How to clean a suede purse

Cleaning a suede purse can be particularly scary if you've ever ended up with water stains, dirt that spreads to other parts of the bag, or completely destroyed the shape of the purse. Use these steps to keep your suede purse clean.

Your suede might not actually be suede, but that can be good news if it's dirty

Suede is a type of leather that is made from the underskin of leather. It has a softer and more fluffy surface than "regular" leather. If you turn leather inside out, you should normally have suede leather on this side.

Therefore, suede is often used as a lining inside high-end handbags. Sometimes, the suede you see as a lining is just the back of the leather used in the bag. But most of the time, you will have the leather showing on the outside glued to something harder to stabilise the bag, and then a layer of suede glued onto this again.

It has also become more popular to use a type of microfiber that looks and feels like suede because it can often be made lighter and thinner, vegan, in recyclable material, and it can be easier to clean. We use a 40% recycled, high-end microfiber inside our bags that make them easier to clean, and it has the same surface and feel as suede.

Inside a handbag with microfibre lining

Create friction with a suede brush

Because of the fluffy and nappy surface of suede, you can clean it quite well just by using the right type of brush. You can find rough suede brushes to use on both handbags and shoes.But you can also use a toothbrush or even try with an eraser.

Brushing the suede with any of these things will create friction which often pushes dirt and stains off.

So if you want to clean a suede purse, you should always begin by brushing it. This might be enough, but you might also have to wash it gently after.

Don't soak your suede purse

Suede, like other types of leather, will not hold its shape well if it becomes soaked in water or if it's stored in the wrong position. Since it's the underside of the skin, it is softer and more fragile than leather, and it can more easily be destroyed.

While you can use water carefully on some suede, using too much can destroy it. It can leave stains that are hard to remove, and it can also leave the bag stretched out without any proper shape.

Remove small spots with a q-tip

If you have a water stain on your suede purse that doesn't go away with brushing, one way to get rid of it is to use water on it again.

But when you remove any types of stains from a suede handbag, try treating the smallest area possible by using a q-tip. Dip it in a suede cleaner, a gentle soap or if everything else fails, rubbing alcohol.

Gently press this against the stain and try to remove it. You might not be able to remove all types of stains, as things like lipstick, foundation or ink are very difficult to treat.

You should also know that you run a risk of spreading the stain or ruining the suede if you use a cleaner that's too strong for your bag. Make sure you try it out on a small area that's less visible first.

Wash with a damp cloth

When you have finished removing smaller spots, use a cloth with a bit of water on it to wash over the surface. Try not to make it wet all the way through, as you don't want to damage the suede or other parts of your purse like glue.

Use a towel while you wash to soak up as much water as possible. And when you have finished cleaning it, you need to let it dry. You can use a towel or a hairdryer on a low-temperature setting (you don't want the heat to damage the leather or the glue in your purse).

If you leave it to dry, make sure that the purse is kept in the right shape, as you don't want it to stretch while it's wet.

Protect your surroundings from colour transfer

After the bag has dried, you can go over it again with the brush. This should move the fibres of the suede, so the colour looks more even and closer to what you started with. But note that there can be some colour changes.

For some suede that's treated with colour, it can come off as you wash it, so make sure you have a towel or paper underneath it, as you don't want a green bag to suddenly turn your carpet green as well.

Protect your suede handbag going forward

Suede purses can be very difficult to clean, and it's important to do as much as possible to avoid spilling anything on them in the first place.

Read about how to avoid spilling and damaging both the purse and its contents here.

Like with other types of leather, you should also use some form of special leather cleaner or conditioner to keep the surface moist. It will stay softer and also be more resistant to scratches and spills.

Clean your suede purse regularly and store it with a filler

You should keep to a regular cleaning schedule both for the inside and outside of your handbag, as bacteria quickly builds up and you risk spreading it to things you put inside your bag.

If you want to keep the shape of your suede purse long-term, you also have to be very careful about the way you store it. It should be filled with a pillow or some type of fabric and not be pushed closely into other bags. Read more about how to store handbags to avoid damaging them here.

It's particularly important to store the bag in the right shape if it's damp from being cleaned or from rainy weather.

For more handbag inspiration and tips, follow us on Instagram or sign up to our Women in Business Newsletter.

find your tribe on instagram

Join us for Fun, Feminist, Fashion!

If a handbag in a forest doesn't fit a laptop, does it make a sound?

Women Everywhere