Cleaning vintage luggage

suitcase stack
Vintage American Tourister Luggage

You just found the most fabulous vintage luggage but it’s dusty and dirty and smells like old mothballs. Yuck! What to do?

Start by vacuuming out the inside and airing it out for a bit.  Depending on what your suitcase made of, you want to use the right method to clean it properly. If it’s made of plastic or soft-sided cloth, a damp towel and some mild soap should work well. For stubborn stains try using a magic eraser sponge. On plastic, even a bit of mild cleanser such as Bar Keepers Friend, or Bon Ami can be used.

On the other hand, if it’s leather or canvas over wood you want to be more careful with it.

For leather, a touch of saddle soap and a soft brush should work for stubborn stains. Don’t use too much water though, as you want to avoid creating more stains. You may also need to oil the leather with a good quality leather conditioner. Check with your local shoe repair shop for suggestions.

For the old canvas over wood luggage, some stains may not come out.  If the canvas is in good condition simply clean it with a soft brush or cloth and a bit of mild soap. It the canvas is too damaged, you may wish to remove it and sand and paint or stain the case.

Vintage Striped Tweed Hardboard Suitcase with Handle and Keys (c.1920s)

To clean metal hinges, locks, corners and other hardware, first use a soft brush and vacuum to get in the crevices, then use a bit of polishing compound or white toothpaste to polish up the metal. Check to make sure the locks work and oil as necessary.

Finally to make the inside smell fresh, fill your suitcase with a bowl of baking soda and some lavender or your favorite scented oil and close it for a few days. When you open it, you will have a fresh smelling clean suitcase to use as you please. Vacuum it once more and you should be good to go.

Now, take your newly cleaned up vintage luggage on an adventure, or maybe use it as a side table, storage for your scarves, mounted on the wall as a shelf, or…

The best is yet to come! Pam, Vintage Renude

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