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How to Care for Your Beautiful, Vulnerable Velvet Shoes

“If they do get wet, how do I deal?”

A woman's feet clad in pink velvet high heels. Photo: Melanie Galea/The Street Muse/Trunk Archive

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Out, Damned Spot has long provided general tips to keep your fashions looking amazing, but now, twice a month, I'll also be answering questions about the very specific problems your new (or old!) purchases may present. Do you have questions for me? Ask away!

I just got a pair of gorrrrgeous black velvet high tops that I'd like to wear more regularly than just on dry, sunny days. Can I spray them with the same waterproofing spray that I use on my leather/suede boots? If they do get wet, how do I deal? Thank you! — Kelley

Velvet is having such a moment right now, and it's great to know that its reputation as a delicate fabric precedes it, because that means people know that it requires special handling. And require special handling velvet does! Because much like haircalf, velvet can easily become crushed and matted, which will lead to bald patches over time.

Also as with haircalf, velvet accessories are the kind of items that require the checking of weather reports. That's not to say that we can't treat your velvet sneakers in order to make them more resilient in the face of inclement weather, because we can, but even with protectants, you'll still want to avoid wearing velvet shoes in, say, a monsoon.

Protective Coating Products for Velvet

When it comes to velvet accessories, whether they be a pair of shoes or a couch, it's a good idea to apply a protective coating to help repel stains. However, you should be careful to check the manufacturer's instructions before using products that are designed for use on leather or suede, because not all of them are safe to use on velvet and other textiles.

If you want to go with a shoe care product that is safe on velvet as well as suede and leather, Tarrago Hightech Nano Protector is a good option. The Tarrago products have a good reputation, though with that good reputation also comes a slightly higher price point than other shoe protectants.

The other option you have in terms of applying a protective coating to your velvet shoes is to use an upholstery protector on those shoes. Just as with shoe protectors, it's important to check that the product you're using is safe for velvet. Scotchgard can be used on velvet — keep that in mind if you have velvet furniture or home accessories, as well! — and though it won't make the shoes entirely waterproof, it will help to protect against staining and water damage. Vectra Furniture, Carpet and Fabric Protector Spray, while much more expensive than Scotchgard, will provide much more waterproofing power, so if a water repellent is really crucial to you, that will be the thing to use on those kicks.

How to Apply Protective Coatings to Velvet

Because velvet is a fabric that has a nap to it, technique is important when it comes to applying a protective coating. The incorrect use of a protective spray can lead to the nap becoming matted, which will leave crushed-looking patches on the velvet.

When using a spray protector, be very careful to keep the spray at a distance of at least six inches. You should aim to mist the velvet with the protectant, so that the product settles lightly on the fabric rather than saturating it, which can created matted patchiness that will make your velvet look old and damaged.

Post-application, it's also a very good idea to brush the shoes out after the protectant has dried to reduce any matting that the product may have caused. A clothes brush like the Evercare Magik Brush is a great choice for the job, and will also be crucial for regular maintenance of your velvets.

Maintaining Velvet

A good protector will go a long way in ensuring that your velvet apparel enjoys a long and healthy life, but you should also use a clothes brush regularly for maintenance. The brush will help to remove dirt and grit that accumulates and will keep the velvet from becoming crushed. This may sound extreme, but ideally, you should brush your velvet shoes after every wear. This is also true of velvet garments like blazers, the nap of which will become lightly crushed by dint of regular wear; giving your velvets a quick brushing after wear will help to ensure that creases and matted patches don’t become permanent, which will eventually lead to bald patches.

It's also important to be mindful of how you store velvet items: Velvet shouldn't be folded, as creasing will damage the nap. If wrinkles or creases do mar your velvet, use a steamer to ease them out; never, ever (ever, ever) use an iron on velvet, as it will thoroughly crush the nap.

Speaking of crushed velvet! (And, man, that was a sentiment I hoped never to revisit; I'm still scarred from the crushed velvet T-shirt trend in the late '90s.) Before we wrap up, how about a quick detour to talk about cleaning velvet clothing? Sure, let's do that!

The two most common types of velvet used for clothing and accessories are pure velvet and crushed or polyester velvet. Always check the care tags for cleaning instructions, but a good general guideline you can follow is that pure velvet should be dry cleaned, while crushed or poly velvet can be machine washed in cold water. If you are going to machine wash velvet items, place the garment in a mesh bag to protect the nap from getting crushed or damaged by heavy clothes or metal fasteners; ideally, you should wash velvet with similarly delicate items or on its own. Always air dry velvet items by laying them flat.