How to Get Fish Odor Out of Leather Purse

Leather goods are susceptible to absorbing odors from their surroundings. So, if your leather purse was exposed to fish, it likely picked up the odor. Many people find the smell of fish to be unpleasant, and if your purse starts emitting this odor, it can be a real annoyance. The good news is that there are some effective ways to get rid of fish odor from leather.

How to Get Fish Odor Out of Leather Purse

What is Fish Odor?

Fish odor is a distinct, pungent smell that emanates from fish and seafood. It is caused by the breakdown of amino acids present in the flesh of these animals. This odor can be quite strong and linger for a long time, especially on leather items.

You may have accidentally spilled fish on your leather purse, or maybe it was stored in a place with a strong fish odor. No matter how the odor got onto your purse, here are some methods you can try to remove it.

But before we dive into the solutions, it’s important to understand that leather is a delicate material and should be treated with care. It is always recommended to spot test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of your purse first.

Why Leather Purse Smells Like Fish?

Leather is a natural material that is produced from the hides of animals. It is durable and has a long lifespan, so it is often used to make purses and other accessories. However, because leather is a natural material, it is susceptible to absorbing odors. Here are a few reasons why leather purse starts to smell like fish:

Reason 1: Oil-based Products

When it comes to leather, oil is usually the enemy. It can cause permanent damage to the material, making it more susceptible to staining and cracking. However, in this case, you’ll want to use an oil-based product to help get rid of the fishy smell. First, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly or baby oil to a clean cloth and rub it into the affected areas. Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it away with a damp cloth. Repeat as needed until the odor is gone.

You can also try using a leather conditioner that contains natural oils, such as mink oil or neatsfoot oil. These products will not only help eliminate the fish odor but also nourish and protect your purse.

Reason 2: Wet Leather

Wet leather is one of the most common causes of fishy-smelling leather. When leather gets wet, it can start to develop mold and mildew. These fungi love to grow in dark, damp places, like the inside of a wet purse.

The best way to prevent this is to avoid getting your leather purse wet in the first place. If it does get wet, make sure to dry it thoroughly and store it in a well-ventilated area.

Wet Leather is One of the Most Common Causes

If your purse has been exposed to water or other liquids, it’s essential to dry it out as soon as possible. Mold and mildew will not only cause your purse to smell fishy, but they can also damage the leather.

To dry out a wet leather purse, stuff it with absorbent materials like newspapers or towels. Then, set it in a well-ventilated area to air out. If possible, place a fan near the purse to help speed up the drying process. Once the purse is dry, check it for any mold or mildew growth. If you see any, clean it off with water and vinegar.

Reason 3: Not Stored Properly

Leather is a delicate material that needs to be stored properly to stay in good condition. If you don’t store your leather purse properly, it can start to develop mold, mildew, and a fishy smell.

Wet Leather is One of the Most Common Causes

When storing your leather purse, make sure that it is in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing it in direct sunlight or near any heat source. If possible, store it in a breathable bag or box. This will help keep the air circulating and prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

Reason 4: Bacteria Build-Up

Bacteria are another common cause of fishy-smelling leather. When bacteria build up on the surface of the leather, it can start to smell bad. This is especially common in purses that are used frequently or that are not cleaned regularly.

The best way to prevent bacteria build-up is to clean your leather purse regularly. First, wipe down the surface with a damp cloth and mild soap. Then, dry it off with a soft cloth. If you notice areas that accumulate more bacteria than others, focus on cleaning those areas more frequently.

Reason 5: Sweat and Body Odor

We all have sweat glands, and when they become active, whether from heat or exercise, we can start to smell bad. The same goes for our leather purses! If you notice a fishy smell coming from your purse, the leather has likely absorbed sweat and body odor from you. So, it’s essential to clean your purse regularly to prevent this from happening. Clean Your Purse Regularly

Reason 6: Aged Leather Smells

Leather is a natural product, and as it ages, it can develop a distinct smell. This is especially true for vintage or antique leather purses. While some people find this scent pleasing, others may find it off-putting. If you’re in the latter camp, there are a few things you can do to try to get rid of the fishy smell.

One option is to air out the purse. If possible, place it in a well-ventilated area near an open window. Then, allow it to sit for two days to see if the odor dissipates.

If airing out the purse doesn’t work, you can try cleaning it with a mild soap. Wet a soft cloth with cool water and add a drop or two of gentle liquid soap. Gently scrub the affected areas of the purse, then rinse with clean water. Let the purse air dry completely before using it again.

If the fishy smell persists, you may need to take more drastic measures. One option is to try soaking the purse in a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water. Soak for 30 minutes, then rinse well with clean water. Finally, let the purse air dry completely before using it again.

How to Get Fish Odor Out of Leather Purse Detailed Guide

Method 1: Use Baking Soda

If you have a leather purse that smells like fish, one of the best things you can do is try using baking soda. Baking soda is known for its ability to absorb odors, so it can help to get rid of the fishy smell from your purse. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that will help to remove the fish odor from your leather purse. In addition, it will absorb any moisture that may be present, which will further help eliminate the fishy smell.

What You’ll Need:

Baking Soda

A Clean, Dry Cloth

Vacuum Cleaner (Optional)


Baking Soda Inside Your Leather Purse

Begin by sprinkling a generous amount of baking soda inside your leather purse.

Next, use a clean, dry cloth to rub the baking soda into the leather. Be sure to rub it in well so that the baking soda has a chance to absorb the fishy smell.

Once you’ve rubbed the baking soda into the leather, let it sit for a few hours (or overnight if possible).

After the allotted time has passed, vacuum up the baking soda using a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment. If you don’t have a vacuum cleaner, you can use a clean, dry cloth to wipe up the baking soda.

Finally, take a clean, dry cloth and wipe down the inside of your purse to remove any residue.

Method 2: Use White Vinegar

White vinegar is a household staple with various uses, including cleaning. It’s an acidic liquid that can break down dirt, grime, and residue. Vinegar is also effective at removing odors because it neutralizes them. For example, the acidic nature of white vinegar helps to neutralize the alkaline fish odor. In addition, it also works as a natural disinfectant and deodorizer.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • Spray Bottle
  • Clean Cloth


Before you start, test the white vinegar on an inconspicuous purse area to ensure it doesn’t damage the leather.

In a bowl or measuring cup, mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 cup of water.

Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.

Spray the affected areas of the purse with the solution.

Wipe the area with a clean cloth to remove any residue.

Allow the purse to air dry completely before using it again.

Wiping Down the Affected Areas

Repeat this process as necessary until the fish odor is gone. You may need to do this a few times to remove the odor altogether.

Method 3: Lemon Juice

Try using lemon juice if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to remove fish odor from your leather purse. Lemon juice is a natural odor neutralizer, so it’s an ideal solution for getting rid of fishy smells. Plus, it won’t damage your purse like some chemical-based cleaners might. This is a crucial method in how to get fish odor out of leather purse.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • White Vinegar
  • Cotton Balls or a Clean Cloth


Wiping Down the Affected Areas

Combine the lemon juice and water in a bowl or jar.

Dip a cotton ball or cloth into the mixture and dab it onto the smelly areas of your purse.

Let the lemon juice solution dry on your purse.

Repeat as needed until the fish odor is gone.

Try wiping down the affected areas with white vinegar if you’re still noticing a faint fishy smell. The acidity of vinegar can help to neutralize odors further.

Allow your purse to air out in a well-ventilated area until the vinegar smell dissipates.

Method 4: Charcoal Eliminators

Consider using charcoal eliminators if you’re looking for a more long-term solution to keeping your leather purse smelling fresh. These products work by absorbing odors and can be placed inside your purse. You can find charcoal eliminators at most home goods stores.

Clean Your Purse Regularly

What You’ll Need:

  • Charcoal Eliminator
  • Vacuum Cleaner (Optional)


Place the charcoal eliminator inside your purse.

If desired, vacuum around the charcoal eliminator to help it absorb odors more quickly.

Baking Soda Inside Your Leather Purse

Leave the charcoal eliminator in your purse for 24 hours before removing it.

Repeat as needed to keep your purse smelling fresh.

Method 5: Washing the Purse

Washing is a great way to remove fish odor from your purse, as it will remove all the trapped smells and dirt that may be causing the issue. However, you will need to use mild soap and lukewarm water to wash your purse, as hot water can damage the leather.

What You’ll Need:

  • Mild Soap
  • Lukewarm Water
  • Soft Cloth
  • White Vinegar (Optional)


Combine a mild soap with water in a bowl

Combine a mild soap with lukewarm water in a bowl or sink.

Dip a soft cloth into the soapy water and use it to clean the inside and outside of your purse. Be sure to focus on areas where the fish odor is strongest.

Rinse your purse with clean water. If desired, you can add a few drops of white vinegar to the rinse water to help neutralize any remaining odors.

Allow your purse to air dry completely before using it again.


  • Store your leather purse in a well-ventilated area to prevent odors from building up.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaning products on your leather purse as they can damage the material.
  • If possible, try to identify the source of the fish odor and remove it before attempting any of these methods.
  • Regularly clean and condition your leather purse to keep it smelling fresh and looking its best.
  • If the fish odor persists, consider taking your purse to a professional cleaner for further treatment. 
  • You can also try using scented sachets or essential oils to keep your purse smelling fresh. Just be sure to test them on an inconspicuous area first to avoid any damage.
  • Consider using a leather protector or sealant to prevent future odors from penetrating the material.
  • Remember to always follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer for your specific leather purse.

By following these methods, you can effectively remove fish odor from your leather purse and keep it smelling fresh. It’s important to regularly clean and maintain your purse to prevent odors from building up. With proper care, your leather purse can continue to look and smell great for years to come. 

Combine a mild soap with water in a bowl

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Leather Smell Like Fish?

Everyone’s nose is different. Some people may find that leather smells like fish, while others may not. What’s important is that you take a close look at the condition of the leather before you make a decision about its smell. If it’s dry and cracking, chances are that it will smell like fish. If it’s fresh and new, chances are that it won’t smell like fish.

What Neutralizes Fishy Smell?

There are a few things that can help to neutralize the fishy smell that may be lingering in your home. One is to Pond- Granite, which helps absorb and remove toxins from the water supply. Another option is sodium bicarbonate, which works by absorbing ammonia and other pollutants. Both of these options are available at most convenience stores or online.

How Do You Keep Your Purse Smelling Fresh?

To keep your purse smelling fresh, try using a leather cleaner and conditioner on a regular basis to prevent any buildup of dirt or odor-causing bacteria. Additionally, you can place a small sachet of your favorite scent inside the purse to keep it smelling pleasant. Lastly, make sure to follow proper storage tips for leather goods, such as keeping them away from moisture and extreme temperatures. This will help prevent any unpleasant odors from developing.  The key is to regularly clean and maintain your leather purse to keep it smelling fresh and looking like new.

How Often Should I Clean My Leather Purse to Prevent Fish Odor?

It is recommended to clean your leather purse at least once every few months, or as needed if you notice any strong odors. However, regular maintenance and cleaning can help prevent the buildup of dirt and bacteria that can cause unpleasant smells. It’s also a good idea to spot-clean any spills or stains as soon as they happen to prevent them from setting in and causing lingering odors. 


We hope you have learned how to get fish odor out of leather purse. The methods we’ve suggested for getting the fish odor out of your leather purse are simple and should take care of the problem fairly quickly. If you have any questions or problems with these methods, please let us know in the comments section below. We would also love to hear about how well they worked for you. Happy cleaning!

You may also read – How to clean michael kors leather purse.

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Matt Clark

Hi, this is Matt, and I am a leathercraft hobbyist. I have been working with leather for quite a bit of time. When I was a teenager, my father taught me the basics of leathercraft. Along the way I have learned a lot of things about leather work leather items, restoring leather, and creating leather accessories. I started this blog to share my knowledge of leatherworking with others and help people learn about this amazing craft. I also wanted to create a community of like-minded people who could share ideas and support each other in their leatherworking journey.

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