Do-it-yourself handbag cleaning: Exercise caution

The miracle cures

The array of leather and suede cleaning products available at brick and mortar stores and on line is extensive.

Apparently, there's a "specialized cleaning product" for every brand, for every type of leather and suede, for every color of leather and suede, for every type of stain, spill and soil, and for every possible combination thereof.

Don't believe me? Just google "cleaning a Coach bag". You'll get over millions of results. And that's only for Coach!

Furthermore, the internet is awash in DIY cleaning suggestions for every handbag, purse, wallet and backpack cleaning question ever asked.

Our suggestion: When it comes to high-end handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks, proceed with caution.

And, yes, we do have a bias.

That's because we see the results of these DIY "cleaning" projects every week.

Take the Tory Burch leather handbag pictured below, for example.

Our client spilled some liquid on the handbag, posted pictures of the handbag on a purse forum and followed the cleaning instructions recommended by the majority of respondents.

The results were, to say the least, disastrous.

So she sent it to for restoration.

Seeing that the handbag would have to be re-cleaned, conditioned and then completely refinished (think "re-painted" or "re-dyed"), our client decided that she wanted the handbag refinished to a darker color: medium olive instead of the original medium brown.

The rationale for this decision was that a darker color would show less soiling over time.

The transformation

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

Tory Burch handbag: Before and After photographs of a failed Do-It-Yourself experimental cleaning


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 DIY attempt at cleaning a handbag 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 specialists and
  • completes all work on premises using in-house technicians who only work on handbags, purses, wallets and backpack and does not ship the work to an unknown, undisclosed, out of state subcontractor.

In Arizona, there is only one cleaner who meets these 3 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 other selected countries.

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

By the way, you should never turn over a high-end handbag to a dry cleaner for "cleaning" (washing, extracting and drying) in a dry cleaning machine. Read this blog post to learn why not.