A white front-load washing machine

What Happens If My Leather Wallet Goes Through the Washing Machine?

Many wonder “Can leather get wet?” 

People don't usually plan to put their heritage-quality leather wallets in the washing machine. However, they sometimes make mistakes. As Greg Universe says, “If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.” 

What should a guy do when his once-perfect wallet tumbles through the washing machine with a pair of jeans?

Your wallet doesn't need to face a death sentence. 

Cheaper wallets made of bottom-of-the-barrel “genuine leather” would likely be ruined by a washing machine. 

But you can salvage heritage-quality wallets made of full grain Horween Leather if you act quickly

Table of Contents

Can Leather Get Wet? Saving Wallet Contents After a Wash

Before you can begin to care for your wallet, the first step is to empty it out. This is a great time to take stock of its contents and see if any of them can be saved. 

For instance, the washing machine likely destroyed some things, including photographs. You might be able to salvage other items.

Will money survive a washing machine?

If your wallet goes through the washing machine with cash in it, there’s good news and there’s bad news. 

The good news: your cash likely appears okay albeit a little wrinkled, and most retailers will still accept it. However, detergent and heat ruin your money’s security features.  As a result, the next bank will recycle this paper money.

If you have a significant amount of money, it might not clear security checks. Consequently, a retailer may reject your washed cash.

Will credit and debit cards survive a washing machine?

Credit and debit cards are made of plastic, so you might expect that the washing machine wouldn’t impact them.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. 

While credit cards could be submerged in water and come out unscathed, your washing machine adds other factors, including: 

  • Detergent
  • Heat
  • Tumbling

All of these factors have the power to ruin the processing chip in your card and make it unusable. Additionally, there’s a chance that your card could become over-saturated and peel

If your card is bent, folded, or peeling, you can assume it doesn’t work. Request a new card with your bank. 

If your card looks fine, test it at a local store before you assume it's dead. Always keep another form of payment ready in case the processing chip dies and your card fails to work.

Will your license survive a washing machine?

If you have a paper driver’s license, there’s a good chance that the washing machine will have damaged it beyond repair. You will need to request a replacement license

On the other hand, if you have a plastic driver’s license, it’s probably fine. Dry it with a soft cloth. As long as the plastic is not separating, you can continue using it. 

Will gift cards survive a washing machine?

Most gift cards will survive a trip through the washing machine. However, if the magnetic strip has been damaged by detergent or heat, you may not be able to swipe the card anymore. 

Luckily, most gift cards include a number that can be manually entered by the participating retailer. So even if your card can’t be swiped, you should still have access to your funds

Can Leather Get Wet? How to Save Your Wallet After A wASH cycle

Once you’ve rescued the contents of your leather wallet, the next step is to rescue the wallet itself. This is a two-step process that includes drying your wallet and treating the leather.

Drying your leather wallet

Whenever your wallet becomes soaked with water — whether from the washing machine or a particularly rainy day — the first step is to dry it off

Start with a damp, gentle cloth, and wipe the surface of the wallet to remove any lingering debris or detergent

Next, set your wallet to dry in a closed position

The position you dry your wallet in is the position it will naturally try to spring back to. If you dry it in a closed position, it will help it stay closed in the future. 

You can either do this by hanging it in a closed position on a clothesline or by setting it on a dry, flat surface with something on top of it to keep it closed. 

The key is to give your wallet the time it needs to dry completely. Usually, this means leaving it to dry overnight. You may even need to leave it for 24-48 hours to dry completely. 

Conditioning your leather wallet

Once your wallet has dried, the next step is to condition the leather

The washing process and the harsh chemicals in your washing machine have leached the natural oil from your wallet. Without proper treatment, your wallet will feel dry. This might even make your wallet crinkle or crack down the road. 

Invest in a high-quality conditioning balm specially designed for leather to prevent this. Massage the balm into the leather, and let the oil enrich the material. Your wallet may need two or three leather treatments to regain its buttery-smooth texture you love. 

If you don’t have any conditioning balm on hand, your next best bet is to use a cooking oil instead. Vegetable oil works well to replace the oils naturally found in Horween leather. This may be greasy to the touch, but it will serve to rehydrate the fabric. 

If your leather wallet went through the dryer

Unfortunately, if your wallet went through both the washer and the dryer, it may be damaged beyond repair

Extreme heat can make your wallet's leather wrinkle and crack. 

Follow the remaining steps to clean and condition your wallet to determine if you can still use it. However, if you've put it through the dryer, you likely need to replace it.

The beauty of patina is embracing your wallet’s history

The hard truth is that if you put your wallet through the washing machine, it may never look quite the same as it did. 

Horween leather, handstitched with tiger thread, is meant to be heritage-quality. This means that even a trip through the washing machine shouldn’t tear the wallet apart. It should still be functional

However, there’s a chance that the leather may be wrinkled or creased as it never was before. This is especially true if it goes through the dryer as well as the washing machine.

Fortunately, the beauty of full-grain leather lies in the constant change of your leather goods. Use (and misuse) develops patina over time. As a result, your leather wallet never looks like someone else's.

Let yourself embrace your wallet’s unique history. There’s a beauty in the patina it develops, even if it was helped along the way by a trip through the washing machine. 

Article by Ryan Popoff

Ryan Popoff is the creative mind behind Popov Leather wallets, iPhone cases, belts, watch bands and journals since 2013. With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, my leatherworking journey began at home. I wanted to create a simple leather wallet that could fit into my front pocket and — to my delight — it was a hit with family and friends. Hopefully you love our honest, quality leather goods too! Reach out with questions.

1 comment

  • laarnie gapal

    Thanks a lot,it really helps me with the leather wallet of my ward,i was so scared like its the end of my world..

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