womens leather tote bag

How To Get Musty Smell Out of a Leather Bag

Leather bags are a popular choice for many people, as they are stylish and durable. However, if a leather bag is not cared for properly, there are several culprits to make your leather bag smell musty. This smell can be difficult to get rid of, but there are some methods that can help.

Here are the steps to take for giving your leather bag a thorough clean:

Remove Everything from the Bag

Before you start cleaning, you’ll need to remove everything from the bag. This includes any lining, zippers, or other removable parts. Once everything is removed, look at the bag to see if there are any areas that seem particularly dirty or smelly. These areas will need to be cleaned more thoroughly.

Vacuum the Bag

Once you’ve identified the areas that need to be cleaned, you can start vacuuming the bag. Use a soft brush attachment to avoid damaging the leather. If possible, vacuum the bag outdoors to avoid spreading any dust or dirt in your home. The idea here is to remove any loose dirt or debris from the bag so that you can focus on cleaning the leather itself. You can also use a dampened towel or a hand brush to remove the debris.

Spot Clean the Bag

After vacuuming, you’ll need to spot clean any areas inside that seem particularly dirty. Apply a small amount of leather conditioner to the inside of the leather bag and work this into the leather by using an absorbent cloth until the conditioner is absorbed. After leaving your leather bag to dry for around 20 minutes, use a dry cloth to absorb any excess moisture.

You Haven’t Removed Leather Bag Musty Smell?

Of course, a thorough clean won’t go amiss anyway, but if you haven’t removed leather bag musty smell, there are some other things you could try to get the musty smell out of old leather, such as:

  • White vinegar and distilled water solution: Test an inconspicuous spot first, then mix a solution of equal parts while vinegar and distilled water to sponge the leather bag. This solution can also be used on any mold or mildew found on the exterior. Wipe off the excess and leave the bag to air dry out of direct sunlight.
  • Mild liquid detergent (for the lining): Mix liquid detergent and water together, immerse a soft cloth in the solution and squeeze out excess moisture. Wipe over the inside lining and allow to air dry in a sheltered area out of direct sunlight.
  • Deodorizing using baking soda: Baking soda makes an excellent deodorizer and all you have to do is half fill an old sock with baking soda. Leave the sock in your leather bag for at least 24 hours and the baking soda will absorb the musty smell. You can repeat this process.
  • Using potpourri as a deodorizer: Potpourri also makes an excellent deodorizer, and you can buy a proprietary mix or make your own. Leave the potpourri in your leather bag for at least a week, leaving your bag in a light and airy place out of direct sunlight.

leather bag cleaning

How to Get the Musty Smell Out of a Leather Bag: Prevention

Of course, one of the best things to do once you’ve eliminated the musty smell from your leather bag is to ensure it doesn’t come back! Here’s what to do:

Treat your leather bag to a regular clean

Your leather bag deserves to be kept clean and fresh, so using a leather-friendly soap and a gentle hand regularly will help to keep it in pristine condition.

Use a protector

When you’ve cleaned and dried your leather bag, using a protector will help to keep moisture and stains at bay. This is especially important if your bag is going to be stored for a while.

Always remove stains quickly

As soon as you see a stain, work quickly to remove it with either a damp cloth, leather cleaner, or leather conditioner.

Moisture is the enemy

While there are far more advantages to having a leather bag than disadvantages, moisture is definitely the enemy. Try to avoid contact with moisture if you can, but if it happens, remove excess moisture with a soft dry cloth and air dry out of direct sunlight for best results.

Use conditioning agents

To maintain the correct balance, use a leather conditioner occasionally to keep your leather bag in pristine condition.

Store your bag correctly

A great idea for storing your leather bag is to use bubble wrap. This will ensure your leather bag is protected from contact with moisture or other damaging materials.


If you’ve followed these tips, your leather bag should have been able to get the musty smell out of old leather. Of course, it’s important to take some preventative steps to ensure that the smell doesn’t come back and finally, don’t forget to condition your leather bag to retain its unique quality for years to come.


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