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Handbag 101:
Caring for suede

By Koyaana R. April 19, 2019

Suede: the luxurious and velvety soft nap finish of leather.

While beautiful, with an ability to add texture to any ensemble, suede is one of the most difficult leathers to take care of. 

What is suede?


Suede is the inner surface of leather that has been rubbed to produce a velvet nap finish. It can also be described as having a light “pile” when the process is complete. This nap, or pile, is what distinguishes suede from other types of leather. It is incredibly versatile and most commonly used for handbags, whether as an interior or exterior material.


Common Problems


Many of the issues with suede wear are unavoidable due to the nature of the material itself. However, if you’re aware of these common problems, it’s much easier to avoid them.

  1. Moisture Absorption – One of the drawbacks of suede is its lack of hydrophobic properties. Unlike other leathers and their finishes, when moisture makes contact with suede it absorbs the liquid and leaves behind marks.
  2. Dirt Visibility – Due to suede’s unique finish, the texture shows dirt and wear incredibly easily.
  3. Wear Is Visible – Wear creates inconsistency in the nap causing various shades to appear, making suede look dingy and dirty. When worn down, nap becomes clumpy and appears stringy.
  4. Scratch Prone – Most suede is very soft and pliable, making it susceptible to scratches. Even when the lightest of scratches appear, the overall look can be marred.




When working with suede it’s important to remember this basic rule: never use moisture or liquid products. Unfortunately, due to its fragile nature, suede also cannot be rubbed vigorously, making cleaning options very limited. However, there are several items you should have on hand if you own suede. It is best to clean suede as soon as any issues occur. Stains are less likely to lighten or disappear the longer they remain untreated. Also, it is important to note that you must brush with the pile of suede

  1. Suede Brush – This double-sided brush is great for getting loosely affixed dirt off. Simply brush the spot in even strokes with the rubber bristle side and dislodge the debris followed by the brush bristle side to fluff the nap.
  2. Rubber Eraser – Surprisingly, rubber erasers are a very useful tool for lightening small stains like pen marks and small dark scuffs. Rub the spot on the suede that needs to be removed and then follow with the brush bristles of the suede brush.
  3. Microfiber Towel – This is always good to have on hand should there be any stains that are caused by moisture. It’s best to dry the suede immediately by dabbing up as much as you can.
  4. Cornstarch – Oil-based stains, while generally much more difficult to remove and may require a specialist, can be lightened with the use of cornstarch. Lightly coat the area with cornstarch and let sit overnight. Dry wipe the cornstarch off of the suede and use the suede brush to brush any excess off.