How to Clean Anything Velvet

Our resident cleaning expert on cleaning upholstery, clothing, and shoes made out of the season's most festive fabric.

It may surprise you to hear that velvet is currently enjoying A Moment. Velvet is a perennial favorite among the preppy set, and so, when fashion magazines declare things like, "Velvet Is Back!" and "This Isn't Your Grandmother's Velvet," you may wonder where velvet even went to in the first place. After all, everyone you know has been sporting their plush blazers and spiffy slippers for as long as you can remember.

Of course we know that velvet always has its moment, and that often that moment comes during the holiday season, when it pairs so jauntily with tartan and/or men's formalwear. We also know that velvet can be a difficult textile to maintain, as it can easily become matted and stained. January is a good time to inspect your velvet clothing and accessories, which may have taken a beating during the holidays.

You'll want a clothing brush to clean your velvet slippers


There are, essentially, two types of velvet used in clothing and accessories, with fairly easy-to-remember care instructions. Pure velvet should always be dry cleaned, while polyester or crushed velvet can be machine-washed in cold water. It is, naturally, a very good idea to check the care tag of velvet garments and accessories for cleaning instructions.

While machine washing polyester and crushed velvets is a perfectly fine choice, you should put the garment in a mesh washing bag, which will help to protect the delicate nap from damage that can be caused by metal fasteners on other clothing. It's also a good idea to wash your velvets alongside other delicates, to avoid abrasion damage that can be caused by heavy fabrics like denim.

Always air-dry velvet clothing by laying it flat after washing.



Regardless of whether your velvet poison of choice is a blazer, a skirt, or a pair of slippers, you will be well-served by investing in a clothing brush to maintain the delicate material. A clothing brush will allow you to remove the dirt and grit that accumulates in the course of regular wear, and is crucial to preventing bald patches from forming, which can happen when the velvet becomes crushed, creased, or matted.

Velvet should be brushed after every wear. That may sound extreme, but truly, it's an operation that will take you less than 30 seconds. And is 30 seconds too much time to devote to the care and keeping of your velvets? I think not.

Because the fabric is so temperamental, storing it properly between wears is as important as brushing it free of dirt and grit. Avoid folding velvet, and be mindful of your hanger choices; padded hangers are the right choice for anything velvet that needs to be hung. To remove creases and wrinkles, use a steamer, as irons will crush the nap.

Velvet shoes should be stored in shoe bags or boxes to prevent dust from accumulating and to ensure that the velvet doesn't become scratched or dinged by other shoes in your closet. When traveling, always pack your velvets carefully, by wrapping clothing and accessories in tissue and shoes in individual travel bags.


A protective coating, like 3M's Scotchgard, can help fend off stains and water damage, but it's important to know the potential drawbacks.

The first thing to check when purchasing a new velvet item is whether it has been treated to a protective coating by the manufacturer. If so, great, you're good to go. If not, it's an excellent idea to ask what the seller suggests by way of a protectant. (Be aware that the use of such a product may also negate any manufacturer guarantees if you wish to make a damage claim.)


If you do decide to use a protectant, check to be sure that it can be safely used on velvet, as many shoe protectors can only be used on hides like leather and suede, and should not be applied to textiles. Scotchgard is safe; Tarrago Hightech Nano Protector is another great option. Neither of those products, however, will render your velvets waterproof, so if you're specifically looking to ensure that your shoes can survive torrential rain and/or the festive spraying of champagne, Vectra Furniture, Carpet, and Fabric Protector Spray is what you want.

While protectants are a good thing to use on delicate velvets, the fussy nature of the fabric means that incorrect application technique can cause matting and patching. To avoid this, take pains to merely mist the fabric—rather than saturating it—being mindful to keep the spray at least six inches away from the item. Then, after you've applied the protective coating, allow it to dry and then give the velvet a going over with the clothing brush you so wisely purchased, which will reverse any matting that's occurred.

Taking these steps will help to ensure that your velvet garments enjoy a long and happy life, unconcerned with the ebbs and flows of the fickle fashion world, and unmarred by errant drops of champagne.

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist at Esquire. She's an alumna of the least prestigious St. Grottlesex School, where she always had the cleanest dorm room. Her laundry bag is an L.L. Bean Boat and Tote.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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