore your handbag to its former glory.

How to Get Musty Smell Out of a Handbag


Understanding the Musty Smell

Before we delve into the solutions, it’s important to understand what causes the musty smell in the first place. The musty odor originates from the growth of mold or mildew, which thrive in damp environments. Moisture can seep into your handbag through various sources, such as exposure to rain, spilled liquids, or storing the bag in a humid location. When these conditions are present, mold and mildew spores can develop and create that unmistakable musty smell.

Causes of a Musty Smell

Several factors can contribute to the development of a musty smell in your handbag. Here are some common causes:

High Humidity

Exposing your handbag to high humidity levels can lead to moisture buildup, providing an ideal environment for mold and mildew growth.

Water Damage

Accidental spills, rain, or even water damage due to improper storage can introduce moisture into your handbag and contribute to the musty smell.

Poor Ventilation

Storing your handbag in an airtight space or a closet with inadequate ventilation can trap moisture and promote the growth of mold and mildew.

Long Periods of Storage

If you haven’t used your handbag for a while and left it in storage, it’s more susceptible to developing a musty smell due to stagnant air and lack of circulation.

Previous Contamination

Sometimes, the musty smell can be caused by items stored inside the bag, such as damp clothing, wet wipes, or spilled liquids. These contaminants can transfer their odor to the bag’s interior.

Assessing the Handbag

Before you start the cleaning process, it’s essential to assess the condition of your handbag and determine the appropriate cleaning method. Consider the following factors:

Material Type

Different handbag materials require specific cleaning techniques. Leather, fabric, and synthetic materials each have unique properties that influence how you should approach the cleaning process.

The severity of the Odor

Assess the intensity of the musty smell. If the odor is mild, you may be able to eliminate it with basic cleaning methods. For stronger odors, you might need more thorough and targeted treatments.

Hardware and Embellishments

Take note of any delicate hardware or embellishments on your handbag. Certain cleaning agents or methods could potentially damage these components, so it’s important to be cautious.

Preparing the Handbag for Cleaning

Now that you’ve assessed the handbag, it’s time to prepare it for the cleaning process. Follow these steps to ensure you’re ready to tackle the musty smell head-on:

  1. Remove all items from the handbag, including wallets, makeup, and any loose objects.
  2. Check for removable linings or pockets and take them out if possible. This will allow you to clean them separately.
  3. Gently shake the bag upside down to remove loose debris or crumbs.
  4. If the bag has any removable straps or handles, detach them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step-by-Step Guide to Remove Musty Smell

1. Emptying the Bag

Emptying the bag completely ensures that you have a clear workspace and prevents any items from getting in the way during the cleaning process.

2. Vacuuming the Interior

Using a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, carefully vacuum the interior of the handbag to remove dust, dirt, and loose particles. Pay special attention to pockets and corners where debris may accumulate.

3. Spot Cleaning the Exterior

Before applying any cleaning agents, spot-test a small, inconspicuous area of the handbag to ensure it doesn’t damage the material. Once confirmed, use a mild detergent or specialized handbag cleaner diluted with water to gently clean the exterior, focusing on the affected areas.

4. Using Natural Deodorizers

To tackle the musty smell, try natural deodorizers such as baking soda, activated charcoal, or coffee grounds. Place one of these odor absorbers inside the handbag and seal it for 24-48 hours. These natural substances will help absorb the odor and leave your bag smelling fresh.

5. Treating Leather Handbags

If you own a leather handbag, it requires special care. After spot cleaning, use a leather conditioner to moisturize the material and prevent it from drying out. This step will help restore the bag’s luster and remove any lingering odor.

6. Dealing with Fabric Handbags

For fabric handbags, consider using a fabric refresher spray or an enzymatic cleaner designed to break down organic odors. Apply the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions and allow it to dry thoroughly.

7. Drying the Handbag

Ensure the handbag is completely dry before returning your belongings. Leave it in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources, to allow for proper drying. Patience is key, as rushing this step can lead to further odor or damage.

Preventing Musty Smell

Prevention is always better than cure, and that applies to musty-smelling handbags too. Here are some preventive measures to keep your handbags smelling fresh:

  • Store your handbags in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.
  • Avoid storing handbags in plastic bags or airtight containers.
  • Clean and dry your handbag thoroughly before storing it for an extended period.
  • Use silica gel packets or moisture-absorbing sachets to control humidity inside your handbag storage area.

By taking these preventive steps, you can minimize the chances of your handbags developing a musty smell in the future and extend their lifespan.


A musty smell in your handbag doesn’t have to be a permanent problem. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can effectively eliminate the musty odor and restore freshness to your beloved bag. Remember to assess your handbag, prepare it for cleaning, and follow the specific cleaning methods suitable for the material. Additionally, adopting preventive measures will help keep future musty smells at bay, ensuring your handbags remain fresh and delightful for years to come.

FAQs – How to Get Musty Smell Out of a Handbag

1. Can I use bleach to remove the musty smell from my handbag?

It’s not recommended to use bleach on handbags, as it can damage the material. Stick to mild detergents or specialized handbag cleaners.

2. Can I speed up the drying process using a hairdryer?

Using a hairdryer on high heat can damage the material and cause it to warp or shrink. It’s best to let the handbag air dry naturally.

3. How often should I clean my handbag to prevent musty smells?

Regular cleaning every few months, or when you notice a musty smell developing, can help prevent the odor from becoming persistent.

4. Are there any natural alternatives to commercial fabric refreshers?

Yes, you can create your own fabric refresher by combining water, vinegar, and a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle. This mixture can help eliminate odors naturally.

5. Can I use the same cleaning method for both leather and fabric handbags?

No, leather and fabric handbags require different cleaning methods. Leather requires specialized care to avoid damage, while fabric can tolerate mild detergents and enzymatic cleaners.

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