By Ravi Mehta
Here are the recent answer to this question.
I am quite familiar with many kinds of Moroccan leather goods such as bags, jackets, gloves, hats and furnishing items such as poufs. I've never had to spend a penny more than the items' price attempting to remove any type of smell. If you put in a little extra in the beginning you can save yourself a lot of time and effort. Morocco has a lot of good leather, but quality has its price.
I got a hand made leather bag off of ebay, the smell was so bad that people wouldn't sit next to me on the bus and it made my clothes absolutely stink! It was so disgusting that I couldn't bear to even have it int he house I had to put it in the garage. I tried absolutely everything because it was my dream bag I'd been searching for months for, I tried baking powder, leather cleaner, leather polish, saddle soap, newspaper and even tried burying it in cat litter for 2 weeks. Had literally given up hope but then finally found something that worked,
Mix a tablespoon of olive oil with a few pumps of liquid had soap and warm water until you get bubbles, wash the bag thoroughly (but don't scrub) and then wash it off with more warm water. Let it dry and then bit by bit spray it with hairspray then wipe with a damp cloth before rubbing in a small amount of olive oil with the same cloth.
After that spray liberally with hairspray again and blob on some more olive oil then wipe with a dry cloth until there is no residue. Then leave for a little bit and the smell should be completely gone, I would recommend trying this on a small discreet area first. Really hope this helps!
I am somewhat relieved to see that quite a few others had the same issue. I also bought a leather bag at the Souk in Marrakech and to my horror when I got home I was essentially toting around a urine scented career killer. I was actually asked at one point on a flight by the cabin crew if they could move it to the back of the plane. Yikes.
I started by hoping that airing it out and time would lessen the stench. I think it may have actually gotten stronger.
I am happy to report though that I found a solution that worked for my bag.
1) I applied a very generous layer of leather protector- on the exterior and interior of the bag. An oil, not a spray. I tried the spray at first and it didn't help at all.
2) I stuffed a handful of damp dryer sheets in the bag and in all the pockets.
48 hrs later and I would say the smell is 97% gone. It still smells 'abnormal' if you actually put your face up to it and sniff it, but for normal use the smell is gone and leaves no odor on your hand or shoulder from the strap.
I can't believe no guidebooks warned of this! Hope you all can enjoy your purchases sometime soon...
Back again. You folks with the "baking soda" idea might be onto something. I paid a visit to a leather craft shop out of desperation. The manager took a "whiff" and advised that the acrid scent is due to the tanning process which is actually a heavy URINE base! This works in arid reigons but when you hit cretain humid areas back home in the U.S., well that's pretty much vintage camel and goat piss pressed into leather. I picked up some Lexol conditioner and cleaner and headed home. Since I can't use the thing with that smell, I'm going to attempt to neutralize that urine process with a coating of baking soda. Heck, if it fails, oh well, I can't use it anyway. The dealer mentioned that the "smell would dissipate" with use, yep and so would my entire social life! Insane I tell ya! I will however NEVER drop another dime into an item such as this!! So stop trying to "wait it out". unless you have a year or so to do it.
I just received a leather briefcase I purchased, made in India, about a week ago. Initially, the smell was not too bad. However, by day three, an aura of STINK had formed and it seemed to take on a life of its own! Vomit and wet garbage best describes it! I have read many articles, one indicating that if the smell is that bad, the leather needs to be conditioned. I have just attempted this and returned the bag to my garage where it seems to continue to keep other living things out (i.e. bugs, snakes, car thieves)!
Careful if your bag has a strap as mine does. Even after the bag is in your office, that scent WILL be on your shoulder. After the lunch date hug, the little lady didn't know whether to view me with pity or relative disgust. Turning into "Golom" here as I both "hate and love" the bag ("my precious"). HATE the stench and love the look! Perhaps they are making these thing for the world market and laughing at us. I have never in my life kept something this smelly above ground. ANY ideas would be fantastic, though I feel that the stink will not dissipate during my lifetime!
By j (Guest Post)01/05/2009
I went to Morocco and got got two small bags and one large bag with rug stitched into it. The smell was absolutely unbearable. I rubbed orange peels on the small one and that got rid off the odor but when I tried it on the large one it only made it smell worse! I got the big bag for a friend and now I'm too embarrassed to give it to her!
i Having recently returned from the bluetiful town of Chefchauen morocco with the
pouffe of my dreams in red leather, i was shocked and horrified to discover the malodourous stench emanating from every beloved orifice. please help i have tried filling it with various fluids but alas the stench remains i don't know what to do my pouffe just sits there and stinks.
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By Kathie (Guest Post)10/04/2008
I bought 2 gorgeous leather ottomans - I should have been weary of the smells of the nearby tannery. I have no idea how to get the smell out. Even though they are absolutely gorgeous, I'm sure I basically just got taken for a ride and will end up donating these because I just can't stand the stink. $500 gone down the drain! I just hate myself! I haven't found anything to remove the stench and I have been letting it air out for about 4 months in the garage - I'm in Houston where it's humid but we have good sunshine and that hasn't seemed to work.
By (Guest Post)06/22/2008
I have the same problem. The bag has been outside for 3 months and it still smells terrible!
By aceondgo (Guest Post)04/25/2008
The smell factor in leather is attributed to 2 main factors. First, it is the fatliquoring or softening process in leather making, specifically in Moroccan old fashioned vegetable tanning ,which produces stiff leather. So tanners rely on a variety of natural agents such as neat's foot or cod oil. This can be a subjective issue ,but most people seem to like that smell. Artificial softeners can have little or no smell at all, but they are more expensive. The other factor, which I think is what most of you here are suffering from, is caused when the hide or skin is poorly preserved and started to putrefy before it reaches the tanning process. And thats where u get the distinctive bad smell. So to hide it, tanners would add a fatliquor with a strong smell, and a couple of washes later, it's gone. Unfortunately that only works for a while, as soon as the item gets damp or humid, the stench comes right back. There are available chemicals that can mask it, and any solution would basically be a Tailor-suited process depending on the tannage, and you might also have to take the article apart before treatment. I'm afraid washing the leather or treating it with chemicals that would change the ph, might ruin it completely unless you know what your doing. Dry cleaners or furniture outlets usually have basic training on treating leather but the article has to be visibly checked first.
By Greg (Guest Post)03/01/2008
Same problem - bags from Marrakesh. The leather craftsman in the artisan centre on Ave Mohammed V (whom I bought a nice office bag from that *doesn't* smell, so I recommend!) had some bags which smell and some which do not. He simply told us it depends on the tannery.
His more expensive bags were made with more expensive leather which was tanned somewhere else and industrially. Sadly, so he said, the local tanneries are not very good. He still makes bags with the local leather, and indeed they still smell a bit, but he polishes and airs them before selling them and the smell is reflected in the price. You simply get what you pay for! I hope the smell will leave our cheaper bags in time.
By Daniel (Guest Post)03/01/2008
I see it's been a year since this problem was first posted, but without any clear solution. I bought a camel leather from Fes. Really lovely bag---except for the stink! I think the guide books need to mention this because when you buy a bag in the medina you are surrounded by a lot of off smells and if you never encountered this problem before you wouldn't think of it. In fact when we were at the tanneries, there was a guy there from the Sunday Times taking pictures for a feature article.
Anyway, in my case several baking soda treatments have not worked. I'm trying to leave it outside when it's not raining--a real challenge in England. I'm looking forward to reading about the success (or lack thereof) of some of the treatments posted above. Also, if there is a leather expert out there who really knows something about this problem, please enlighten us! So far we've seen dung in the dye, incomplete curing, ... what's the truth? Are some cases without remedy?
By Sina (Guest Post)02/19/2008
I just bought a leather bag from the souk in marrakesh and every single room smells. Someone suggested pouring coffee granules in the bag and leaving it for a few days...Has anyone tried it? Perhaps I will try the baking soda solution. I can't use it when it smells so bad!
By Hicham (Guest Post)12/21/2007
Hi All ,
I import a Camel leather from Morocco , and i believe that there is different ways to make the Camel leather. My wife has used a bag for almost 2 years now, and we never smell stink coming from the bags. Also the inside my house and my kidshave lot's of handbags and we never smell a bad thing out here. Please make sure the Camel leather is good, and that you know from where you guys buy it next time! Thanks for your Time.
By Paul (Guest Post)11/21/2007
My wife bought a leather bag from Fes in October. It smellt like puke and stunk the house out. After reading this forum I doused it liberally in baking soda and left it sealed in a bag in the garage for 10 days. The smell was almost gone. I then vacumned it all out. Then I sprayed it inside and out strap and all with scothguard fabric protector- to try and seal the rest of the stink in. The bag now smells OK.
The problem here is that the leather in these countries is dyed using things like camel dung etc and so it is the smell from what they use that causes the smell.
We have tried and tested all sorts of ways of removing theis smell but to no avail.
By jack (Guest Post)10/29/2007
I've got the same problem with a leather bag bought in Fes. I've tried the leaving it in baking soda overnight, but without success. I've tried leaving it outside for a week and it didn't deaden the smell. Now i'm trying leather cleaner and polish along with Febreeze. I'll post a solution if I find one.
By shauny (Guest Post)10/02/2007
I bought a massive leather camel bag and it too is now making the whole flat stink. I am going to try completley covering the inside with baking soda and then hoovering it. This may work, my friend suggested one of those fridge thingy's might suck the smell out of it.
By Schweigenthaler (Guest Post)05/15/2007
Not from Morocco, but an expensive brand name bag from Nordstroms fills every room it occupies with the scent of very old fish mixed with locker room. PRetty bad at the price. Still waiting for an answer from the company on what they want to do with it.
I would say that the leather from Morocco, Iraq etc is not correctly cured and the smell is decomposing protein. Not much to be done, I fear.
By (Guest Post)04/28/2007
My husband send our girls and I camel leather purses from Kuwait... the smell was awful when we opened the box they immediatly went to the back porch hope the smell leaves soon... i did try putting a fabric softener inside them
By new bag (Guest Post)04/20/2007
My husband who is deployed in Afghanistan sent me the most beautiful leather bag and wallet, but the odor is unbearable! I immediately put it outside hoping the smell would go away. No luck. What can I do to get that smell gone??? Help!
By Charlie Edwards03/30/2007
I've no idea whether my bag is camel leather, but it came from a Marrakech souk and yes, it STINKS! What can I do - it's a great bag but may have to bin it if I can't solve the problem. I'm not sure what an abattoir smells like but there's something very like it in my flat right now. Please help!
By carol 03/14/2007
Many years ago my husband bought a leather belt that was brand new but made overseas. The smell was horrible, horrible, horrible to the point that I would not let him bring it into our house. He hung it outdoors every day except if it rained out. Then he put it into a plastic bag & left it in the garage. Eventually the odor was gone. But it took weeks & weeks. Never again will he purchase a belt unless it's made in the good old u.s.a.
By Amy Singh 03/14/2007
My husband came home wearing a stinky leather jacket he bought in India a few years ago. The only thing that got rid of the smell was some time outside for the jacket and a long shower for him.
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My new camel leather hand bag smells, how can I get rid of smell?
Rachel from UK
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