Removing Odors from a Preowned Handbag or Purse.., What are some Options?

Let's say you inherited a purse, handbag, or tote bag from your favorite aunt. And for sentimental reasons you would like to be able to use it.

But there's a problem, it exudes a very unattractive smoke odor.

You probably know I was going to say this...
If you asked twenty different people how they removed smoke odor from a preowned bag, you will receive twenty different explanations.

This is not a hands on scientific study. These suggestions are the result of accumulating opinions that are sprinkled all over the internet. My sources come from a variety of places, like multiple forums, social media, product reviews, etc. The majority of people making suggestions are anonymous, all you see is their "username". The good news is, because this type of publishing format is open to responses, others are free to post disputes. Your comments are welcome too.

As you might expect, people had varying degrees of success. Sometimes they had to try two or more different products to arrive at the result they were hoping for. Some people had success from just using a single product, but they used it 4-5 times over an extended period of time. What is unique for each person is how much they need to reduce the odor, so they would be comfortable using the bag. And another variable is sensitivity to smell, or tolerance level, for each person.

As a side note, pet owners have also had success using some of these products. The task of removing smoke odor from a preowned purse or handbag and the task of removing urine odor from carpeting and furniture caused by cats or dogs is sometimes accomplished using the same product.

Here's a sampling... 
We may be trying to remove cigarette smoke odor from a ladies black purse that is quilted nylon on the outside and a lighter weight nylon fabric on the inside.

Or we could be trying to remove cigar smoke odor from a man's brown briefcase, which is genuine leather on the outside and brown polyester fabric on the inside.

Before applying any of these products, it may be helpful for you to answer this. "What is the importance of this bag, what is its value?"

If you answered, "It's not really important, if I ruin the bag in the process, that's okay". Then you don't need to be as cautious, and you can save time by applying these products directly to the bag.

But if the bag has a higher value, and you want to reduce the risk of damaging it, we have a suggestion. Obtain a "like" fabric swatch to practice on. If you're not sure of the fabric type, take the bag to your local dry cleaners, or fabric store, they should be able to identify the fabric.

A cautionary note, it's important to read the ingredients on the label of each product so you can determine any risks. I've not done a deep dive into the safety of all the ingredients in each product. That said, these products all have positive feedback, by many people, and they've been available for an extended period of time. Readers, your feedback is welcome. This page may be edited in the future, additions, deletions, or corrections are possible. 

(Products listed below are in alphabetical order, not by preference)

Airboss charcoal closet deodorizer - place inside on bag bottom and inside any zip pockets and open pockets

Baking soda - on inside of bag open all zippered compartments, sprinkle baking soda inside all pockets and bottom of bag, place the bag in a non-humid area for two-three days, then turn bag upside down and dump out baking soda, any residual remove with a soft cloth

Cedar chips - should be available at your local pet store, place chips in multiple paper lunch bags, place bags in all compartments of handbag. Please be advised a cautionary note, after the cedar chips are removed from the handbag, we're not able to confirm how long it takes for the cedar odor to dissipate, if you like the smell of cedar this will not be an issue for you 

Charcoal - place bags of bamboo charcoal in all compartments of handbag or purse for several days and check for progress, after 1 month restore bags of charcoal to their effectiveness (according to the manufacturer) by placing bags in direct sunlight 

Dish soap and water - add one squirt of liquid dish soap to a cup of water, using a sponge or soft (not dripping wet) cloth, wipe down the inside and outside of the bag, place bag in a non-humid area to dry, no direct sun, any brand of similar product should work

Downy scent booster - if your bag is canvas, or any fabric that is machine washable, use cold water on delicate cycle, this product has good reviews

Dryer sheets - also called fabric softener sheets, place multiple dryer sheets inside the handbag in all compartments, place the handbag inside a large bag, wait 4-5 days, any brand of similar product should work

Febreze - this popular fabric refresher can be sprayed on multiple pieces of plain paper, then crumbled up, and placed inside all areas of the bag

Ground coffee - pour coffee onto plain white copy paper, compress into a lump
not too tight, but enough so coffee is contained, place inside bag and inside all compartments, change coffee once per day, do this for three days, place in a non-humid area, the coffee smell will eventually dissipate

Kitty litter - put litter ( your favorite brand ) in a sock and close the end with a twist tie or string, place inside the bag for several days, repeat as necessary, any brand of similar product should work

OdoBan - before spraying inside your handbag, if possible, try to lift up and out the inside liner fabric, then spray the liner fabric, some people dilute this product with water before spraying, it has good ratings

Odormute - this is a powdered concentrate that is mixed with water, it has good reviews and is also economical, users say it's important to follow the directions, good for removing pet odors, even skunk odor 

Perfume - if the inside liner fabric of the bag is not attached to the bottom of the bag, lift the fabric up and out as far as possible, squirt one or two squirts of your favorite perfume inside handbag, any brand of similar product should work 

Saddle soap for leather - works great on genuine leather, and this Fiebing's brand has good ratings, a cautionary note, it may not be a good idea to apply saddle soap to your inside liner fabric 

White vinegar - if the inside liner fabric of the bag is not attached to the bottom of the bag, lift the fabric up and out as far as possible, using equal parts white vinegar and water, wipe the inside and outside with a damp soft cloth (not dripping wet), any brand of similar product should work, do not apply to any leather surfaces

Vodka - if possible, lift the inside liner fabric up and out, pour cheap vodka in a spray bottle and mist fabric, then air dry in a non-humid area, any brand of similar product should work

Zero odor - if the inside liner fabric of the bag is not attached to the bottom of the bag, lift the fabric up and out as far as possible, this spray is getting good reviews, some users say the bonus is it does not leave an odor of itself

Thanks for reading,

ps - After you're done removing that unattractive smoke odor from your preowned handbag, purse, or tote bag, you'll probably want to get up, get moving, and get some exercise! 

Walking is great exercise and a wonderful activity all by itself, but if you need additional motivation you may want to simultaneously listen to your favorite podcast while walking. You may ask, "How will I carry my cell phone while walking?" Glad you asked, checkout this cell phone bag.