For a woman, it’s her entire life encapsulated - salon, kitchen, communications centre, emergency room, all packed into one portable command station.
To men it’s a mystery - a Pandora’s box, containing who knows what, and only to be entered under pain of death.
It’s also dirtier than a toilet seat.
According to German research, a woman’s handbag - okay, some women’s handbags - can contain up to 10,000 types of bacteria in the space of a few square centimetres.
My Bag Spa’s Alex How has found scraps of food, rubbish and even dog or cat urine in handbags.
“Dog and cat pee are the worst... we have to wear gloves and a mask to remove those smells or else our skin starts to itch,” he told The Herald Sun.
A 2013 Science World Report showed that handbags have around ten times the microbial activity present in a toilet seat.
Also talking to The Herald Sun, Roxanna Pelka of online cleaning company Helpling said: ‘It’s not a surprise, as our hands can be pretty contaminated by bacteria.”
Referencing another study, from The University of Colorado Boulder, Ms Pelka stated that: “4,700 different bacteria species live in the human hands - our hands touch everything and certainly all the things you have inside of your handbag, also contaminating it.”
Mr How added: “The condition of the bag really depends on the person using it.
“We have very old ladies come in and their bag is in perfect condition because they only use it for special occasions but a 30-year-old will come in with a bag that is totally trashed. They take a Prada bag to the beach, to work, to the cafes and nightclubs. Women now carry their whole life in their handbag.”
How to keep your handbag clean
* If you are carrying food in your bag, keep it in a sealed container.
* When in a public toilet, don’t put your bag on the floor - hang it on the hook on the back of the door.
* Clean your hands before rummaging through your bag, especially if you’ve been out and about or been on public transport or in a taxi.
* Remove rubbish and food items, as well as old bottles of hand cream - a real bacteria breeding ground
* Have a regular clear-out!