Cleaning & Housekeeping

How to Disinfect Your Leather Purse [Kill Viruses & Bacteria]

Updated on
A purple wallet and purse with flowers in the background 

If you are wondering how you can effectively disinfect your leather purse, you’ve come to the right place. These days it’s more important than ever to make sure your belongings are clean and free of viruses and other harmful germs.

Viruses and bacteria can persist on your purse and other inanimate surfaces for up to several months depending on the species (1).

While washing your hands thoroughly is the most important measure to prevent infections, you shouldn’t forget that your hands can be reinfected with viruses and bacteria if you touch your contaminated purse, wallet, handbag, etc.

Therefore, it’s extremely important to regularly clean and disinfect all the stuff you use outside. Purses are commonly used accessories that can easily contribute to the spread of germs (2). In this article, you’ll learn the most effective ways you can sanitize and disinfect your leather purse or handbag so that it becomes free of harmful viruses and bacteria.

Let’s dive in:

FYI – The following methods can be used on most genuine and faux leather purses, however, regardless of which method you choose, as a first step test it on a small, out-of-the-way area to check whether it’s safe to use on the given material.

If you’re in a hurry, here are some of the best methods you can use to disinfect your leather purse:

One of the easiest ways to make your leather purse germ-free is to use some bleach-free disinfecting wipes. As an alternative, you can clean your purse using a disinfectant spray; just make sure it does not contain a high proportion of alcohol. Another method to disinfect your leather purse is to wipe it with a damp, soapy cloth to remove viruses and bacteria. In the case of faux leather, sometimes you can also use diluted bleach or rubbing alcohol.

Let’s see the details:

1. “Disinfect” Your Purse With Dish Soap or Liquid Soap and Water

A bowl with a soap and a towel insidePin

This is the most basic and widely available cleaning method you can apply to get rid of germs on your leather purse. It works just like washing your hands.

Many pathogens, including enveloped viruses, have a lipid membrane around them that often can be easily disintegrated by using soapy water. While it’s true that dish soap or liquid soap won’t kill all germs on your purse (that’s why they are not disinfectants per se), they help to remove them mechanically from the surface (3).

This way you can quickly and effectively get rid of the vast majority of both viruses and bacteria.

So how to clean and disinfect a purse using dishwasher detergent or liquid soap?

  • As a first step, pour 10-15 fl oz lukewarm water into a small bowl.
  • Pour 2 teaspoons of dish soap OR 4 teaspoons of liquid soap into the water (as an alternative you can also use a soap bar).
  • Stir the mixture up.
  • Dampen a cloth and wipe the purse thoroughly but gently. Pay special attention to the handles.
  • Now dip the cloth into clean water and wipe the purse again.
  • Dry with another cloth.

Basically, this is how you can eliminate viruses and bacteria using ordinary dish detergent or liquid soap. Keep in mind that in most cases you should not submerge the purse underwater because it may damage the leather.

If you want to know how you can kill germs using your dryer, don’t miss our article that you can find here.

2. Use Disinfecting Wipes

Another handy solution is to use some bleach-free disinfecting wipes, such as this product from Clorox or this one from Lysol. These usually kill up to 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including Influenza A Virus, Human Coronavirus, Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, and E. Coli. In most cases, their effectiveness is more than enough to prevent infections.

Moreover, disinfecting wipes also remove most allergens from your purse which can be very useful if you suffer from any allergic disease.

Keep in mind that if you want to disinfect (kill the germs) your purse, its surface should remain wet for a few minutes.

If sanitizing (reducing the number of pathogens) is enough, you need to allow it to remain wet for just a few seconds.

It’s important to note that you should not use any disinfecting wipe containing bleach or a substantial amount of alcohol to clean your leather purse or handbag because that may lead to permanent damage or discoloration.

3. Kill Germs on Your Purse Using a Disinfectant Spray

As an alternative to wipes, you can use a disinfectant spray to kill germs on your purse. That being said, I must call your attention that many disinfectant sprays contain high amounts of alcohol (ethanol) as an active ingredient.

Unfortunately, if your purse is made of genuine leather, it’s not recommended to use any spray that contains a high proportion of alcohol. So always read the label before use.

In the case of faux leather, a spray that contains less than 60% ethanol should do no harm to your purse.

Depending on the active ingredient, the surface you want to disinfect should remain wet for up to several minutes to kill all the harmful viruses and bacteria. As time varies from product to product, make sure you read the instructions on the label.

If you use any product that contains alcohol on leather, it’s often a good idea to also use some leather conditioner afterward to moisturize the material.

4. Use Diluted Bleach – Only On Faux Leather Purses

If your purse or handbag is made of faux leather, using diluted bleach for disinfecting is acceptable and won’t damage the material in most cases. However, keep in mind that bleach (even when diluted) might cause permanent discoloration in certain cases, thus always test on a non-visible area first.

How to dilute bleach?

You will need a 15% bleach solution, so you have to add about 6.5 parts water to 1 part bleach. Use a cloth to wipe your purse thoroughly. Bleach is an effective disinfectant that kills many types of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other germs too.

If your purse is made of genuine leather, using diluted bleach for cleaning and disinfecting is usually not the best idea as it can seriously damage the material.

5. Rubbing Alcohol & Hand Sanitizing Gels: Be Careful

Rubbing alcohol is a highly effective and widely used disinfecting agent that kills most types of pathogens in a short time. The same is true for hand sanitizing gels containing alcohol as an active ingredient.

Usually, it’s recommended to use a solution that contains at least 60% alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl alcohol) for disinfecting purposes, however, many studies suggest using products with 70% alcohol (4).

The problem with leather is that it’s pretty sensitive to alcohol. Sometimes it can cause discoloration and other damage.

So should you use rubbing alcohol to clean your purse?

Unfortunately, there is no general answer to this question because there are many kinds of leather purses that behave differently when exposed to alcohol. If you want to use alcohol on your purse or handbag, I recommend you test it on a small spot first.

How to Clean the Inside of Your Purse?

Fortunately, the lining of most purses is made of polyester and blends. Therefore the inside part is usually way less sensitive to chemicals than the outer leather part of your purse.

To sanitize the inside of your purse, all you have to do is pull the lining out and wipe it with a damp, soapy cloth.

As an alternative, you can use disinfecting wipes or solutions containing alcohol. Heat also kills germs, thus if the material of the lining allows ironing, that could be another great way of disinfecting. In most cases, using bleach is not recommended.

Before you start cleaning, make sure you check the label inside your purse to know exactly what the lining is made of.

Can You Machine Wash a Leather Purse or Handbag?

Well, in general, I wouldn’t recommend doing that, especially in the case of genuine leather. I know that you can find many stories online about machine washing leather purses, however, it often causes permanent damage to the material.

Therefore, I suggest that you do not put your purse or handbag in the washing machine. Instead, clean them manually, applying one of the above-mentioned methods.

What You Should Never Use to Disinfect Your Leather Purse

Finally, here are a few substances that you should not use for cleaning or disinfecting any product made of leather:

  • Acetone. It’s too harsh for leather and can cause discoloration. Nail polish removers, for instance, contain acetone.
  • Undiluted bleach. Never use undiluted bleach on genuine or faux leather, as it can permanently damage your purse.
  • Concentrated alcohol. Alcohol may damage leather, therefore it must be used with caution. Window cleaners and alcohol-based hand sanitizers often contain a high proportion of alcohol.

Again: always read the label and when in doubt, test the method on an out-of-the-way area.


A collection of leather pursesPin

As you can see, there are many home remedies you can choose from when it comes to sanitizing and disinfecting your purse. My favorite method is to use disinfecting wipes because it’s quick and easy.

Of course, you can always opt for professional cleaning, but that is not a real option if you want to clean your purse each time you get home from shopping.

Killing germs on your handbag is an important task as it really helps you avoid infections. And it requires only a few minutes.

James Mora author profile photo
About the Author

James Mora is the founder of DailyHomeSafety. He is a home improvement expert, contractor, avid DIYer, and security manager. He is passionate about home repairs, remodeling, and teaching. Read More