Cleaning and restoring handbags: Sometimes the only option is to replace the lining

Stuff happens.

The lining of your favorite handbag, purse, wallet or handbag gets soiled from general usage and/or stained by a cosmetic, ink, beverage, candy and the like.

In most cases, these stains and soils can be removed by gentle hand cleaning.

On occasion, however, the accumulated soils and/or stains are so extensive and/or so ingrained that no amount of hand cleaning is going to return the lining to "like new" condition.

At this point, it's appropriate to consider replacing the entire lining.

Here's an example...

A client stopped by to drop off a formal dress for cleaning. After seeing all the handbags waiting to be picked up by other clients, she announced, with some degree of excitement: "I've got a project for you. I'll be back in a hour!"

She returned shortly thereafter with a once-gorgeous white Chanel handbag that exhibited the following issues:

  • The exterior leather was soiled, scuffed and scratched.
  • The exterior leather displayed a relatively consistent film of blackish dirt.
  • The handles were soiled and the leather "paint" was peeling off.
  • The rim of the opening of the handbag was soiled, scuffed and scratched.
  • The 4 corners of the handbag was soiled, scuffed and scratched.
  • The lining of the 2 major interior compartments and the 2 small cosmetic and loose change pouches were heavily soiled and stained.

After examination of the handbag, we informed her that we were confident that we could clean and restore the exterior leather shell.

Replacing the lining 

The lining, however, posed a challenge: the likelihood that we could restore those linings to "like new" condition were remote at best.

We suggested that she consider replacing all 4 internal compartments and pouches with a brand new, heavy duty canvas-like fabric. Furthermore, we informed her that she would not lose the Chanel leather logo and the Chanel zippers and zipper pulls as we would clean and replace those logos, zippers and zipper pulls when we constructed the new lining.

For the lining, we offered her a choice of more than 20 colors. She chose white -- the color of the original bag and the color that matched the logo and zipper the best.

The transformation 

The transformation of this handbag from disastrous to perfectly wearable can be seen in the following BEFORE and AFTER photographs:

White Chanel handbag: Exterior before and after restoration
White Chanel leather handbag: Interior before and after restoration

For even more BEFORE and AFTER photographs of this handbag, please view the following slide show:

To view this slide show on a full screen, hit the X button with the arrow tips.

The takeaway

The takeaway from this restoration is as follows:

High-end handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks should always be cleaned by hand. And then only by a cleaner who

  • specializes in cleaning and restoring handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks,
  • employs full time handbag cleaning and repair specialists,
  • has the fabric and the highly-specialized leather sewing machines necessary to construct and install the new lining, and
  • completes all their work in-house (does not ship the work to unknown, undisclosed, out of state subcontractors).

In Arizona, there is only one cleaner who meets these 4 criteria: RAVE FabriCARE in Scottsdale.

And even if you don't live in the metro Phoenix area, all is not lost. We ship throughout the USA, Canada and selected other countries.

Send us your photos for a free, no-obligation evaluation and price guesstimate.