October 20, 2009
A friend of mine recently purchased a vintage leather handbag from Ebay and wrote to me asking how to get a strong smoke odor out of it. So, I decided to take this opportunity to post a few tips and tricks on how to get smoky smells out of your vintage leather goods.

It is important to note that smoke consists of approximately 4,000 different chemicals in both gaseous and particulate forms which can seep into the pores of your vintage clothes and accessories. If it has set in after years and years, the smoke smell will not magically disappear within a couple days. Some of these may work better than others and some you may have to repeat a couple times.

If in doubt, bring your vintage goods to a professional! Don't forget there are different types of leathers as there are different types of fabrics, use your own best judgement.

TIP #1: Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth. Stuff purses and shoes with newspaper to retain shape. Leather goods should be dried away from heat and sun (if left in the heat it can crack, dry out, and ruin the leather). When leather goods are dry, clean with saddle soap. "Rinse" leather and suede jackets in cold water and dry away from heat and sun. (By rinse I mean wipe it throughly clean so there isn't any saddle soap residue, make sure you have also wiped it dry enough to get as much of the moisture out - do not SOAK your leather!)

TIP #2: Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and lightly mist the item. Vinegar eliminates odors easily. Use a clean cloth to wipe down the item and set it outside to dry, avoiding direct sunlight.

Tip #3: Clean the outside of the bag with a damp clean cloth. Gently wipe the interior clean as well. Let it air/dry out. Gather some fresh coffee grounds in a cheesecloth bag and leave inside the bag for 24-48 hours. Keep bag in cool and dry place. You can also try this with cat liter.

Tip #4: For a fresh scent (and this is for bags that do not have too strong of an odor or if you just want to "refresh" your bags) after you have done the initial wipe down/air dry... place some citrus peels in a cheesecloth bag and place in your bag (DO NOT ZIP IT UP). Leave for 24-48 hours, but use your own discretion on when to remove the peels. You don't want them to rot!

Tip #5: Use activated charcoal (you can get it at pet stores usually). You can do this in two different ways. You can either put your purse in a box next to a dish of charcoal or you can place the charcoal in your purse (make sure it's IN something, don't let it touch the leather). Activated charcoal is known to absorb carbon particles very effectively. Leave charcoal in bag/box for 24-48 hours.


  1. Fabulous! I'm going to give either the charcoal or the vinegar concoction a go. Will the vinegar make my bag smell sour though?

  2. what about getting the musty smell (thrift store smell) off of a fur?

  3. Thanks for the tips It help me a lot.

    Maria[dress shirt]


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