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How To Clean An Old Suitcase


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Janina Pepe



Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to clean an old suitcase! Whether you have inherited a vintage piece or stumbled upon a charming antique at a flea market, giving it a thorough cleaning can breathe new life into its appearance and ensure its functionality for years to come. In this article, we will walk you through a step-by-step process to help you clean and restore your old suitcase to its former glory.


An old suitcase can hold treasured memories, transporting you back in time to a bygone era of travel. However, it is not unusual for these vintage gems to show signs of wear and tear. Over time, dust, stains, and even unpleasant odors can accumulate on the surface and inside the suitcase. By following our expert advice, you can learn how to effectively clean, maintain, and enhance the condition of your old suitcase.


Before we dive into the cleaning process, it’s important to note that different materials require specific cleaning techniques. Some suitcases are made of fabric, while others are crafted from leather, vinyl, or even hard plastic. Therefore, it is essential to identify the material of your suitcase before proceeding with any cleaning methods.


Moreover, it is crucial to handle your old suitcase with care, as older materials may be more delicate and susceptible to damage. Always test any cleaning products or methods on a small, inconspicuous area of the suitcase to ensure they do not cause discoloration or harm.


Now that we have the important considerations out of the way, let’s gather our supplies and get ready to bring your old suitcase back to life!


Step 1: Gathering Supplies

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s important to gather all the necessary supplies. Having everything at hand will make the cleaning process much more efficient. Here are the essential supplies you’ll need:

  1. Soft-bristle brush or vacuum cleaner: This will be used to remove loose dirt and dust from the surface of the suitcase. A soft-bristle brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment can help you effectively clean the exterior without scratching or damaging the material.
  2. Mild detergent: You’ll need a gentle detergent or soap to clean the interior lining of the suitcase. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they may damage the fabric or leave behind residue.
  3. Warm water: Fill a bucket or basin with warm water, as it will be used in combination with the detergent for cleaning the interior and exterior of the suitcase.
  4. Clean, lint-free cloths: These will be used to wipe down the surface of the suitcase, as well as to dry it after cleaning. Choose cloths that are soft and lint-free to avoid leaving behind any fibers or lint on the material.
  5. Stain remover: If your old suitcase has stubborn stains, you may need a stain remover specifically designed for the material of your suitcase. Ensure that the stain remover is safe to use on the fabric, leather, or other materials of your suitcase.
  6. Leather conditioner: If your old suitcase is made of leather, it will need some extra care and conditioning. Choose a leather conditioner that is suitable for the type of leather used in your suitcase to restore its suppleness and prevent cracking.
  7. Small brush or cotton swabs: These tools are useful for cleaning small nooks and crannies, such as the crevices around latches or locks. Use a soft-bristle brush or cotton swabs dipped in soapy water to remove dirt and grime from these hard-to-reach areas.
  8. Optional: Odor absorbers or deodorizers: If your old suitcase has a musty or unpleasant odor, you may want to consider using odor absorbers or deodorizers to freshen it up. Baking soda, activated charcoal, or commercial odor absorbing products can help eliminate unwanted smells.

By gathering these supplies, you’ll have everything you need to tackle the cleaning process and restore your old suitcase to its former beauty. Now that we have our supplies ready, it’s time to start cleaning the exterior of the suitcase.


Step 2: Dusting the Exterior

Before delving into deep cleaning, it’s important to start by removing loose dirt and dust from the exterior of your old suitcase. This step will prevent dirt particles from spreading or scratching the surface during the cleaning process. Here’s how to effectively dust the exterior:

  1. Inspect the surface: Carefully examine the exterior of the suitcase to identify any areas with visible dust, dirt, or debris. Pay attention to corners, seams, and hard-to-reach spots where dirt tends to accumulate.
  2. Brush away loose dirt: Use a soft-bristle brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to gently brush away the loose dirt from the surface. Start at the top of the suitcase and work your way down, applying light pressure to avoid damaging the material.
  3. Pay attention to corners and crevices: Use a small brush or cotton swabs dipped in soapy water to clean any dirt or dust trapped in the corners, seams, or crevices of the suitcase. Be thorough but gentle, ensuring you don’t scrub too vigorously.
  4. Wipe down the surface: Take a clean, lint-free cloth and dampen it with warm water and a small amount of mild detergent. Gently wipe down the entire exterior of the suitcase, removing any remaining dirt or dust. Use circular motions and pay extra attention to stained or heavily soiled areas.
  5. Dry the surface: After wiping down the surface, use a dry, lint-free cloth to thoroughly dry the exterior of the suitcase. This step is crucial to prevent water spots or damage to the material.

By dusting the exterior of your old suitcase, you’ll create a clean foundation for the deeper cleaning steps that follow. Remember to be mindful of the material of your suitcase and avoid using excessive force or abrasive materials that could cause damage. Now that the exterior is dust-free, let’s move on to cleaning the interior of the suitcase.


Step 3: Cleaning the Interior

After tackling the exterior of the old suitcase, it’s time to focus on cleaning its interior. Over time, the interior lining can accumulate dust, dirt, and even unwanted odors. Here’s how you can effectively clean the interior of your old suitcase:

  1. Empty the contents: Start by removing all items from the interior of the suitcase. This includes any clothing, accessories, or personal belongings that may be stored inside. Set them aside in a safe place while you clean.
  2. Vacuum or shake out loose debris: Use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to carefully vacuum the interior lining of the suitcase. If a vacuum cleaner is not available, you can gently shake out the loose debris outdoors or over a trash bin.
  3. Spot clean stains: If you notice any stains on the interior lining, mix a small amount of mild detergent with warm water. Dip a clean cloth or sponge into the soapy solution and gently dab at the stains, avoiding soaking the fabric.
  4. Wipe down the interior: Take a clean cloth dampened with warm water and mild detergent and wipe down the entire interior of the suitcase. This will remove any remaining dirt, dust, or stains. Pay attention to corners, seams, and pockets where grime can accumulate.
  5. Rinse and wring out the cloth: After wiping, rinse the cloth thoroughly with clean water and wring out any excess liquid. Use the damp cloth to wipe away any soapy residue left behind on the interior lining.
  6. Dry the interior: Allow the interior of the suitcase to air dry completely before placing any items back inside. If needed, you can use a fan or open windows to help speed up the drying process.

By following these steps, you can effectively clean the interior of your old suitcase and remove any dirt or stains that may have accumulated over time. Once the interior has dried completely, it’s time to address stubborn stains that may require additional treatment.


Step 4: Removing Stains

Stains can often pose a challenge when it comes to cleaning an old suitcase. However, with the right techniques and products, you can effectively tackle stubborn stains and restore the appearance of your suitcase. Here’s how to remove stains from your old suitcase:

  1. Identify the type of stain: Before treating a stain, it’s important to determine the type of stain and the material of your suitcase. Different types of stains, such as ink, oil, or beverage spills, may require specific cleaning methods or stain removers.
  2. Test stain remover: Before applying any stain remover directly to the stained area, test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the suitcase to ensure it does not cause discoloration or damage.
  3. Apply stain remover: If the stain remover passes the test, apply a small amount to a clean cloth or sponge. Gently blot the stained area, being careful not to scrub or rub vigorously.
  4. Allow the stain remover to sit: Let the stain remover sit on the stain for the recommended amount of time, as indicated on the product’s instructions. This will allow the stain remover to penetrate and lift the stain.
  5. Blot and rinse: After the designated time, blot the treated area with a clean cloth or sponge, removing as much of the stain as possible. Rinse the cloth or sponge with clean water and gently blot the area to remove any residue from the stain remover.
  6. Repeat if necessary: If the stain is still visible, you may need to repeat the stain removal process. Be patient and persistent, as some stains may require multiple treatments to completely disappear.
  7. Dry thoroughly: Once the stain has been successfully removed, ensure that the area is completely dry before proceeding to the next step. This will prevent any moisture from causing new stains or damage.

By following these steps, you can effectively remove stubborn stains from your old suitcase. Remember to always use caution when applying stain removers and to test them on a small, hidden area first. Now that we’ve tackled the stains, let’s move on to preserving and treating the leather and handles of your old suitcase.


Step 5: Treating Leather and Handles

If your old suitcase features leather accents or handles, it’s important to give them some special attention to ensure they remain in good condition. Leather requires regular maintenance to keep it supple and prevent it from drying out or cracking. Here’s how to effectively treat the leather and handles of your old suitcase:

  1. Clean the leather: Start by gently wiping down the leather areas with a clean cloth dampened with warm water and mild detergent. This will remove any surface dirt or stains on the leather.
  2. Apply leather conditioner: Once the leather is clean and dry, apply a small amount of leather conditioner to a soft cloth. Gently rub the conditioner onto the leather, focusing on areas that appear dry or cracked. Follow the product instructions for the correct application and drying time.
  3. Allow the conditioner to soak in: After applying the conditioner, allow it to soak into the leather for the recommended amount of time. This will help nourish the leather and restore its natural oils.
  4. Buff the leather: Once the conditioner has soaked in, use a clean cloth to buff the leather. This will remove any excess conditioner and give the leather a polished look.
  5. Clean the handles: If the handles of your old suitcase are made of leather, clean them using the same method as described above. If they are made of a different material, such as plastic or metal, you can use a damp cloth with mild detergent to wipe them down and remove any dirt or grime.
  6. Protect the leather: To further protect the leather and prevent future damage, consider applying a leather protector or water repellent spray. Ensure that the product is suitable for the type of leather used in your old suitcase and follow the instructions for proper application.

By following these steps, you can effectively treat the leather and handles of your old suitcase, keeping them in good condition and extending their lifespan. Remember to regularly clean and condition the leather to maintain its appearance and prevent it from drying out. Now, let’s move on to restoring the latches and locks of your old suitcase.


Step 6: Restoring Latches and Locks

The latches and locks on your old suitcase play a crucial role in keeping your belongings secure during travels. Over time, they can become rusty, stiff, or difficult to operate. Here’s how to effectively restore the latches and locks of your old suitcase:

  1. Inspect the latches and locks: Take a close look at the latches and locks of your old suitcase to identify any signs of rust, corrosion, or damage. Ensure that they are functioning properly and that the mechanisms are not jammed or misaligned.
  2. Remove rust and dirt: If you notice any rust or dirt buildup on the latches or locks, gently clean them using a soft cloth dampened with warm water and mild detergent. Gently scrub the affected areas to remove any stubborn stains or debris.
  3. Lubricate the mechanisms: Apply a small amount of lubricant, such as WD-40 or a silicone-based lubricant, to the moving parts of the latches and locks. This will help loosen any stiff or rusty components and ensure smooth operation. Avoid using excessive amounts of lubricant, as it can attract dust and dirt.
  4. Work the mechanisms: After applying lubricant, work the latches and locks by opening and closing them several times. This will help distribute the lubricant and loosen up any stuck or stiff parts.
  5. Check alignment: Ensure that the latches align properly with their corresponding locks when closed. If they are misaligned, gently adjust them to ensure a secure fit.
  6. Replace damaged parts: If you notice any damaged or broken parts, such as missing screws or bent latches, consider replacing them with suitable replacements. Check with the manufacturer or consult a professional to ensure you obtain the correct parts for your specific suitcase model.

By following these steps, you can effectively restore the latches and locks of your old suitcase, ensuring they function properly and provide secure closures. Regular maintenance and lubrication will help prevent future issues and extend the lifespan of these important components. Now, if your old suitcase has any tears or damage, let’s move on to repairing them in the next step.


Step 7: Repairing Tears or Damage

Over time, your old suitcase may develop tears, scratches, or other forms of damage that compromise its structural integrity and appearance. Repairing these issues will not only improve the functionality of your suitcase but also enhance its overall aesthetic appeal. Here’s how to effectively repair tears or damage in your old suitcase:

  1. Assess the damage: Carefully examine the extent of the tear or damage in your suitcase. Determine whether it can be repaired at home or if it requires professional assistance.
  2. Repair small tears: If your suitcase has small tears or rips in the fabric or lining, you may be able to mend them with a needle and thread. Use a matching thread color and a basic sewing technique to stitch the torn edges together. Ensure that your stitches are secure, but do not pull them too tightly or they may cause further damage to the fabric.
  3. Use fabric patch or adhesive: For larger tears or damaged areas, consider using a fabric patch or adhesive specifically designed for repairing luggage. Cut a piece of fabric or patch larger than the damaged area and adhere it to the inside of the suitcase, following the product instructions. This will provide additional reinforcement and create a seamless appearance.
  4. Repair straps or handles: If the straps or handles of your old suitcase are damaged or detached, assess if they can be reattached or replaced. Some straps or handles may have screws or bolts that can be easily tightened or replaced. Consult the manufacturer or a professional if you require replacement parts or more advanced repairs.
  5. Address structural issues: If your old suitcase has significant structural damage, such as a broken frame or bent corners, it may require professional repair. Consult a luggage repair specialist who can assess the damage and provide appropriate solutions.

By following these steps, you can effectively repair minor tears and damage in your old suitcase. However, it’s important to note that more extensive repairs should be handled by professionals to ensure proper restoration and preservation of your suitcase. Now that we’ve addressed the repairs, let’s move on to adding the finishing touches to your old suitcase.


Step 8: Adding Finishing Touches

Now that you have cleaned, repaired, and restored your old suitcase, it’s time to add the finishing touches to enhance its overall appearance and functionality. These final touches will give your suitcase a polished and like-new look. Here’s how to add the finishing touches:

  1. Polish metal hardware: If your suitcase has metal hardware, such as locks, latches, or buckles, give them a gentle polish using a metal cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and water. This will help remove any tarnish or rust and restore their shine.
  2. Replace worn-out or damaged accessories: If your old suitcase had accessories, such as luggage tags or straps, that are worn-out or damaged, consider replacing them with new ones. This will not only improve the functionality of your suitcase but also give it a fresh and updated look.
  3. Personalize with luggage stickers or patches: Add a personal touch to your old suitcase by decorating it with luggage stickers or patches that reflect your style or travel destinations. This can make your suitcase unique and easily recognizable, while also adding a playful charm.
  4. Use fabric spray or air freshener: To keep your suitcase smelling fresh, consider using a fabric spray or air freshener with a pleasant scent. Lightly spray the interior of the suitcase or place a scented sachet inside to keep unwanted odors at bay.
  5. Label your suitcase: Attach a luggage tag with your name and contact information to your suitcase to ensure it can be easily identified in case it gets lost or misplaced during travels. This will also add a practical and personalized touch to your luggage.
  6. Store your suitcase properly: When you’re not using your old suitcase, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent fading or damage. Cover it with a dust cover or a clean cloth to protect it from dust and dirt.

By adding these finishing touches, you can complete the restoration process of your old suitcase and ensure it is ready for future travels or display. Remember to personalize your suitcase to make it uniquely yours and to properly store it to maintain its condition. Now that you’ve added the finishing touches, your old suitcase is ready to accompany you on new adventures!



Congratulations on successfully cleaning, repairing, and restoring your old suitcase! By following the step-by-step guide in this article, you have breathed new life into a piece of travel history. Not only have you revived its appearance, but you have also ensured its functionality for years to come.


Throughout the process, you have learned various techniques for dusting the exterior, cleaning the interior, removing stains, treating leather and handles, restoring latches and locks, repairing tears or damage, and adding the final finishing touches. Each step has contributed to the overall transformation of your old suitcase, turning it into a cherished and usable item once again.


Remember, regular maintenance is key to preserving the beauty and functionality of your old suitcase. Make it a habit to clean it after each trip and store it properly to prevent dust buildup and potential damage. In doing so, you can continue to enjoy your vintage treasure on future adventures.


Whether your old suitcase holds sentimental value or simply adds a touch of nostalgia to your travel experiences, its unique charm and history can now shine through. The memories it carries and the stories it tells are now complemented by its revitalized condition.


So go ahead, pack your belongings, and set off on new journeys with your newly restored old suitcase. Embrace the elegance and character it brings to your travels, and let it be a reminder of the timeless beauty of travel and exploration.