Don't dry clean your handbag, purse, wallet or backpack. Ever.

High-end handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks should always be hand cleaned.

High-end handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks should never be dry cleaned in a dry cleaning machine, irrespective of the type of dry cleaning machine or the type of dry cleaning solvent used.

Now, there are some dry cleaners who will tell you that they have a "special" dry cleaning machine that uses a "special" dry cleaning solvent. And to reinforce their argument, they'll tell you that they clean leather and suede garments in that machine and with that solvent all the time.

Don't buy that line.

Don't dry clean

High-end handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks should never be dry cleaned (washed, extracted and dried) in a dry cleaning machine.

They should always be hand cleaned.

Here's why...

Think of a dry cleaning machine as large home washing machine. Except that:

  • a dry cleaning machine is about 20 times the size of your home washer
  • a dry cleaning machine uses a dry cleaning solvent or fluid instead of water
  • a dry cleaning machine has the wash, extract and dry cycle all within the same machine
  • during the wash cycle, the dry cleaning solvent is (hopefully) being filtered in and out of the wheel of the dry cleaning machine
  • depending on the dry cleaning solvent being used, the handbag would have to go through the entire wash, extract and dry cycle before it can be removed from the dry cleaning machine...a 30 to 45 minute tumbling process.

Dry cleaning can lead to disaster

If you believe that it's ok for a leather or a leather-trimmed handbag to tumble in a dry cleaning machine for 30 to 45 minutes, consider the GG fabric handbag pictured below as a warning.....

The owner of this handbag was referred to us by Gucci.

As the handbag was soiled, she had dropped it off at her local dry cleaner for cleaning and was quoted a price of $50 to "clean" her handbag.

According to the client, she inquired about the process that would be employed to clean her handbag and was informed that they had a "special" leather cleaning cycle (washing, extracting and drying) on a "special" dry cleaning machine that used a "special" dry cleaning solvent. So, the handbag was perfectly safe in their hands.

The results were predictable:

  • The leather hardened and puckered.
  • The original, off-white paint disappeared in numerous places.
  • The GG fabric scuffed in numerous places.

Luckily, the plating on the hardware -- although now scratched -- had not peeled or flaked off.

Restoration is possible

We informed the client that we would restore the handbag to as close to original condition as possible. We also informed her that, regrettably, the scuffing of the GG fabric (a direct result of tumbling the handbag in a dry cleaning machine for 20 to 30 minutes) was permanent and couldn't be reversed.

During the course of restoration, we

  • hand cleaned the exterior GG fabric and the interior lining,
  • reconditioned the leather, reducing the hardness and puckering, and
  • repainted the leather, returning the leather to it's original off-white color.

The results of a restoration

The results of the transformation can be seen in the following BEFORE and AFTER photographs:

RAVE FabriCARE in Scottsdale, Arizona restores Gucci GG fabric/leather handbag ruined by cleaning inside a dry cleaning machine

For even more BEFORE and AFTER photographs on the transformation of this handbag, please view our slide show below:


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

The takeaway

The takeaway from this disaster scenario is simple:

High-end handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks should never be washed, extracted and tumbled in a dry cleaning machine.

They 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 (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.

By the way, 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.