The Tale of My (Almost) Vintage Louis Vuitton Bag: Part 2

As I mentioned in The Tale of My (Almost) Vintage Louis Vuitton Bag: Part 1, I was determined to give my newly-acquired, 19-year-old bag the TLC it needed to serve me today and for years to come. So I started Googling, and of course, the Purse Forum held the solutions to my problems. Here’s what I did to restore and preserve my Louis Vuitton Speedy…

1. Remove THAT SMELL!

First, I had to eliminate the old basement smell. I tried dryer sheets in the bag to no avail.

Other LV owners on Purse Forum who dealt with the same issue recommended placing an odor-absorbing block and/or an open box of baking soda in the bag, zipping it up, and placing it in a plastic garbage bag. I left my Speedy cocooned in the bag overnight, but that didn’t work either. Although the interior smell was more faint, the outside still reeked of dankness and mold. I sensed the plastic bag was actually trapping the smell (duh), rather than releasing it. Back to the drawing board.

Another approach I gathered from Purse Forum was to let the bag “air out” outside to remove the smell. Over the course of a bitterly cold, dry winter day, I let the bag air out, outside on my covered patio, but out of direct sunlight. I got lucky in the first few days of having my new-to-me Speedy that it was perfect winter weather, with no dampness or humidity. I left the odor-absorbers in the bag and initially left the bag zipped. After a few sniffs later in the day, I unzipped it and left it out some more. My nose told me I was making progress!

Getting some air outside with odor-absorbers inside.
Getting some air outside with odor-absorbers inside.

I’m beyond elated to report that after many hours in bone-chilling cold over several days, THAT SMELL has been reduced by at least 90%. It is no longer detectable from the outside of the bag; I can only smell it when I literally stick my nose in the opening. I’m pretty sure as time passes, the rest of it will dissipate. It’s becoming more faint as my bag adjusts to her new, more pleasant-smelling surroundings. Uh, yay!

2. Polish the tarnished brass.

When I first saw the blackened lock and keys that came with my bag, my heart sank a little. They looked terrible, and they made my Speedy look like a cheap fake! I’m one of those women who likes to rock the lock on a bag, or a tassel, or even a charm—so leaving it off was not an option.

At first I tried cleaning the lock with jewelry cleaner, because it was all I had on hand. No dice. I picked up proper brass cleaner (I also had a couple rings that needed a shine) and got to work. A little brass polish on a paper towel, and in five minutes they looked brand new. Gold and gleaming and gorgeous!

Original Louis Vuitton padlock and keys before and after polishing.
Louis Vuitton padlock and keys before and after polishing.

After polishing the lock, I moved on to the rivets. With a Q-tip, I very carefully cleaned each one, making sure not to get any brass cleaner on the vachetta. It’s a small detail, but it really helped make my bag look younger than 19.

Vuitton-rivets

3. Condition the vachetta leather.

Oh the vachetta. I told you about the drama that untreated leather causes thousands of LV-lovers worldwide in my previous post. Luckily for me, the vachetta on my Speedy 35 was in pretty good shape. Well, I mean, the bag is nearly vintage, so there is some wear. But mostly, the leather bits were just dried out and needed conditioning. It has a nice light honey patina, no grime on the handles. They definitely have some years left in them, but should they begin to blacken (I draw the line there), I will have them replaced. Replacing the handles is a fraction of the cost of a new Speedy.

After more Purse Forum surfing, I found vachetta conditioner, ordered some, and using a soft towel, applied it to all the leather trim. It helps remove any surface dirt (there really wasn’t any visible) and it soothed minor cracks in the handles, as well as moisturized the leather to prevent future cracking.

4. Stop bag sag!

Some people may think this is overkill, but there is a very good reason to not allow any bag you own to sag at the bottom, aside from the fact that it kills the look of the bag. With some bags, if you don’t find a way to make the bottom sturdier so weight is distributed evenly, it can cause vertical creasing or wrinkling, especially in LV Epi leather bags (er, next on my wish list!).

Unfortunately, when it comes to many LV bags, sagging is just the nature of the beast. While some of the brand’s bags are structured, with a solid base (and even feet), two of the most popular designs—the Speedy and Neverfull—are not. Thankfully the need for base structure and interior organization became apparent to several Etsy sellers, who now offer handmade products cut to fit LV bags that meet each of these needs.

I picked up a clear base shaper for my Speedy 35 from Princess Cut Bags. I love this product! Here’s a video to show you just how effective it is…

Products used to revitalize my Louis Vuitton bag:

Have you ever refurbished or cleaned up a pre-loved bag? Any tips you care to share?

45 comments

  1. amazing transformation…the polish worked WONDERS!

    most people probably look at my LV obsession as extremely frivolous but I look at it as a lifetime partnership with a bag..HA! Seriously though..My louis are mine forever…I can’t part with them….other bags may come and go…I also obsess over their wallets…they last FOREVER…can’t kill them.

    Happy Wednesday girl
    C

    1. Hi Carly, thanks for dropping by! Yeah, my little bag just needed a little TLC.

      I’m late to the LV-obsession game, but man, it has bitten me! I wish I weren’t so late so I could have scooped some pieces for less, but that’s life. I’ve got my eye on a couple Damier Ebene bags at the moment. Why can’t I ever just be happy with one? Because they look so AMAZE as a collection! I blame Instagram for that.

  2. Nice work restoring your bag, and thanks for sharing the brass polish! I’ve tried using toothpaste, to no avail, on the hardware of one of my bags. I need to buy some polish.

  3. Great work restoring this bag! I have the medium Neverfull that I bought at the Greene St. store before the LV prices started going up, by a lot, and I still love it. I bought the base shaper before I bought the bag, ha, I knew I would need it, I’ve seen ladies carrying their Neverfull on the train and the sagging base drives me crazy! A friend of mine recently let me borrow her Goyard St. Louis tote (what a pal!) and I have to say, the quality of Louis Vuitton totes are FAR superior, even though Goyard charges so much more for their bags. I agree with Carly above, LV is forever. The Neverfull is so well-made and so sturdy, I will never part with it! I think you will love your Speedy for a long time to come. Yay to the Purse Forum for once again providing all kinds of knowledge and expertise direct from the handbag-obsessed! Great post! XO, Jill

    1. Hi Jill, thanks! Uh, your pal lent you the Goyard tote? That IS a friend! I love Goyard, but it is way overpriced. I’m glad you seconded that, because I’m aiming for a Damier Ebene Neverfull GM next. Wish it had been on my radar before the prices went up! I know the bag is much more solid that the Goyard totes.

      And yeah, LV is forever. I’m late to the game (all the knockoffs put me off for so many years), but suddenly, I am obsessed. There you go.

  4. Loved meeting you in video! You are charming, so chic and always have such great info. I’m now inspired to sell my Luco and get a speedy! I have never sold or purchased a luxury item but your trail- blazing helps a lot. I’ll keep you posted.

    1. Hi Corinne, thank you! Yeah, that’s me…southern accent and all!

      Do keep me posted on your adventures in buying pre-loved. And good luck!

  5. I love when you blog 🙂 I love hearing your accent. I’ve been eyeing a LV bag for years, and now I’ve been scrolling through the site you mentioned. I’m thinking maybe I’ll get one for my 30th, but I hadn’t really considered a pre-owned before. Thanks for providing such great info. I’m thinking about going red too…we’ll see.

    1. Aw, thanks Whitney! You’re sweet.

      Pre-owned helps make luxury a little more affordable, you just really have to do your homework when buying. And I saw your tweet about the red…go for it! You can always dye it back, but I will tell you that you may want to go subtle first. It’s a HUGE adjustment, and the color is hard to maintain. I was adamant about not having cherry-red hair…I wanted more cinnamon, coppery hair. I kind of had to have a little of the cherry at first though, because it fades to the right color. That’s why I was so freaked out at first. I only did streaks in the top-third of my hair, so the base is still all dark, and it’s a nice blend. Also, way easier to maintain since I need a root touch-up every four weeks…oh that DAMN grey hair! Don’t have a ton, but enough to see “sparkles” in the darkness.:( Can’t wait to see what you decide to do!

    1. Hi Arash, thank you. I really did bring this baby back to life. Since I posted, that old basement smell is like 99% gone. I’m really happy with the bag, and of course, now I’m obsessed with getting more pre-loved luxury deals.

  6. Yoogi’s Closet has a nice selection but the selection is not as big as Malleries. However, all the bags are sold by Yoogi’s closet instead of individual sellers. This makes it a little bit easier to communicate and it makes it more reliable of getting an authentic bag which to me is a huge plus and one of the reason that I would recommend this site. Another great thing about this site is that you have a 30 day return policy. Love it! And to make things even better before the bag is sent to you it is professionally cleaned and rejuvanated by them which is a GREAT plus once again. The photos on this site are also much better than the previous site since they are modeled on mannequins and you can actually see the actual size of the bag you are interested in. In conclusion this is one of my favorite sites to buy Chanel bags.

  7. I’m glad you found some easy, inexpensive tips that effectively freshened up your bag! I’ll keep them in mind. I read last week — I think it was in InStyle? — about using coffee beans for vintage garments that need to lose smells. The editor writing the tip put an open bag of beans carefully in another bag with the garment (a vintage cashmere sweater, IIRC?), then sealed the outer bag. I wonder if it would work to close a bag of beans inside a purse, and then to seal the purse in with another bag of beans.

    Tangentially, I want to ask you about leather cleaners or soaps. I need to clean a leather jacket up just a bit — some ground-in makeup on the collar, mostly — and don’t want to pay the local dry cleaner $75 to do it!

    1. My memory is flaky but not entirely wrong. InStyle February, p. 134. It was a market director deodorizing a vintage cape. She hung an open plastic bag of *ground* coffee beans in a garment bag with the cape, and zipped it up.

    2. Hi Sarah…I read about the coffee beans too. I am happy to report that I’ve had my bad exactly one month today, and all the odors are GONE! WOOO HOOOO! She just needed time to air out.

      As far as the leather cleaner, I swear by Weiman Leather Wipes. They clean and condition, and can be found at Target. I use them on my shoes, my bags, even my leather ottoman, and they are great. Start with them and see how you go. https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=wegmans+leather+cleaner&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8#q=weimans+leather+cleaner&rls=en&tbm=shop

  8. This is my first time leaving comments on any blog, but I just had to comment on yours. The Louis Vuitton story was excellent and inspiring. I have added a couple of pieces to my goal board and look forward to settling in with your blog. I love your fashion sense and the fact that you believe that quality trumps quantity.

    1. Hi Gwen, thanks for your comment! I’m super-flattered to be the recipient of your time and thoughts. Sorry it has taken me a little time to respond.

      I’m glad you liked this post. I have really enjoyed re-furbing my LV! I just love it. I hope that you will find some other goodies buried here on G&G. I will tell you that since I’ve been blogging for so long, some of my thoughts about life and clothing, etc., have changed. You will probably see a progression in my photos, I bet. I’m kind of over the outfit posts these days, but I’m going to try to get more posted, because my readers keep asking me for them.

      Anyway, thanks again so much for taking the time to comment. Please come back soon!

  9. Hey! Very interesting post. I just recently bought a vintage Speedy 30 and it is also a 1995! I love it. Great shape. The only problem is the zipper pull is a little more worn that I was expecting. It’s not tearing but its flimsy. Is there something you can use to toughen the leather to make it a little more stiff? I’m afraid to use it to open my bag with. Or should I get it replaced? If so, where could I do it without them charging me an arm and a leg? Did you ever replace yours?

    1. Hi Hannah, thanks!

      Yes, my zipper pull eventually tore off when I accidentally grabbed it as my purse was falling. I did have it replaced at my local Louis Vuitton store, and they did it free of charge because it completely tore off. Here’s a shot of it since the replacement: http://iconosquare.com/viewer.php#/detail/678149799263333985_2851530

      If there is an LV store in your city, just take your bag there and ask how much to replace. Or, alternatively, just use it as normal, and if if does tear, then chase it up, because they are more likely to replace it for free since the bags aren’t supposed to fall apart like that, even 19 years later. If you don’t have an LV nearby, call the customer service number on the website and I’m pretty sure you can obtain a new pull. That’s part of the beauty of buying an LV…the company stands behind its products, no matter when they were produced.

      1. Thanks so much!! That is really helpful. Do you know if I did order a pull if it is pretty easy to fasten yourself or would I need to send it off to a LV store? (We don’t have one nearby). Also, did you ever get your handles replaced? I know you said there was slight cracking. Thanks so much for the speedy reply! 🙂

        1. You’ll need to send your baby off to an LV store…I’m sure you can arrange it through customer service. They put mine on for me in-store. Or you could wait until you’re in a city with an LV store and pop by and see what can be done.

          I did not replace the handles on my bag. I noticed that the more I use it, the cracks “heal” a little from the moisture transferred by my hands. Plus, I kind of like that they’re original.

          Glad this post helped a bit! Keep me posted!

  10. hello all, what a great post. just wanted to add if you don’t have brass polish for the hardware apple cider vinegar works great to get the greenish blue grime off!! also I have had much success with the apple brand leather conditioner for the vachetta!! My newly aquired petit noe looks fantastic courtesy those two items! happy restoring!! 🙂

  11. wanted to comment on the hardening leather question, my cabas piano strap was wearing very thin and looked as though replacing was the only option.. I used a very tiny paint brush and painted the interior of the vachetta loop with super glue (you have to be very careful because it will darken the vachetta), I didn’t mind because it’s the loop which holds the brass hardware and you couldnt see it. it’s now as strong as when it was new. Sounds crazy to even go near your beautiful purse with super glue, but if it’s a last resort before it gets replaced you may want to try it . I would only paint the under side(hairy looking side) with a very light coating, being careful not to get it on any other part. it stiffens the leather and makes it more durable again. I’m not an expert, I just try to improve my preowned bags to the best I am capable without causing further damage.. good luck!!

  12. I realize I am a little late to the party but your blog is nice! found this post looking for ways to clean my LV bags.

  13. Recomend using scotch guard fabric repellent.
    This can protect your bag against spills stains and freshen faster. Conditioned feeling holds longer. It allows canvas to relax in to shape. Please try as it has no recent use for bag cleaning.
    Thanks pani@acollectorgucci #lol.

  14. Hi there 😀

    I’ve been collecting pre owned LV’s for about a year and a half. It’s Absolutely addictive! I find it’s easy to spruce them up and a lot less expensive then buying brand new. Also not having to worry about carrying a new bag is wonderful. I saw a video on YouTube with a delightful having a bad dream about its Vachetta getting ruined, hilarious!
    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Hi there! I just wanted to say thank you so much for this post. I just bought my first vintage LV speedy and while it’s in good shape for being 30+ years old, I wanted to freshen it up a bit. This post is incredibly helpful! I bought the bottom shaper as well and I love how it helps structure my bag. Thanks again for sharing your process!

  16. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “vuitton hand” in “comment_content” *]
    HI. I am getting ready to buy my FIRST Louis Vuitton Handbag. I read this blog several times and it made me fall in love with Speedy. It was between Neverfull and Speedy. Now I have to decide on the pattern and size. I am probably going to buy the Speedy 35, but which pattern? Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Tina, thanks for your comment! I’m thrilled to know you enjoyed this post enough to want a Speedy of your own. I would suggest you go with the Speedy 35 Bandouliere in Damier Ebene. The size is wonderful, the print is bulletproof…you’ll NEVER worry about it like you would a Monogram/vachetta Speedy, and the bandouliere strap makes this possible as a cross body or shoulder bag as well. Trust me on getting the Bandouliere version. You will be so thankful for the strap later. I’ve transitioned over the last couple of years from a hardcore top-handle/satchel bag lover, to a shoulder bag lover. I just can’t do without a hands-free option or strap on my bags anymore.

      Anyway, that’s my two cents. Let me know what you end up choosing!

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