How to Wash Handbags in Washing Machine Without Ruining Them

Washing your favorite handbag doesn’t have to be a daunting task. If you’ve shied away from giving your tote a good clean, you’ll be happy to know that your washing machine can become your new best friend in maintaining your bag’s fresh look.

But before you toss it in with your laundry, there are a few tricks to ensure that your handbag comes out in tip-top shape. Let’s dive into the do’s and don’ts of machine washing handbags, so you can keep your prized accessory looking its best.

Choosing the right handbag

When considering a handbag for the washing machine, material is everything. Opt for durable, machine-washable fabrics like canvas, nylon, or cotton. Steer clear of leather, suede, and handbags with embellishments or metal detailing. These require special care.

Check the care label. It’s your best friend in determining whether a trip to the washing machine is safe for your handbag. If it says “Machine Washable,” you’re set. If not, consider other cleaning methods.

Structure is another key aspect. Soft, flexible handbags without rigid frames or cardboard inserts are better candidates for machine washing. Rigid materials can warp or become misshapen.

Remember, darker colored bags might bleed during their first wash. To prevent any mishaps, test for colorfastness. Dampen a discrete part of the handbag, then press a white cloth against it. No color transfer means you’re good to go.

Finally, empty your handbag. Check all pockets and remove everything. Leaving objects inside can damage both your bag and your washing machine.

  • Do: Choose machine-washable materials like canvas, nylon, or cotton.
  • Don’t: Select handbags made of leather, suede, or decorative elements.
  • Do: Read the care label thoroughly.
  • Don’t: Ignore signs that suggest a handbag isn’t suitable for machine washing.
  • Do: Perform a colorfastness test on darker bags.

With the right handbag and these considerations, you’ll keep your favorite accessory in prime condition even through a machine wash.

Emptying the bag

Before tossing your handbag into the washing machine, take a moment to ensure it’s completely empty. Think of it as a pre-wash ritual that sets the stage for a thorough clean. Remember, even the smallest item left inside could cause issues during the wash cycle.

Turn your handbag upside down and give it a gentle shake to remove loose debris. Check every pocket, opening all zips and clasps. It’s not just about the main compartment; small pockets can hide receipts, coins, or candy wrappers that could disintegrate and stick to the interior lining during washing.

Quick Tip: Check Twice

  • Feel the lining with your fingers for overlooked items.
  • Check inside any removable storage like mini-pouches or zippered sections.

If your bag has a removable base or cardboard insert, take it out. These inserts could warp or lose shape when soaked with water. Additionally, detach any straps or decorative elements that might get tangled or damaged in the wash.

Prepare for the Wash

Now that you’ve assured the bag is completely bare, proceed to prepare it for the wash. For canvas bags with metal hardware, wrap each piece in a small cloth or sock to protect both the hardware and the washing machine drum from getting scratched or damaged.

Fasten any velcro or snaps to prevent them from catching onto the material of the handbag or other items in the wash. If your handbag has a fold-over flap, fasten it to keep the bag in a compact shape during the cleaning process.

Securing Your Handbag

Use a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase as a safeguard for your handbag. This extra layer of protection helps maintain the structure and integrity of the bag and prevents straps and buckles from snagging.

Once secured, your handbag is ready for its machine wash voyage. Ensure your washing machine settings are aligned with the care instructions and you’ve chosen the right detergent. Remember that a gentle wash cycle is paramount to preserving your handbag’s lifespan and appearance.

Protecting delicate materials

When washing handbags, delicate materials demand special attention. You’ve already selected a handbag that’s machine washable, but what about those areas that require extra care?

Start by pre-treating any stains with a gentle cleanser. Test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure there’s no damage or discoloration. For materials like canvas or cotton, a simple mixture of water and mild detergent usually does the trick.

If your handbag features a lining that’s prone to snagging, secure it. A quick stitch or a safety pin can prevent the lining from getting caught in the machine’s agitator or drum. This way, you’ll avoid any unnecessary wear and tear.

For any metal zippers or buckles, wrap them in cloth or a sock. This little precaution goes a long way in preventing scratches or the pitter-patter sound during the spin cycle.

Always choose a gentle wash cycle. High speed or regular cycles might be too harsh, even for the tougher fabrics. These settings can lead to stretching, misshaping, or worse, tears.

When considering detergent, less is more. Opt for a mild detergent; a capful is often enough. Keep in mind, handbags aren’t like clothes that require lots of soap to get clean.

Lastly, think about the shape of your handbag when placing it in the machine. If you have to fold or bend the bag to make it fit, don’t wash it in the machine. The form might not recover, and that’s a risk you don’t want to take. Use a soft-bristled brush and spot-clean those instead.

Remember, regular maintenance and proper care will extend the life of your handbag. Follow these steps and you’ll keep it looking fresh and fabulous for seasons to come.

Preparing the washing machine

Before you toss your handbag into the washing machine, you’ll want to set up the machine properly to avoid any mishaps. Start by ensuring the drum of the washing machine is clean. This means removing any residue from previous loads that could transfer onto your bag. You don’t want your handbag picking up stray dyes or lint.

After checking the drum, choose the right wash setting. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Select a gentle or delicate cycle to minimize wear and tear.
  • Use cold water to prevent color fading and shrinking.
  • Opt for a low spin speed to reduce distortion of your handbag’s shape.

When it comes to detergent, less is more. A mild detergent is a must — it should be gentle enough to clean without causing damage. Avoid fabric softeners or bleach, as these can harm certain fabrics and even leave unwelcome residue.

Enclose your handbag within a mesh laundry bag or a pillowcase. This extra step will keep it from banging against the drum or tangling with other garments.

Finally, it’s wise to wash your handbag by itself or with similar items. A full load can be too harsh for your handbag, and different fabrics or colors may interact poorly. Keep it to light items like linens or other washable bags if you’re adding anything to the cycle.

By following these simple preparations, you’ll ensure that your favorite handbag comes out of the wash looking as good as new, ready to make that statement wherever you take it next.

Choosing the appropriate cycle

When it’s time to select a cycle for washing your handbag, your machine’s settings play a pivotal role. Choose a gentle or delicate cycle to minimize the stress on the fabric and stitching of your handbag. This setting mimics hand washing and is less harsh than regular or heavy-duty cycles.

Consider the water temperature carefully. Cold water is a safe bet for most materials and helps prevent colors from bleeding. However, if your care label specifies, warmer temperatures can be used for certain fabrics. Always refer to the instructions provided on your handbag to avoid any mishaps.

Another critical factor to remember is the spin speed. A high speed could warp the shape or damage the material. Opt for a low spin speed to protect the integrity of your handbag. This reduces the risk of handles or straps getting stretched or twisted during the cycle.

Handbags often contain metal zippers, buckles, or clasps, which can be noisy and potentially harmful to your machine’s interior. Enclosing your bag in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase as previously suggested can help cushion these components during the cycle.

In cases where you are unsure due to vague care labels or unique materials, err on the side of caution. It’s better to choose the mildest settings available on your washing machine or to perform a spot treatment. Some machines come with a “Hand Wash” cycle that could be particularly useful for these instances.

Finally, remember to never overload the machine. Washing your handbag with few or no other items allows the water and detergent to circulate effectively, ensuring a thorough clean without putting undue pressure on the bag.

Using a protective laundry bag

When it’s time to wash your handbag in the machine, using a protective laundry bag is a key step you shouldn’t skip. This will shield your bag from the rough-and-tumble nature of the washing machine cycle. Go for a mesh laundry bag or even an old pillowcase, as either will serve as a protective barrier.

Mesh laundry bags are especially good because they allow soap and water to pass through while keeping your handbag from getting snagged or tangled with other items. If your handbag has straps or chains, tuck them inside the bag to prevent them from getting caught or pulling on the drum.

Here’s how to use the laundry bag effectively:

  • Place your handbag inside the mesh bag or pillowcase.
  • If there’s extra space, you can add a towel to cushion the handbag and prevent it from excessive tumbling.
  • Secure the laundry bag; if you’re using a pillowcase, you can tie the open end into a loose knot.

Selecting the right size laundry bag is crucial. It should be large enough to fit your handbag comfortably without squishing it. A too-tight fit can misshape your handbag, something you’ll want to avoid.

If you don’t have a laundry bag or pillowcase handy, you can DIY your own protection. Wrap your handbag in a clean, soft cloth or towel and use rubber bands or soft ties to keep it wrapped throughout the wash cycle.

Remember, while the handbag is in the washer, you should regularly check on it, especially in the first few times, to confirm that it’s secure inside the laundry bag and not getting damaged. This will help maintain the shape and integrity of your beloved accessory.

Adding the right detergent

When it comes to washing your handbag, the choice of detergent is crucial. You’ll want to grab a gentle, bleach-free detergent. Look for brands that are specifically designed for delicate fabrics. These detergents are less likely to cause color fading or damage to the material of your handbag.

Check the ingredients list for any harsh chemicals or additives. What you’re looking for is a simple, mild formula. If you have a plant-based detergent on hand, that’s often a safe bet for your handbag. Not only are they gentler on fabrics, but they are also better for the environment. If you’re ever in doubt, a small quantity of baby shampoo can work in a pinch due to its gentle nature.

It’s important to use the right amount of detergent. Too much can leave a residue and too little might not clean effectively. Refer to your detergent’s label for the recommended dosage for a small load – that’s usually enough for a single handbag.

For those handbags with metal fasteners or embellishments, consider a detergent that incorporates a rust protector to prevent damage during the wash cycle. If your handbag has leather trims or accents, spot cleaning beforehand is recommended as these parts shouldn’t be fully submerged in water.

Another tip is to add a couple of towels in with your handbag. They can provide extra padding during the wash cycle, which helps maintain the shape of your handbag and ensures a more even clean.

Remember, each handbag and washing machine is unique. You might have to adjust these suggestions to suit your specific situation. Keep an eye on how your handbag responds during its first machine wash and tweak your methods accordingly for the best results.

Washing the handbag

Once you’ve chosen a gentle detergent and prepped your handbag for the wash, it’s time to dive into the actual cleaning process. Set your washing machine to a delicate cycle with cold water to prevent any damage to the fabric or accessories. High temperatures can degrade the material and cause colors to bleed.

Before you start the wash, place your handbag inside a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase. This reduces the risk of snagging or getting caught during the cycle. If you don’t have a mesh bag, a pillowcase tied with a hair tie at the end will do the trick.

It’s critical to balance the load in your washing machine. If the handbag is small, add a few towels or soft clothing items to help balance the machine. These additional items also cushion the handbag, helping to maintain its shape and protect its surface.

Step Action
Set Machine Delicate, cold cycle
Protector Mesh laundry bag or pillowcase
Balance Load Add towels or soft items

Start the cycle and keep an eye on the handbag, especially if it’s the first wash. If the bag has a robust dye, you might choose to pause the cycle mid-way to check for any color bleeding into the water. If there’s significant bleeding, you might want to halt the process and opt for a hand wash instead.

Avoid using fabric softener as it can leave a residue that affects the handbag’s texture and appearance. Moreover, the chemicals in softeners might react adversely with the material of your handbag.

After the cycle has finished, remove the handbag immediately to prevent any creasing or dye transfer from other items. Do not place your handbag in the dryer, as the intense heat can cause irreversible damage. Instead, you’ll next move onto drying your handbag properly, paying close attention to its unique material and design features.

Drying the handbag

After your handbag’s journey through the wash cycle, drying it correctly is crucial. First, gently shake out any excess water. Be careful not to twist or wring the fabric as it can warp the bag’s structure.

Air drying is your safest bet for most materials, avoiding any distortion or heat damage from dryers. Find a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight which can fade colors. Prop the bag open to ensure good air circulation inside and out; stuff it with a clean, dry towel to help retain its shape.

For handbags with detailed hardware or metal parts, pat them dry immediately to prevent water spots or corrosion. Leather and faux-leather bags might require special care. After wiping them down, apply a leather conditioner to keep the material supple and prevent cracking.

If your bag has a specific drying instruction on its care label, follow it precisely. These instructions are there to help maintain the longevity and appearance of your handbag. Some bags made of robust materials can withstand low heat in the dryer, but this is an exception, not the rule.

Certain materials, such as cotton or canvas, can tolerate a little sunlight. However, don’t risk it if the bag is brightly colored or patterned. Remember to rotate the bag periodically to ensure even drying.

While patience is key, quick action will also be necessary for hardware and special materials. Keep a close eye as the drying process unfolds, making adjustments as needed to ensure your handbag returns to its pre-wash glory in excellent condition.

Maintaining the bag’s shape

After you’ve taken your handbag through the washing cycle, ensuring it retains its original shape is paramount. Machine washing can be tough on a bag’s structure, but with a few smart steps, your handbag will look as good as new. First, be diligent about how you remove the bag from the washing machine. Be gentle; it’s best not to wring or twist the bag, as this can distort its form.

One key strategy is to stuff your handbag with soft materials as it dries. You can use acid-free tissue paper or a clean, dry towel. This internal support prevents the sides from collapsing and helps maintain the handbag’s form. Be sure not to overstuff, which can stretch the fabric and create an unnatural shape.

A secret technique from the fashion industry is to utilize specifically designed inserts that are shaped to fit different styles of handbags. These bag shapers provide a custom fit that supports all aspects of the bag’s structure. Although an investment, they’re worth considering if you’re keen on keeping your handbag in top-notch condition.

Moreover, pay attention to the base of the handbag. If it’s a soft-sided bag, place it on a flat surface while drying. For handbags with a defined base, ensure that it is properly supported and not sagging. You might need to adjust the stuffing or add more support as the handbag dries to ensure it doesn’t settle into an unwanted shape.

By being proactive and attentive to the shape and structure of your bag post-wash, you’ll maximize its longevity and preserve its aesthetic appeal. Keep reshaping and supporting the handbag as needed until it’s completely dry. With these methods, you’ll avoid the disappointment of a misshapen handbag and ensure your favorite accessory stands the test of time—and laundry days.


You’ve got all the know-how to keep your handbag looking fresh and fabulous even after a spin in the washing machine. Remember, it’s all about the care you take before, during, and after the wash to maintain that just-bought look. Treat your bag with a little TLC, and it’ll reward you by staying in top-notch shape for all your adventures. Here’s to clean, beautiful handbags that are as ready to go as you are!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I machine wash any handbag?

Most handbags are not suitable for machine washing. You should only machine wash handbags made of durable, machine-washable fabrics, and always check the care label for washing instructions.

How do I prepare my handbag for machine washing?

Before washing your handbag, empty all its compartments, close all zippers and fastenings, and if available, place the bag inside a mesh laundry bag for extra protection during the wash.

What is the recommended way to dry a handbag after machine washing?

To dry a handbag after washing, gently shake out excess water and air dry it in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Use a towel to stuff the bag to maintain its shape and rotate periodically for even drying.

How do I maintain my handbag’s shape after washing?

Maintain your handbag’s shape by stuffing it with soft materials like towels or bubble wrap, using specially designed handbag inserts, and paying particular attention to supporting the base of the handbag.

Can leather and faux-leather handbags be machine washed and dried?

Leather and faux-leather bags should not be machine washed. Follow the specific care instructions on the label for cleaning and drying these materials to avoid damage.

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