Built to withstand regular exposure to all kinds of indoor and outdoor environments (think wet grass and sticky restaurant floors), purses are the beautiful workhorses of our closets. But even though handbags play an important role in our daily lives, many people fail to store them correctly.

The good news is that you only need to take a few additional steps to keep your purses in excellent condition while they’re stored.

Clean Your Handbags

It’s fine to keep a memento or two in  your purse, but that shouldn’t include crumbs from your last birthday cake or residue from Saturday night’s Jell-O shots. Cleaning before storage is a standard rule, but it’s especially important for purses, which tend to accumulate more dirt, grime and food particles than other accessories.

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To clean your purses Overstock.com recommends using a lint brush to clear out the interior and gently washing the exterior with a soft cloth, mild soap and water.

Sit Them Upright

Whether you’re keeping purses on a closet shelf or in a storage unit, it’s usually best to store them upright.

“If you don’t place them upright, they tend to get distorted,” said Karen Eschebach, founder and owner of Clever Container.

Clutches are one of the exceptions, and should be laid on their sides during storage. Use your best judgment – or follow the store’s lead – for storing bags with special shapes.

Protect the Straps

If you’re short on storage space you may be tempted to hang up your purses by their straps. While this is fine for a few days at a time, hanging up purses for longer periods can cause the straps to stretch out or break.

Your best bet is to neatly roll up each strap and – if it’s detachable – store it inside the purse.

Stuff Them

Stores don’t just fill new bags with tissue paper so you’ll have a hard time finding the price tag. When a purse is full it’s more likely to maintain its original shape.

Eschebach recommended stuffing your purses with the same type of tissue paper that many retailers use to wrap clothing. Sheets of plastic or bubble wrap are also good options.

Just don’t use newspaper print, warned Eschebach, who pointed out that the ink can rub off on your purse and your fingers.

 Always store purses in dust bags. Photo via vintagedooney.com
Always store purses in dust bags. Photo via vintagedooney.com

Cover Them Up

Your purses don’t have the advantage of being able to go through the washer and dryer, so dust accumulation is a problem. To keep dust at bay Eschebach recommended storage solutions that keep your purses covered, like a handbag cubby or a storage cube turned on its side.

Many pricier purses come with dust bags, so you should store each purse in its dust bag if you still have it. If not, Eschebach suggested making your own, which she says is easy enough if you’re handy with a sewing machine.

“If you are not that great at sewing, cover each purse with a couple of standard size pillowcases,” she advised.