“You’re a dirty purse!”


I love when I find a vintage article at the thrift store and the only thing wrong with it is dirt. The minute I touch it, it starts to tell me its story, and often it begs me to take it home.

I find purses, gloves, and dresses that are beautiful laces, perfect beading, and wonderful fabric and they are filthy. And often they are prices like $.99.

Wow! Something 50, 60, 100 years old and beautiful sitting around with a price tag that says $1.00 or $.25 just screaming for me to take it home.

Does this happen to you? For me, it is beaded purses and Kid Gloves…

So what do you do? You buy it? And then what?

The secret to cleaning anything vintage is patience. It takes time and TLC. You have to use the right tools and do the steps with purpose or you run the risk of destroying the item.

First, I just want to take a moment to say that nothing is ever certain. You can follow every step that a professional offers you and you may still destroy the item. A cleaning product can make one purse beautifully white, and leave another purse with water spots. The best advice that I can give you is to just take things one step at a time and enjoy the process. Allow your self to listen to the story that the article is telling you and when you are successful chalk it up to a balance of your hard work and a blessing from the Fabric Farie.


OK, so what do I use? Hot and cold water. I have a great double kitchen sink and a spray nozzle that I can control how hard the water sprays. I have 2 different sized white bowls that I use for smaller things so that I can see the dirt as it leaves the article. White vinegar and salt are the very first and best things I have found for removing the first few layer of dirt. From there I use Cheer Free. Stay away from products that have smells and colors in it.


I know it sounds crazy, but Adam’s car cleaning products have been really great for releasing things that appear to be greasy and oily. My boyfriend details vehicles and anyone who knows how crazy they are about being easy on a car’s paint and chrome would understand why their products can be trusted. They make degreaser and products to wash microfiber wash rags. Just read everything and use very small amounts of each product.

First? Simply fill the bowl with hot water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Gently let the water enter into the purse and begin to soak through the dirt.


Most of the time, within minutes, the dirt will begin to release from the purse…


After a few minutes you can pour off the first set of water. MAKE SURE TO CHECK THE WATER! Keep any threads, beads, or other pieces off of the purse so that you can restore as much of the purse as you can when it is clean.  Simply fill the bowl back up, add a little vinegar and let it soak again.


Do this about 3 times over about an hour, allowing the purse to drain gently between each set of water until the water is not longer super dirty. The next time, add one tablespoon of the detergent that is similar to Cheer Free.


This time, you will see a whole new set of dirt release.  Do this several times also. Each time the water should get less and less dirty.  Let the bowl set over night with the water, detergent, and purse in it. Place it somewhere where it will not be too hot or cold. Keep it way from pets and food. (You can safely do this several nights in a row as long as you change the water and allow the purse some breathing time in between.)

The next morning drain the water off. Allow the purse to drain. I use a dish strainer that allows the water to run into the kitchen sink. After the purse is not dripping wet check it out. Look and see where the dirt and stains are the darkest. Here is were you will treat it directly with a stronger detergent. Make sure and use gloves if your skin is sensitive,  but gently rub the cleaner into the stains. Leave the cleaner on the purse and allow to soak again in a bowl of clean water.


If you are very gentle you can use the spray nozzle on your sink if you have one. Keep the purse in the bowl and make sure to catch all the beads that get knocked off. This time, spray the purse and run water through it until there is no more dirt or bubbles or smell. Push the water through all places of the purse until it is clear and has no smell or color.


Now, here is the tricky part…if you want to try and make an item stark white you can try your hand at bleaching it.

Add tiny amounts of bleach to large amounts of water and allow the purse to soak. Just keep doing it over and over until the purse is white. Rinse the purse and allow to air dry for several days.

There are always the factors of tags, metal, beading, lace, etc. Each item needs to be assessed. Each item needs to be treated individually. Never expect anything to just magically work out. Always take your time. Enjoy the process. Enjoy your piece of the past.

Keep watching. I will follow with a blog soon about rebeading, and cleaning the metal.

Please let me know if you have any questions…I will do my best to help…..




(The example purse is a 1950-1960 handmade Belgium Walborg)


2 thoughts on ““You’re a dirty purse!”

  1. Kristi says:

    awesome awesome job

  2. Thanks Kristi! Now that the first one is out of the way! Hang on for the ride!

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