Shoe repair shop handbag cleaning: Exercise caution

Shoe repair shops specialize in shoe repair.

As a tangential service, they'll shine your shoes. About $5.00 to $7.50 for a "regular" shine and $7.50 to $10.00 for a "deluxe" shine.

That's their bread and butter.

Some shoe repair shops also offer "handbag repair". The rationale for offering handbag repair is that "we know how to sew leather" and there's no difference between repairing shoes and repairing handbags."

In addition to "handbag repair", some shoe repair shops will also offer "handbag cleaning". The rationale for offering handbag cleaning is that "we know how to shine shoes" and "there's no difference between shining shoes and cleaning handbags."

Makes sense, doesn't it?

Actually, it doesn't. Not by a long shot.

For one thing, a shoe repair shop typically won't invest the time necessary to hand clean, condition, refinish and sanitize the exterior of a handbag and hand clean and sanitize the interior of a handbag.

After all, there's only so much you can do for $40 or $60.

How do we know this?

Because we see the results of their efforts almost every week.

The evidence

As an example, consider this relatively inexpensive Marc Jacobs turquoise leather handbag we restored for a client.

Here's the backstory...

The handbag was purchased by our client for use by her daughter. Over a period of 2 years the handbag became soiled. Our client then called the high-end department store where she had purchased the handbag and asked for a recommendation. She was directed to a shoe repair shop in Tempe, Arizona.

She dropped off the handbag and was given a price quote of $60 to "clean" the handbag. She later told us that she considered the price "too good to be true" and, with hindsight, should have questioned the pricing.

About one week later, she picked up the handbag from the shoe repair shop and was appalled with the result.

After she returned home, she called the department store's manager to express her displeasure with the work performed. The store manager, who was, obviously, not involved with the referral or with the execution of the work, then called to let us know that their client was on her way to see us.

Upon examination of the handbag, we noted the following exterior issues: water stains, scratched and scuffed leather, and color-mismatched paint (think: Home Depot) used to hide underlying stains in various places.

In addition, it appeared that the interior of the handbag, although quite soiled, had not even been touched by the shoe repair shop.

The restoration results

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

RAVE FabriCARE reworks a Marc Jacobs leather handbag "cleaned" by a shoe repair shop: Before and after photographs


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 episode is simple:

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 in-house (does not ship the work to unknown, undisclosed, out of state subcontractors).

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.