Home Cleaning Tips How To Clean Your Purse/Handbag for Mold—Like IMMEDIATELY: Part I

How To Clean Your Purse/Handbag for Mold—Like IMMEDIATELY: Part I

by Catherine

As I schlepped my purse with me to take the kids to school this morning, then to the doctor’s office, then to the gym, back home, then to my daughter’s ballet class, and finally to the ballpark for my son’s baseball game—with some public restroom breaks and a grocery run somewhere in between—I started thinking long and hard about what kind of bacterial and fungal hitchhikers I was picking up along the way. I mean, when I really think about it, my purse goes with me everywhere. It gets thrown on whatever bleacher, seat, or hook I can find, and then comes right home with me.

Whatever my purse is encountering, good, bad or ugly, I am most definitely also bringing right back into my home with me. While I make my friends and family members take their shoes off before entering our home, I recently realized that I am bringing my mold and bacteria-laden purse right in with me, no questions asked. I think nothing of putting my purse on tables where we eat and setting it on our furniture to boot. It’s pretty gag worthy, when you think about it.

Now that I’m always thinking about mold and preventing it from festering in our home, I have decided to make some changes about how I handle and clean my purse too.

Now for “Why” you should be interested in cleaning your purse or handbag in the first place:

I’m going to get “scientific” on you now about what is really found on purses that are dragged around with us, in case you need some convincing.

A University of Arizona microbiologist, who has studied bacteria living on handbags, found about a third of purses have fecal bacteria on them. The research also found that the bottoms of handbags were the nastiest, likely because women placed them on the bathroom floor. Another study done in the United Kingdom found purse handles to be bacteria hotspots, and the things contained inside of the purse, like makeup or hand cream, to have the same high levels of bacteria as a toilet.

The UK study highlighted the importance of understanding exactly what is being picked up on our handbags by referencing a case of norovirus that spread throughout an Oregon youth soccer team in 2010. The origin of the virus was traced to a fabric reusable grocery bag. This was the first-ever reported case of norovirus transmission from an inanimate object, and in which the victims had no direct contact with each other, just the object and its contents.

Many of the germs they cultured from the purses in this study are normally harmless, though they could potentially be a problem for people with weak immune systems. If you have had toxic mold exposure, like my husband, or are allergic to mold, like my son and husband, your immune system might already be compromised.

Germs found in and on purses can include E. coli; Staph aureus, which can cause gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea as well as skin infections; and mold spores, which are everywhere, but can stick to the leather and fabric of purses.

Interestingly leather purses may actually be a good investment, since swabs from leather purses grew fewer bacteria in the lab than synthetic materials did. I know this info will make many of my friends happy, because a nice designer purse is considered an investment in image. This investment mentality can also benefit you, because valued items are usually treated with greater care than those deemed expendable. In other words, kudos for spending a bit more on a nice purse or handbag. Chances are, you aren’t carelessly tossing it on the bathroom or gym floor, where it can pick up mold and bacteria in the first place. Unfortunately, this information only applies to the leather exterior of the purse. The fabric, silk, or otherwise inner materials are contaminated with bacteria too, notes Medical News Today. According to their study, “bottles of hand cream emerged as the dirtiest item inside women’s purses.”

Of course the inside is dirty! Unless you are sanitizing your hands before reaching for your cell phone or lipstick, whatever is on your hands, is going directly into your purse!!!! It is also an enclosed, poorly ventilated area, so it logically would retain more moisture, thus providing an optimal home for mold and bacteria to grow. Makeup, any kind of food, tissues, kid’s toys, etc that you might stuff into your purse on a daily basis provide an additional litany of germs, microbes, fungus and bacteria to watch for and to avoid.

So, with that terrifying information freshly in your mind, let’s get to the business of cleaning our purses.

I use mostly leather handbags, but these applications would work for synthetic or fabric bags as well—I’ve tested it on all of them–and yes, even on my designer purse.

Part I: The EVERYDAY/LESS MAJOR Clean, or Leather-Specific Clean:

When your purse needs a lighter cleaning, mainly for bacteria and mold, and has no visible stains, this the procedure that I recommend. I would also recommend this as the way to always clean fine leather purses. If you are like some of my good friends, you have made quite an investment in your purse. You don’t want to chance ruining it.

I like to set up at little purse-cleaning station on the floor. I put a clean towel down, and then spread the contents of my purse out on it to wipe down.

I like to set up at little purse-cleaning station on the floor. I put a clean towel down, and then spread the contents of my purse out on it to wipe down.

  • First, remove all items from the inside of your purse. Dispose of anything old and not necessary—trash, old receipts, etc. Wipe down all other items with antibacterial wipes, or a vinegar and water cleaning solution. I actually use my DIY Mold Wipes for this. Cleaning your purse isn’t going to do you any good, if you are putting filthy items right back inside of it! Make sure to search in the side pockets and to check that the inner liner of your purse does not have a hole where change or a lipstick has become trapped.
I put my castile soap, my distilled water, my EC3 Spray and my tea tree oil in a large plastic bowl, so I have everything I need in one place.

I put my liquid castile soap, distilled water, EC3 Spray and my tea tree oil in a large plastic bowl, so I have everything I need all in one place.

  • Mix a mild cleaning solution of distilled water and a drop of liquid castile soap or another very gentle liquid soap in a bowl. Mix together until bubbles form. If you do not have the EC3_Mold_Solution_Spray, add 3-5 drops of tea tree oil to the solution.


  • Use a soft cloth or a sponge to wipe down the interior and exterior of your purse.



  • Use a separate soft cloth or towel to dry it completely.
  • If your purse is leather, buff it gently with another dry towel or cloth to gently give it back its luster.


  • If you have the EC3 spray, mist the exterior and interior of your purse and allow it to air dry.
  • You may also want to spray the contents of your purse with the EC3 spray, and allow those to air dry on a towel.
  • Once your purse has dried, it should be clean and mold free!

That’s all for Part I of today’s post. Tomorrow, in Part II, I’ll detail how to do a MAJOR purse, handbag, folio, etc., clean. I will also give you my pointers and tips on how to prevent your handbag from attracting and picking up bacteria and mold. Many of my tips may be things you are already doing. But, I do have some that will surprise you.

Stay tuned!

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