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Cleaning & restoring handbags: Perfection vs best achievable results

By: Stu Bloom

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When it comes to cleaning and/or restoring handbags and other accessories, perfection is almost always unattainable

If perfection can almost never be attained, aim for the best achievable result

The $64,000 question

 

Let’s start with an analogy.

A patient visits her doctor with one or more heath-related complaints. The doctor carefully reviews the patient’s medical history, examines the patient and identifies the symptoms. Next, the doctor diagnoses the problem(s) and prescribes a course of action designed to alleviate the patient’s ailments.

Will the patient recover? Completely? Partially? 

Maybe.

Can the doctor guarantee that the patient will recover? Completely? Partially? 

Of course, not.

That’s why you’re required to sign a release from legal liability every time you visit a doctor or hospital.

We’ll, it’s no different when it comes to cleaning and/or restoring handbags, purses, wallets, backpacks, briefcases and items of luggage.

Here’s the reality: 99% of the handbags and other accessories brought in, picked up or sent in to a handbag specialist for cleaning and/or reconditioning have seen prior usage — sometimes extensive prior usage. Even abuse.

If you accept the premise that a handbag cleaning specialist cannot guarantee that your accessory can be cleaned and/or restored to perfection, what results can you reasonably expect when it comes to cleaning and restoring a handbag or other accessory?

The perfection one would find in a brand new, identically-styled, identically-colored handbag currently on display in a boutique or department store?

Or the best technologically achievable result based on the skills of the handbag cleaning specialist, the processes employed and time available to get the job done?

Most reasonable clients would agree that perfection is unattainable and that they’re looking for the best technologically achievable result.

Why unattainable?

 

There are basically 3 reasons why perfection is almost unattainable:

1. Manufacturers never intended that their handbags ever be cleaned

 

It’s important to understand that the manufacturers of handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks design and market their accessories on the basis of esthetics and functionality. Not on the basis of serviceability.

In other words, handbags, purses, wallets and backpacks are not manufactured with the intention that they ever be cleaned and/or restored. So it’s possible that an accessory cannot be cleaned and/or restored to acceptable quality standards.

We see this most often in cases where skins and other materials are used in combination.

Let’s say that you spilt red wine onto a white canvas/black leather trim handbag. Let’s further say that the black “dye” leached into the white canvas as a result of the spill. In this case, a handbag specialist might not be able remove all of the “dye” (particularly the “dye” that’s closest to the intersection of the white canvas and the black leather trim) for fear that the chemical agents used to remove the red wine stain will further leach the black “dye” onto the white canvas.

While the handbag specialist might be able to improve the condition of the handbag, perfection is unattainable.

We also see this on skins that require refinishing or “repainting” but, given the type of skin involved, cannot be refinished or “repainted”.

Let’s say that you scuffed the paint on a leather handbag that, not only required cleaning and conditioning, but also required “touch up” of the paint or a complete “repainting”. Let’s further say that the type of leather used in the construction of the handbag is such that leather “paints” cannot easily adhere to the skin. In this case, a handbag specialist has a more limited number of tools with which to work.

While the handbag specialist might be able to improve the condition of the handbag, perfection is unattainable.

2. There are an infinite number of combinations of different problems

 

It’s impossible to prescribe a”one shot” solution to any problem involving a handbag, purse, wallet, backpack, briefcase and item of luggage. That because there are an infinite number of combinations of:

  • different types of skins,
  • different qualities of skins
  • different non-skin materials
  • different colors
  • different types of stains
  • different degrees of soiling
  • different degrees of scratches
  • different degrees of color variations.

In other words, the approach to cleaning and/or restoring any leather or leather-trimmed accessory with a stain or scratch must be carefully tailored to the accessory in question.

Clearly, there are an infinite number of variables involved. While the handbag specialist might be able to improve the condition of the handbag, perfection is unattainable.

3. Cleaning alone may not be adequate

 

Our experience with handbags and other accessories boils down to this: Cleaning alone may not do the trick. You might be able to lighten a stain or scratch to the point that it’s not too visible, but you might not be able to restore it to wearable condition.

It’s far more likely that the solution will have to involve:

  • Hand cleaning the handbag, purse, wallet or backpack inside and out.
  • Refinishing the handbag, purse, wallet or backpack to a color that exactly or very closely matches the original color of the leather or to a completely different color of the client’s choosing.
  • Reconditioning the leather to restore the suppleness.

Summary

 

No handbag cleaning specialist can guarantee that your handbag, purse, wallet, backpack, briefcase or piece of luggage can be cleaned and/or restored to perfection

Reasonable clients understand that perfection is, for the most part, unattainable.

Given that perfection is unattainable, reasonable clients should look for the best technologically achievable results.

 

Photo credit: unsplash.com/John Cobb

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Filed Under:

Handbags, Purses, Wallets & Handbags

Author

Stu Bloom

Stu Bloom is Founder and President of RAVE FabriCARE. RAVE FabriCARE, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, cares for fine garments, household textiles and accessories and serves clients throughout the USA and Canada. Stu is the author of various ebooks on these subjects, all of which are available from www.ravefabricare.com/freestuff. He is an evangelist for true quality cleaning and is a contributor to and editor of True Quality Cleaning, RAVE FabriCARE’s blog. You can find Stu on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Additional Resources:

http://ravefabricare.com/services/handbags-purses-wallets-backpacks/

http://ravefabricare.com/do-it-yourself-handbag-cleaning-exercise-caution-with-cleaning-products/

http://ravefabricare.com/shoe-repair-shop-handbag-cleaning-exercise-caution/

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