Can You Wash Handbags? Learn the Safe Cleaning Secrets Here

Ever glanced at your favorite handbag and realized it’s seen better days? Dirt, stains, and the everyday grime can turn your go-to accessory into a not-so-chic catchall. But before you consider retiring it, have you thought about giving it a good wash?

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You might be wondering if tossing your treasured tote into the wash is a fashion do or don’t. Well, you’re in luck because sprucing up your bag might be easier than you think. Let’s dive into the dos and don’ts of handbag hygiene and see how you can bring back the sparkle to your beloved bags.

Can You Wash Handbags?

Yes, you can wash handbags, but the method you’ll use depends on the material. Fabric bags are typically easier to clean than leather or suede. For a fabric bag, you’ll want to check the care tag first. Some may be machine washable, whereas others require a gentle spot cleaning.

Leather handbags need special attention. Never submerge them in water. Instead, opt for a dedicated leather cleaner and a soft cloth to dab away dirt. For suede, use a dry cleaning method with a special brush designed for the material. Moisture can damage suede, so keep it dry.

When it comes to washing hardware, like zippers or metal clasps, be cautious:

  • Use a damp cloth
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners
  • Dry immediately to prevent rust or tarnish

Here are quick steps for washing your fabric handbag if it’s safe to do so:

  1. Empty the bag completely.
  2. Check the care label for instructions.
  3. Pretreat any stains with a suitable stain remover.
  4. If machine washable, place the bag in a laundry bag or pillowcase.
  5. Use a gentle cycle with mild detergent.
  6. Air dry completely before use.

For handwashing:

  • Use lukewarm water and mild soap.
  • Gently scrub with a soft brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Shape the bag and air dry.

Remember, high heat can warp the form of your bag, so avoid using hot water or a dryer. Regular maintenance can extend the life of your bag, keeping it looking fresh and stylish. With proper care, your handbag can remain a staple in your wardrobe for years to come.

The Dos of Washing Handbags

When it comes to giving your handbag a good clean, you want to follow these clear-cut do’s to ensure you’re not doing more harm than good.

Check the Manufacturer’s Guidelines: First things first, always look for the care instructions provided by the maker of your handbag. This information is golden and should never be overlooked. It’s your roadmap to a safely cleaned handbag.

Test Cleaning Products: Before you go all in, test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of your handbag. You’re looking for adverse reactions, such as color bleeding or material damage.

  • For leather, opt for a dedicated leather cleaner
  • For suede, use a cleaning product specifically designed for suede
  • Fabric bags may tolerate mild detergent

Blot, Don’t Rub: Patience is key. If you’re dealing with a stain, blot it gently. Rubbing it vigorously is a surefire way to embed the stain further into the material.

Use a Soft Cloth or Sponge: When applying any cleaner, use a soft, lint-free cloth or a sponge. This ensures a gentle, even clean without roughing up the surface.

Avoid Direct Heat: Let your handbag dry naturally, avoiding direct sunlight or close proximity to heaters. Excessive heat can cause materials to warp, fade, or become brittle.

Maintain Shape: While drying, stuff your bag with tissue paper to maintain its shape. This prevents creases and crumpling, keeping your handbag looking showroom-ready.

Remember, consistent care and attention are less intensive than a major cleaning session. Regularly wipe down and declutter your handbag to keep it in peak condition for longer. And when in doubt, professional cleaning services are your best bet for those designer pieces you invested in.

The Don’ts of Washing Handbags

When you’re looking to keep your handbag in pristine condition, it’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to follow the proper cleaning steps. Paying attention to these cautionary tips will help you avoid common mistakes that could potentially ruin your cherished accessory.

Never submerge your handbag in water. Doing so can distort the shape and damage the materials. Even if you’re dealing with a fabric bag that seems durable, soaking can weaken the fibers and cause colors to bleed.

Stay away from harsh chemicals and cleaning agents. Chemicals can cause discoloration and degrade fabric integrity – and that’s a risk you don’t want to take with any handbag. Always opt for gentle, specialized cleaners that are suited to the specific material of your bag.

Don’t use colored cloths or sponges that might transfer dye onto your handbag while trying to scrub away a mark. Stick to white or light-colored, dye-free sponges or cloths to be safe.

Resist the temptation to speed up the drying process with a hairdryer or by placing your bag in the sun. High heat can cause leather to crack and fabrics to warp. Allow your handbag to air-dry naturally, away from direct heat sources.

Forgoing machine washing is crucial, no matter how gentle the cycle claims to be. The agitation in a washing machine can be too vigorous and lead to damage that’s often irreversible.

Avoid overstuffing your handbag when trying to maintain its shape while it dries. Overpacking can stretch the material and alter the original structure. Instead, use bubble wrap or acid-free paper to gently fill the bag and help it retain its form.

Remember that some stains might be beyond your ability to treat at home. In these cases, it’s better to trust a professional cleaner rather than risking further damage with DIY attempts. Keep these don’ts in mind as you care for your handbag, and you’ll help ensure it stays in top condition for years to come.

How to Properly Wash Your Handbag

Washing your handbag can extend its life and maintain its appearance. Start by emptying your bag. Remove everything from the pockets and shake out any debris or dust.

Next, check the label for care instructions. Designers often include specific guidelines for cleaning. If there’s a suggested cleaner, use it. If not, opt for a mild soap that won’t damage the material.

Spot cleaning is your safest bet for most handbags. Take a soft cloth, dampen it with water mixed with mild soap, and gently rub the spots. Always test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure the material doesn’t discolor or stain.

For fabric handbags, you can be slightly more aggressive. Use a soft brush to work on tougher spots. Be sure to clean both the interior lining and exterior. Pat everything dry with a soft towel to avoid soaking the material.

Leather handbags require special care. Use a cleaner designed for leather. Apply the cleaner to a soft cloth, not directly on the bag, and rub the surface gently. Afterwards, condition the leather to keep it supple. Avoid any products containing alcohol or acetone.

For suede handbags, skip the home wash. These are delicate and easily damaged by water. A suede brush should remove surface dirt. For deeper stains, consult a professional.

After cleaning, reshape the bag and let it air dry away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Stuff it with tissue paper to help retain the shape but don’t overstuff. Hanging the bag can alter its shape, so instead, place it on a flat surface or over a padded hanger.

Remember, while it’s tempting to achieve that brand-new look, over-cleaning can lead to wear and tear. Frequency is key; clean your handbag only when necessary.

If your handbag gets caught in the rain or suffers a spill, act fast. Blot away excess moisture promptly and let the bag dry naturally. Avoid using a hairdryer or other heat source, as they can cause materials to warp or crack.

Proper maintenance requires a bit of elbow grease and a lot of love, but it’s worth it. Your handbag, a key investment piece, deserves the best possible care. Keep it looking pristine, and it’ll stay a staple in your wardrobe rotation.

Tips for Drying Your Handbag

After meticulously cleaning your handbag, drying it properly is just as vital to maintain its shape and quality. Never be tempted to speed up the process using a hairdryer or placing it near a heater. High heat can warp leathers and fabrics, leading to irreversible damage.

Firstly, gently pat the exterior with a soft, lint-free towel to remove excess moisture. Be thorough but avoid rubbing as this could affect the material’s surface. For fabric handbags, paying special attention to the seams and corners where water tends to accumulate is crucial.

It’s important to reinforce the shape of the bag as it dries. Stuffing your handbag with absorbent materials like microfiber towels or white tissue paper works best. Avoid using colored paper as it might transfer ink onto the damp interior. Make sure to replace the stuffing periodically if it gets damp.

Find a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight to place your handbag. A steady airflow will assist in even drying but keep it out of prolonged sunlight to prevent fading. If you have a fabric bag, you can hang it up but ensure the strap or handle isn’t stretched during the process. For leather or suede, let it rest on a flat surface.

While it might take a while, allowing your handbag to air dry naturally is the safest method. Check on your bag occasionally, and if necessary, readjust the stuffing to ensure it maintains its proper form. Remember, patience is key during this stage to preserve the life and beauty of your handbag.


You’ve got this! Just remember to handle your handbag with care during the washing and drying process. Avoid the temptation to rush things with heat and instead, give your bag the gentle treatment it deserves. By patting it dry and letting it air out naturally, you’ll ensure your favorite accessory stays in top-notch condition for all the outings to come. Here’s to keeping your handbag looking as fabulous as the day you first slung it over your shoulder!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use high heat to dry my handbag?

No, using high heat to dry a handbag can cause irreversible damage. It’s important to avoid high temperatures during the drying process.

What is the recommended method to dry the exterior of a handbag?

The recommended method is to gently pat the exterior with a soft towel. This helps absorb moisture without harming the material.

How can I maintain my handbag’s shape while drying?

To maintain your handbag’s shape, stuff it with absorbent materials like tissue paper or a clean cloth before drying.

Where should I place my handbag to dry?

Place your handbag in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight to allow it to air dry naturally.

How long does it take for a handbag to dry naturally?

The time it takes for a handbag to dry naturally varies, but patience is key. Allow it to dry completely, which may take several hours to a full day, depending on the material and conditions.

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