How to Care for Suede, According to an Expert

So your shoes, bags, and jackets will last and last.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

take care of it

(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Welcome to Take Care of It, where we'll share best practices for the upkeep and maintenance of luxury fashion purchases—because we know you want to keep them forever.

A few years ago, I splurged on a pair of gorgeous brown suede Saint Laurent boots that have since become my all-time favorites. Though the suede finish once felt buttery, today they’re not nearly as soft or lust-worthy—as result of the numerous times I’ve accidentally worn them on a rainy day and stepped into a giant N.Y.C. sewage puddle. To find out how to get my solemates looking brand-new again, I turned to Menia Polychronakis, of Mina’s Shoe Repair—a fashion editor mainstay that's been in business for nearly 50 years, and has worked on shoes for the likes of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and Bjork. Polychronakis is a staunch suede advocate, despite the maintenance that comes with owning the material. Here, she shared her top tips for making suede—bags, jackets, shoes, etc.—last from season to season to season.

1. Waterproof Your Suede From the Start

“I strongly recommend waterproofing all suede items before wearing them,” Polychronakis says. “This prevents stains from setting in if something is spilled and makes suede easier to clean. I recommend spraying the items 1–2 a year with Moneysworth&Best Pro-Tex Water + Stain Protector. It doesn’t mess with the color or texture of the suede.”

2. Invest in a Suede Brush

“Purchase a suede brush to brush off dust and dirt. If there are scuffs and surface dirt, a suede eraser/stone can be used to remove most of the dirt,” something your local repair shop should be able to do for you, she adds.

3. Store Suede Properly

“When not wearing your suede items, keep them covered in a box or shoe bag to prevent dust build up,” Polychronakis notes. “If your suede items are heavily soiled I would advise taking it to a professional to be cleaned. A professional can definitely remove mud, dirt and salt stains. Ink is pretty permanent, so please keep ink pens closed and far away from suede and leather.

Best Products for Suede Upkeep:

4. Wear Suede at the Right Times

Keep yourself from getting into this mess (literally) in the first place, by being savvy with your outfit-building: “Always think twice when wearing dark denim with light colored suede shoes or a purse. The denim leaves a stain around the rim,” warns Polychronakis.

And, while waterproofing does, in fact, help a great deal when it comes to protecting your suede items, think twice before wearing them in bad weather. Salt and other salt-like chemicals eat away at the suede, she adds.

Katie Attardo

Katie Attardo is the Accessories Editor at Marie Claire, covering all things fashion and jewelry-related.