How to Care for Suede, According to an Expert

The care and keeping of fashion's most finicky fabric.

Sonia Lyson seen wearing Miu Miu white / black knit bra, Miu Miu brown suede leather jacket, Miu Miu white leather Pocket bag, Zara blue denim long skirt, on September 03, 2023 in Berlin, Germany.
(Image credit: Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images)

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 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—from shoes to bags to jackets—last from season to season to season.

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 once or twice per year with Moneysworth&Best Pro-Tex Water + Stain Protector. It doesn’t mess with the color or texture of the suede.”

Invest in a Suede Brush

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

Store Suede Properly

“When you're 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."

Know When to Wear Suede

You can keep yourself from getting into this (literal) mess 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," says Polychronakis. "The denim leaves a stain around the rim."

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. Polychronakis warns that salt and other salt-like chemicals eat away at the suede.

The Best Products for Suede Upkeep

Meet the Expert

Menia Polychronakis
Menia Polychronakis

Asimenia "Menia" Polychronakis is an experienced cobbler at Mina's Shoe Repair in New York City.

Katie Attardo

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