A professional cleaning can do wonders for your bag. Photos: Hallak cleaners

Traumatic. Heart wrenching. Financially devastating. That's how I felt when my $600 suede Lena Erziak hobo was heavily damaged by red wine at a party back in October .

Not willing to administer at-home cleaning, I called Hallak Cleaners, as seen in Glamour and The Wall Street Journal, to work their magic. Within a week, my handbag arrived freshly cleaned and ready for new, bag-a-licious adventures. Credit card damage, although well worth it, was $125.

Being the frugal gal I am, I wanted to take this opportunity to get the inside scoop on how and when I could avoid using expert cleaners. Joseph Hallak, partner of Hallak Cleaners shares some "dirty" secrets:

StyleList: Is there a way I could have removed the red wine stain from my suede handbag at home?
Joseph Hallak: If you caught it right away, it is possible to try and work out a fresh wine stain from suede, at home. A dry stain, which is what you had, is harder and requires professionals.

SL: What are some absolute don'ts when it comes to home cleaning?
JH: Never apply cleaning product directly to your handbag. Never use paper towels or napkins to work a stain. The cloth fibers from the paper break down and get into the nap of the suede. A white towel is the ideal option. Also, when dealing with leathers, always test a small area with your cleaning substance to make sure there are no reactions.
SL: Pen marks are so common. Can we try cleaning them by ourselves?
JH: Ink on suede should be left to experts. If it's pen on leather it depends on the leather. Dyed or naked skin leather should be brought to a professional because it's too delicate and will absorb whatever substance you try to use at home. If it's painted skin, which is less expensive, apply a little Windex or leather cleaner from a shoe maker onto a white towel, test a small area to make sure there is no reaction and then just gently work the stain.

SL: What do we do about pesky grease stains?
JH: With grease you have to be careful how you work on it at home. If you have an expensive bag, to really remove it you need spot and stain remover that is not available at home. If it's a cheap handbag, you can try lemon dish detergent with water and rub it down a bit over the damaged area.

PP: Hallak Cleaners has worked directly with some amazing fashion houses. Can you drop some names?
JH: We have accounts with YSL, Pucci, Bottega Venetta, and others that we can't mention. Usually what happens is a customer brings something to the store, for instance Gucci, and then Gucci calls us to clean the merchandise.