How to Protect and Clean Textured Fabrics

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Velvet, suede, wool, leather, and cashmere (when it’s on sale) are some of my favorite fabrics…in clothing, hats, shoes and accessories. Textured materials need special storing and cleaning though, and after investing the time and money in finding the perfect piece, you want to make sure you keep it looking great.


Protect It:

Rain, snow and slush can do damage to your suede clothing, shoes and accessories. If you pretreat them with a water and stain-resistant spray you can help prevent potential stains and keep your suede items looking new. Avoid storing suede clothing and accessories in plastic dry-cleaning bags; plastic can cause mold and mildew growth. Instead, use pillowcases, shoe bags or garment bags. Purses and accessories can be wrapped in tissue paper to keep them fresh looking. Don’t store in places too hot (which can damage suede), full of natural light (which can fade suede) or in damp places, which can encourage mold and mildew.

Clean It:

If clothes or shoes get wet, soak up the excess moisture with a clean towel. Let dry naturally…don’t use a heat source to speed up the process. After the suede dries, restore the nap with a suede brush. A nail file can help remove dry mud and scuff marks on suede shoes. Gently file away stains with delicate strokes or use a suede brush. For oil stains, you can rub talcum powder or cornmeal directly on the spot. After several hours, brush off the powder. Repeat if necessary. Take suede pieces to a dry cleaner to be professionally cleaned.


Protect It:

As soon as you buy leather, you should spray it with a stain repellent and conditioner. A silicone-based spray is best as mink oil can lighten leather. But don’t ever use silicone spray on suede! Each time you don a pair of leather shoes or leather clothing, wipe it down with a soft, dry cloth to get rid of any dust, which can collect in creases and rub at the finish. If you apply a shoe conditioner on a regular basis, this will help replace any lost oils and keep leather supple. Shoe polish will also help keep your leather shoes and boots looking new longer. You should always test on a small area to ensure it’s the right color. A cream polish is better than one that contains alcohol…alcohol-based polish can dry out leather. As with suede, you shouldn’t store leather in plastic and using padded hangers will help keep leather from losing its shape.

Clean It:

Leather should be cleaned by a professional, but for small stains here are some tips. Remember - you should ALWAYS test on a small area first so you don’t ruin it. Small ink stains can usually be removed by dipping a cotton swab in alcohol and dabbing the spot. Let it sit for 20 minutes and then wipe with a dry towel. If it’s a large ink spot, take it to the cleaners. Oil and grease stains can be cleaned like suede…use talcum powder or cornmeal, let sit for several hours and then brush off. *Do not ever use water on oil and grease stains as this can actually spread the stain. Salt spots (common in the winter) can be removed by using a damp cloth…wipe and let dry naturally. For stubborn salt stains, a mixture of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water can be applied with a cotton ball and then let dry naturally.


Protect It:

Store velvet clothing and accessories in a cool, dry and dark place to prevent moisture-absorption and fading. Use cloth-or velvet-covered hangers; they won’t leave impressions on your clothing. Folding velvet can leave hard to get rid of creases…if you must fold it, put tissue paper between the folds. If you do get mild creases, a steamer can be used with the item turned inside out. A steam-filled bathroom can also help remove creases or you can hold the velvet item over a pot of boiling water…making sure you don’t get the velvet wet. Never iron velvet and if you do get it wet, don’t blot it because it can press the pile down. Just shake the water off and let dry naturally.

Clean It:

Check what the manufacturers label says. Some types of velvet can go in the washing machine, a lot can’t. For any small dirt or stained areas you can try scrubbing with a dry, soft toothbrush. Scrub any dirt or stained area repeatedly, but not any harder than the rest of the shoe or garment. (You can tell if you are using the right amount of pressure if the bristles of the toothbrush are only slightly bending as you scrub the velvet.) If dry scrubbing is not enough…mix a small amount of liquid dish sop with lukewarm water. Stir the soap and water with the handle of the toothbrush so suds are created. Scoop some of the suds (not the water) onto the bristles of the toothbrush and wipe them onto the stain. Lightly scrub, stopping after a few minutes to blot the spot clean of the suds. Dry with a clean cloth. Let it rest for about 20 minutes and then apply again if the stain is still there.


Both wool and cashmere can be cared for in the same way. Avoid hanging these pieces to help them keep their shape. According to the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers, only heavy-duty cashmere jackets or coats should be stored on hangers. For the best protection, they should be kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, like folded in a drawer or non-plastic sweater bag. If there are any embellishments on an article, it should be wrapped in tissue paper to protect it from pulling on another item. To prevent pilling, avoid wearing purse straps over your shoulder because the friction can wear away at the cashmere fibers and make them more likely to pill. Be careful of jewelry too. Cashmere and wool attract moths so store with cedar chips/blocks, herbed sachets or moth balls.

Clean It:

Launder these pieces after every couple of wears. They may not look dirty to you, but invisible stains can attract moths. Always follow the item’s care label to see if it can be handwashed at home.If it can, use a gentle detergent (like Woolite) and make sure to lay the piece flat on a towel to dry. These fabrics can shrink in the dryer…I’ve had wool sweaters shrink so much, they looked like they were for dolls!

When I buy wool sweaters from the thrift stores I put them in the freezer before laundering…they could contain moth eggs or larvae, which will spread to your other clothes. Freezing temperatures will kill any eggs or larvae.

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