Suede’s soft, pliable feel makes it the perfect choice for high-end handbags and other accessories. Although suede has a reputation for being delicate and will stain from contact with water, it’s also surprisingly resilient. Often, a regular brushing — and being careful where you set it down — is all you need to keep your suede handbags looking new.
What Brushing Can Do
Suede’s nap — the fibers that give it a soft, velvety texture — is the key to both its delicacy and its resilience. The nap shows dirt, mud and scuffs very easily, but a quick treatment with a suede brush is usually all it takes to lift the nap back up, brush away any lingering dirt, and leave the handbag looking as good as new.
Don’t try to substitute a different sort of brush — suede brushes have soft copper bristles tucked among even softer rubber bristles, offering just the right amount of stiffness to lift the nap back up without damaging it. Work at the suede using short, gentle strokes in one consistent direction until it returns to a soft, even texture throughout.
Dealing With Water Spots
Water will stain suede quickly, so blot up any spots or stains right away. Dab the water away — don’t wipe — or place a towel on either side of the stain and add a weight on top. Leave it there until the towel has sopped up all the liquid from the suede. Never use heat to dry your suede handbag; always let it air dry. If it’s really soaked, stuff some white butcher paper inside to help soak up the water and maintain the handbag’s shape at the same time.
Once the suede is dry, it’s time to get out your suede brush. A good brushing may be all it takes to lift the nap back up and conceal any water stains. If that doesn’t do the job, you have the option of misting the entire handbag with water, brushing it while damp, waiting for it to dry, then brushing it one more time. The handbag will be a little darker than at first, but at least it’ll be a uniform color without any obvious stains.
Dealing With Stains
If dry-brushing isn’t enough to remove your suede handbag’s stains, there are a few other options you can try — but first, step away from the soap and water! They’ll spoil the texture of the suede, as will chemical cleaners. Instead, try using a clean pencil eraser, a suede cleaning block (which works the same as an eraser), or a towel dipped in white vinegar to dab away the stains.
Brush the eraser, cleaning block or towel gently across the suede surface in one direction, just as you’d do with a suede brush, then let it air dry. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to bring out the big guns: A store-bought suede degreaser is sometimes effective, especially if you’re dealing with the body oil stains left by frequent handling.
If the stain still lingers, your last and best option is taking your handbag to a professional leather cleaner. Don’t detour by the dry cleaners on your way. They can handle suede fabric, but suede leather is an entirely different matter and should go straight to the leather experts.