By Alison Syrett Cleary
Updated Aug 17, 2016 @ 11:30 am
Kirstin Sinclair/Getty

“Do you have this in suede?”

Salespeople around the world better brace themselves to hear that question many times over in the near future. Out of the abundance of rich textures dominating fashion right now—velvet, brocade, satin—the softly napped finish arguably has made the biggest splash, popping up everywhere from big-name designer shows (including, for fall, spots at Tibi, Ralph Lauren, and Balmain), to celebrity sightings (Kendall and Gigi, particularly, love it on an over-the-knee boot), to our Instagram feeds (take a 30 second scroll right now and just try to avoid it). “Suede is the new leather!” our Accessories Director Sam Broekema boldly proclaimed in a meeting last week, and then paused. “But it’s a lot harder to clean.”

Agree? The five expert maintenance tips, below—straight from David Mesquita, Leather Spa’s vice president (slash damaged shoe and handbag doctor)—can help with that. Keep scrolling for a stain- and scuff-free way to get in on this season's biggest trend.

1. Protective Spray Is a Must

“The first thing you want to do (with any suede purchase) is spray it with a protectant. There are several versions to choose from, like Scotchguard, but I recommend Leather Spa’s water and stain repellant. It's not waterproof, but repellant, which means it doesn't seal up the material's pores—it lets the piece breathe while protecting it. This minimizes odor and sweating.

Before spraying the whole item, do a little test spot (to be sure there are no adverse reactions), while holding the nozzle roughly eight inches away. Also, don’t be afraid to apply more than once. It is fine to use a spray that doesn’t seal the material's pores (like ours) on the same style several times. So if you’re going out at night and wearing, say, your nice suede shoes, why not add a fresh coat?”

2. Invest In a Suede Brush and Eraser

“Because of suede’s fibers, dirt and dust acclimation are the most common damage people encounter—both of which, fortunately, come right out with a brush and eraser. You may see a shiny spot and think that’s a stain, too, but it’s probably a temporary mark from being touched or rubbed against something. A few strokes with a brush should take care of it. If your suede has been pre-treated and you take action away, you'd be surprised (at the types of food and beverage) stains that lift. An eraser is best for something that’s a bit more stubborn; then just use the brush to smooth the fibers down."

3. Oil Marks, However, Are a Far Tricker Problem to Handle

“Oil stains are very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to remove. That said, if you deal with the stain right away, talcum powder or baking soda can help. Wait until the powder starts to adsorb the liquid, wipe it off and add more until you’ve removed all you can. But there's really no secret for getting all the oil out. Lighter colors are hit hardest—with a dark shade, you always can the option of going darker to conceal it. Just remember: The stain itself will get darker, too, because you can't apply the dye without covering the oil spot.

4. Never, ever, use leather conditioner.

“Applying leather conditioner is probably the biggest mistake people make with suede. Yes, suede is leather, but the conditioner is meant for regular leather, not the underside that’s the sueded part. Imagine it as taking skin moisturizer and applying it to your hair. No bueno.”

5. Keep in mind you are caring for actual skin.

“Think of it this way: Every night, before going to bed, you have a cleansing routine for your face—so offer your shoes and bags the same courtesy! When you get home at night and are done wearing a piece for the day, take your suede brush and brush the hair to remove dust before putting it away in your closet. When you take proper care of it, suede lasts a really a long time.”