How to Take Care of Your Handbags and Purses

ZippersKeep these fasteners working smoothly by running a piece of natural beeswax (found in hardware stores) over a zipper’s open teeth.

ExteriorsLeather, of course, is a skin, so keep it happy and moisturized with a leather conditioning cream. There’s no reason to treat it with a protectant or a silicone spray.Caught in the rain? Run for cover, then dab-don’t wipe-moisture away.

Handles and StrapsResidue from lotions can discolor and age material-another good reason to keep hands clean. Also, don’t overstuff a bag; too much weight can weaken stitching or damage straps.

AlligatorKeep your alligator or crocodile bag supple by applying a leather conditioner (like Apple Brand). Use a soft, lint-free fabric like a sheepskin knit (found in shoe repair shops) and test conditioner in an inconspicuous place before using all over.

SuedeA suede brush can do wonders, but for serious stains, it’s best to see a pro. When storing, wrap leather handles or straps in cloth so they don’t rest against the suede and leave blotches.

FabricCloth bags attract dust, so when you’re done using a bag for the season, give it a light dusting with a lint roller before storing covered. For deeper stains or markings, take to a repair shop.

SnakeskinExperts warn against using any type of product on snakeskin, which is quite fragile. Over time, scales will begin to lift. When that happens, you can have the bag lacquered, but the treatment may change the appearance of the scales.

Patent LeatherSeparate light patent leathers from darker-hued bags to avoid discoloration. To clean, take a piece of cheesecloth, dampen with a bit of white vinegar and rub. Wipe off with a clean piece of fabric.

Tips!Flannel dust bags, which often come with higher-end handbags, are a must when it comes to storage. Don’t have one on hand? A soft cotton pillowcase works well.

Help your bag retain its shape by placing loosely balled-up, white, acid-free tissue paper or bubble wrap inside it when it’s not in use.

If your bag is looking dull, our experts suggest a neutral polish like Meltonian by Kiwi ($3; at specialty shoe stores), which is safe for any color leather and should be applied with a soft piece of fabric like cheesecloth, then wiped off with a clean, dry piece of the same material.