After an unexpected breakup several years ago, I found myself between apartments for a couple of months and was forced to couch surf at various generous friends’ homes. My three overstuffed suitcases were packed to the gills with everything from beach looks, work clothes and wedding season ensembles. This included a pair of beloved light blue suede Sam Edelman heels I had planned to wear at my brother’s wedding. They were an important component in my deranged quest to be the best-dressed person at the event and pull focus from the happy couple.
About a month before the wedding, I spent a couple of weeks at my friend Alison’s place. I was grateful for a place to stay and she was in need of a catsitter while she went on vacation, so it was the perfect scenario. Despite not being a cat person, I quickly bonded with [name redacted], and we grew to respect each other — or so I thought. On the last day of my stay, I went to grab my luggage, and to my horror discovered that the cat had used my bag as her own personal litter box. As bad as it was to discover (and smell) my soiled clothing, I was devastated at the sight of my ruined blue suede shoes. (What I would have given to have a shoe bag at that moment!)
I couldn’t conceive of a way in which they could possibly be salvaged. The smell alone was enough to make me want to wade into the East River. I wrapped them in a Ziploc bag and designated it a problem for “future me” to solve.
A week later, I arrived at my parents’ house in California just in time for the wedding and shared this tragic tale of woe with my mother. “I can fix them,” she boldly proclaimed, and pulled out an item I had never seen before: a suede stone.
Traditionally made of rubber, suede stones (also called suede erasers) can be used to clean stains, water spots, lint, hair and more from even the most delicate suede and nubuck items. They’re incredibly affordable, with some options starting as low as $7, and can be easily tucked away in a drawer or closet until needed. Best of all, once you have one, it’ll last for decades.
I was shocked to find that in under five minutes, my heels were back to their pre-piss radiant selves. I simply rubbed the suede stone back and forth over the damaged, stained areas and watched them fade almost instantly.
A combination of white vinegar and an afternoon in the hot California sun neutralized the lingering scent of cat, and a couple of days later I was a sartorial sensation, pee-pee shoes and all.
Below, I’ve rounded up a few suede stone and eraser options so that you can have them on hand next time you find yourself in a bind or simply want to spruce up your suede and nubuck shoes. You may not need one often, but when you do, you’ll be extremely grateful to have one at the ready.