Tote. Clutch. Satchel. No matter what you call it, your purse is a breeding ground for bacteria. In fact, studies have shown there are more bacteria in the average handbag than on a toilet seat.
Now for the good news: if cleaned regularly, your purse probably won’t hurt you. Unless you have a compromised immune system, or visit contaminated areas, handbag bacteria is often both benign and common. But to stay on the safe side (and preserve your designer digs), pay particular attention to its three grimiest areas:
- The exterior
The outside of your purse puts up with a lot — pushing, shoving and stuffing in overhead bins. Be mindful of where you stow it. Steer clear of dirty floors, and always hang it when using a public restroom. Never put your purse in a place where you eat — like on a kitchen countertop or table. And if it doesn’t have “feet” on the bottom, consider having them added by an expert (if it matches the design, of course).
Cleaning tip: Be sure to check your handbag’s cleaning instructions before you get started. Some purses require specific solutions or professional cleaning. But most exteriors can be wiped down, once a week, with a small amount of warm, soapy water on a cloth. Unless specifically called out, steer clear of alcohol wipes or chemicals that may alter the color or texture. And always keep your bag full, even when you’re not using it, to prevent cracks and creases that can hide nasty germs.
- The handles
Your hands have approximately 1,500 bacteria on them. So naturally, your handbag handles do too. But considering the new bacteria you attract every day, those handles handle a lot. Your best bet is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. The cleaner your hands are, the less contaminated your handles will be. Added bonus? Frequent hand-washing makes you less likely to catch your co-worker’s cold.
Cleaning tip: Like the exterior, review your bag’s cleaning instructions to ensure you don’t cause damage. Otherwise, handles can be cleaned the same way you clean the exterior — once a week, with soap and water. Handbag handles are often made with a sturdier material than the rest of the purse, so you might want to consider testing a small area with bleach-free or alcohol-free disinfecting wipes.
- The interior
Believe it or not, the interior of your purse is the biggest culprit. We too often toss food and dirty items in there, like gym clothes. And that leaky hand cream bottle? It’s doing more damage than you realize. Combine that with a dark, moisture-holding environment and your bag is a hotbed for bacteria. So think twice about what you carry in there — seal food items and always keep makeup and dirty clothes in a separate bag.
Cleaning tip: Start by removing all items from your bag once a week. Aside from keeping your bag clean, this will also help you purge and stay organized. Tip your bag upside down, and shake out all the crumbs and dust — especially in smaller interior pockets. Then, using bleach-free or alcohol-free disinfecting wipes, wipe down the interior surfaces. Let it dry out completely before using it again.