A white front-load washing machine

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

No one plans to put their heritage-quality leather wallet through the washing machine. But sometimes, mistakes happen. As Greg Universe likes to say, “if every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.” 


So what’s a guy to do when his once-perfect wallet tumbles through the washing machine with a pair of jeans? 


This doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your wallet. 


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

Saving Your Contents If Your Wallet Goes Through the Washing Machine

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. 


Some things, including photographs, will likely have perished in the washing machine. Other items may or may not be salvageable. 

Will money survive a washing machine?

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


The good news is that your cash probably looks fine — though a bit wrinkled. And most retailers will still accept it. The bad news is that detergent and heat ruin your money’s security features.  Ultimately, this means that the paper money will be recycled once it hits the next bank. 


But if you’re dealing with large amounts of money, there’s a chance that it won’t pass security checks. This means there’s a chance that a retailer won’t accept your cash once it’s been through the wash. 

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. 


On the other hand, if your card looks fine, you can test it at a local store before assuming it’s dead. Just be sure to have another form of payment on hand in case the processing chip has died and your card doesn’t 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 any more. 


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. 

Rescuing Your Leather If Your Wallet Goes Through the Washing Machine

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. 


Both the washing process and the harsh chemicals in your washing machine will have leached the natural oils from your wallet. Without proper treatment, this can leave your wallet feeling dry. It may even cause your wallet to wrinkle or crack down the road. 


To prevent this, invest in a high-quality conditioning balm specially designed to treat leather. Massage the balm into the leather, allowing the oil to enrich the material. It may take two or three treamtents for your leather to return to the 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 more 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. 


Adding extreme heat to your wallet can cause the leather to wrinkle and crack. 


You can try going through the rest of the steps to clean and condition your wallet to see if it’s still usable. But if your wallet has gone through the dryer, you will likely need to replace it. 

The beauty of patina is embracing your wallet’s history

Scuffed Leather Wallet
Patina comparison of two leather wallets

The hard truth is that if your wallet has been through the washing machine, it may never be quite the same as it was. 


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 went through the dryer as well as the washing machine.


Fortunately, one of the beauties of full-grain leather is that your leather goods are always changing. Patina develops over years of use (and even misuse). The result is that your leather wallet will never look quite the same as someone else’s leather wallet. 


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. 


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.