Handbag health: 10 tips to extend the life of your designer purse (care and storage advice)

Coach Bleecker Leopard handbag Covet and Acquire

It's no secret that I love handbags. And I see absolutely nothing wrong with plunking down a hefty chunk of change (when I can!)  on one that I think will last me a lifetime. 

But what do you do when you get your new handbag home? How do you safeguard your investment?

Unlike most pricey items on the market, handbags don't come with a user's manual filled with tips and tricks on how to safely use — and care for these oft-leather lovelies.

That's why I have compiled this list of 10 tips to help you get the most out of your designer handbag.

Regardless of whether it's a current Coach or a classic Chanel, I use each and every one of these tips and tricks with my own bags, and I can honestly say I have seen an improvement in the overall "health" of my favourite little investments pieces. 

Take a look.

Celine Nano Covet and Acquire

Tip #1: Structured stuffing

Stuffing your bag helps to maintain the overall structure while also preventing dents and creases when not in use.  There is nothing worse than a saggy, sad, beat-up designer bag. 
Unless you're dealing with a packable model such as a coated canvas Louis Vuitton that is made to fold down to a flat, portable shape, you need to stuff it. 
Most retailers provide tissue paper at the stores — so don't toss it out as soon as you tear the tags off. I often will even ask the sales associates for a bit more at checkout because their colourless, print-free paper is the best for stuffing bags with. 

Prada Mini Covet and Acquire

Tip #2: Keep it covered 

There is a reason most handbags come with a dustbag. Because it's vital to the overall health of your bag! 
These soft cotton, canvas or felt bags keep handbags free from dust and scratches while stored ... but they also play a much more important role. 
Sunlight and artificial light bulb light can cause leather to dry and discolour, so the dustbag acts as a cozy little cocoon for your "sleeping" handbag. 

Chanel Mini Flap bag burgundy with gold hardware Covet and Acquire

Tip #3: Box it up

Boxing your bag further protects it while it's not in use. It safeguards against scratches, light damage, and also makes it easier to stack with other boxes or items without the fear of getting squished. 

Felt liner for designer handbag Prada Covet and Acquire

Tip#4: Find a fabulous felt

Creating a felt liner for your bag is a huge lifesaver. I use medium weight felt from the fabric store that you can buy by the yard/metre. It's about $10 per yard/metre, but it's a worthwhile investment to say the least.
I measure and cut mine to fit the interior of each bag. Not only does the medium-weight felt add structure to softer bags, it will also better protects the inside lining from accidental spills, dirt, loose gum, wayward pens ... you get the point. 
If you're an investment bag purchaser who plans to re-sell or consign your purse later on, you can not skip this step! A dirty interior = a lower asking price. Think about it. 

Tip #5: Handbag home

As I said earlier, handbag materials can be damaged by various environmental factors such as natural and artificial light. Other factors that cam permanently damage a bag's material and structural composition include heat and moisture. 
Ideally, bags should be kept in a cool and dark closet. So forget those celebrity closets you've seen on The Coveteur and PurseForum, because unless 
your open-air bag storage is in a windowless, temperature-controlled area of your home, you should store your bag lightly stuffed in a dustbag, inside a box and in an area of your room/closet that doesn't often see the light of day ... literally. 

Chanel French Riviera Flap Bag Covet and Acquire

Tip #6: Beware what you wear 

While this may seem like a no-brainer, you might be surprised. One of the quickest ways to ruin a bag is by accidentally wearing it with an incompatible clothing item such as dark denim or leather. As a personal rule, I don't use my light-coloured bags when I'm wearing dark clothing that is any material other than cotton/rayon/polyester. Why? Because colour transfer stains are some of the most difficult to get out. 
Think you're safe to wear any colour because you're using a patent leather purse? Think again. 
Patent leather is a lacquer layered over leather, often as thick as 14 layers deep! But when patent leather is used/worn in mild temperatures or climates, the "pores" of the coating can expand, allowing for it to soak up colour and ink transfers from almost everything it comes in contact with for a length of time including denim, magazines, newsprint, etc. 
I don't mean to scare you, but just beware of what you wear when toting a light-coloured bag!

Designer leather handbag cleaner covet and Acquire

Tip #7: Leather love

Leather is luxurious — but you need to remember that is also just skin. And skin gets dry and dehydrated. 
Periodically rubbing a dime-sized amount of leather conditioner or moisturizer on your bags using a soft clothe keeps leather from getting brittle or cracked. I usually use Coach-brand leather cleaner and conditioner to remove small stains and restore moisture, whereas I opt for the pricier Cadillac brand for my top-shelf bags such as Chanel. 
Caring for your skin is even more important when dealing with exotics such as python, ostrich or crocodile. For these finicky materials, I opt for DYO reptile conditioner, which I carefully smooth on in small sections with a baby soft, lint-free clothe about every six months. 

Valention Rockstud Flap Bag Covet and Acquire

Tip #8: Dent do-over 

Accidents happen, and sometimes those accidents result in dents. I recently purchased a deeply discounted designer bag despite its dents, using the rationale that I would be able to remove the blemishes. Well, I was right — and a little bit wrong. 
Using this video as a guide, I used a hairdryer and leather conditioner to tighten the damaged area back up. The above image is after only one (rather conservative) treatment. This method can also work on creases, but won't help with surface scratches.
Thank you, YouTube. 

Leopard YSL Cabas Chyc tote Covet and Acquire

Tip #9: Seal the deal

I seal the deal on every bag I buy. What am I talking about exactly? Sealant spray, of course.
I use Scotch Guard on bag that have any amount of fabric or clothe on the exterior, and opt for shoe-quality waterproofing spray for all other types. I give a liberal coating on all surfaces of the bag BEFORE I use it for the first time, paying special attention to areas that will get extra wear such as the corners and straps.
A word of caution: While I did spray my off-white Chanel, it is important to be mindful of hardware. You don't want to coat the metallic hardware of your bags with sticky sealant because it will appear cloudy and covered with residue after it dries. 
I usually wipe the hardware with a clean, soft rag immediately after I'm finished spraying the bag, or in extreme cases, will cover the hardware with paper and tape before spraying.

Tip #10: Book a (bag) vacation 

We don't all have multiple handbags, but we should ... just kidding. Seriously though, if you're going to use your designer handbag as an everyday workhorse, be aware of its capabilities — and ultimately, its limits. 
Don't overload your bag to the point where the straps are straining or the leather is stretching. If you want your bag to last ... and to look good while doing it, you will need to give it a rest. 
If you can't switch your bag out and give it a full-time break from the daily grind, have a reusable tote or canvas bag handy for when you need to schlep more than just your daily necessities. 
Trust me, your handbag will thank you.

Have questions or comments? Leave a message in the comments section below and I will get back to you!