how to clean suede

How Do I Clean Suede?

Suede, with its soft, napped finish, is a popular material for shoes, jackets, and furniture, but it can be notoriously difficult to clean. This guide will provide you with various methods to clean and maintain suede, ensuring your items stay looking their best.

What Household Items Can Clean Suede Shoes?

Several household items can be effective in cleaning suede shoes. A suede brush is essential for removing surface dirt and restoring the nap. For stains, you can use a white vinegar solution or a pencil eraser. White vinegar is particularly effective for removing salt stains, while a pencil eraser can lift away small, dry marks.

  • Suede Brush: A suede brush is an indispensable tool for anyone owning suede items. This special brush, often made with brass or nylon bristles, is designed to gently lift the nap (the soft, fuzzy surface of suede) without damaging it. Regular brushing can remove surface dirt and dust, keeping the suede looking fresh. It’s a good practice to brush your suede shoes after each wear to maintain their appearance.

  • White Vinegar Solution: White vinegar is a surprisingly effective cleaner for suede, particularly for tough stains like salt lines, which can form during winter. To use white vinegar:
    1. Dilute the Vinegar: Mix a small amount of white vinegar with water. The typical ratio is one part vinegar to two parts water.
    2. Apply Gently: Dip a clean, soft cloth into the solution and wring it out so it’s damp, not wet.
    3. Blot the Stain: Gently blot the stained area with the damp cloth. Avoid rubbing as this can damage the suede.
    4. Dry and Brush: Allow the area to air dry completely, then use a suede brush to restore the nap.

  • Pencil Eraser: A pencil eraser, particularly a clean, white eraser, can be used to lift away small, dry marks and light scuffs from suede. The key is to use gentle, focused motions.
      1. Choose the Right Eraser: A clean, white eraser is usually best as colored erasers might transfer dye onto the suede.
      2. Gentle Rubbing: Gently rub the eraser over the mark or scuff. The friction will lift away the dirt.
      3. Brush Away Residue: After using the eraser, go over the area with a suede brush to remove any eraser residue and restore the nap.

Can Suede Get Wet?

Suede is a type of leather made from the underside of the animal skin, which gives it a soft and fuzzy texture. This texture, known as the nap, is particularly sensitive to water. Suede can get wet, but it’s not ideal. Water can damage the texture and color of suede. If your suede items do get wet, blot them gently with a towel and allow them to dry naturally, away from direct heat. Once dry, use a suede brush to restore the nap. You’re probably wondering, what happens if suede gets too wet? The below is just a portion of the damage that can be done:

    1. Texture Changes: Water can cause the fibers in suede to clump together, leading to a hardened or stiff texture once it dries.
    2. Color Alterations: Water spots can form on suede, leaving behind noticeable marks that can be difficult to remove. These spots occur because water disrupts the uniformity of the suede’s color and texture.
    3. Shrinkage and Warping: Just like other types of leather, suede can shrink or warp if it gets too wet and is not dried properly.

How Do You Rejuvenate Suede?

Rejuvenating suede is a delicate process that involves both cleaning and revitalizing its texture. The process to refresh suede begins with a thorough brushing. Using a specialized suede brush, gently sweep away surface dirt and debris. This not only cleans the suede but also helps to lift the nap, the soft, fuzzy surface that gives suede its luxurious feel. For more stubborn or deeper stains that brushing can’t remove, a suede eraser is an effective tool. This eraser works much like a pencil eraser, but it’s specifically designed for suede. By gently rubbing the eraser over the stained area, you can lift away many common marks without using water or harsh chemicals.

Once the suede is clean, the next step is to restore its nap and color, which can fade or become matted over time. This is where suede restorers or conditioners come into play. These products are formulated to rejuvenate the suede’s texture and enhance its color, making it look more vibrant and new. When applying a suede restorer or conditioner, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully. Typically, you would apply a small amount of the product evenly over the suede surface, ensuring not to oversaturate it. After the product has had time to penetrate and dry, a final brushing will help to evenly distribute the conditioner and realign the nap, leaving the suede looking refreshed and revitalized. This comprehensive care not only improves the appearance of suede items but also extends their lifespan, keeping them soft and supple for years to come.

Can You Wash Suede?

In the realm of fabric care, suede stands out as a material that demands a unique approach, particularly when it comes to cleaning. Experts in textile conservation and leather care unanimously advise against the conventional washing of suede products (remember, we talked about this above – don’t get your suede wet!), a stance rooted in the material’s inherent properties and vulnerabilities. Suede is more delicate and porous compared to other leather types. When wet, suede begins to become damaged. The water penetrates the fibers, eroding the material’s signature softness and texture. This can also lead to uneven drying, resulting in a stiff and brittle texture, a far cry from suede’s original pliability. Water exposure is notorious for causing discoloration and stubborn water stains on suede, often leading to irreversible damage and a mottled appearance. The risk of shrinkage and warping is another concern, particularly for suede apparel and footwear, where maintaining shape and fit is important. Given these risks, the consensus among leather specialists is to eschew traditional water-based cleaning in favor of specialized suede care methods and products.

Can You Use Soap and Water to Clean Suede Shoes?

Using soap and water on suede shoes is generally not advised. Remember, we don’t want to get suede wet! We’re harping on it because it’s one of the most frequent mistakes we see with customers we service with our cleaning company, do not use water to clean suede! Water can cause the suede to lose its texture and soap can leave residue. Stick to products specifically designed for suede cleaning.

Can You Clean Suede Shoes with Baking Soda?

Baking soda can be used to remove odors from suede shoes. Sprinkle it inside the shoes and let it sit overnight before brushing it out. However, it’s not effective for stain removal on the suede’s surface.

Absorbing Odors

Suede, like many materials, can absorb odors over time, whether from sweat, environmental factors, or spills. Baking soda is a natural odor neutralizer. When sprinkled over the surface of suede, it works by absorbing these odors, leaving the material smelling fresher. This is particularly useful for items like suede shoes or jackets that may acquire a musty or stale smell.

Removing Light Soiling

Baking soda can also help in lifting light soiling from the suede’s surface. Its slightly abrasive nature allows it to gently dislodge dirt particles without damaging the delicate nap of the suede. However, this should be done with caution, using a minimal amount and gently brushing it off to avoid any potential abrasion to the suede.

How to Use Baking Soda on Suede

    1. Apply Baking Soda: Lightly sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the suede. If dealing with a specific spot or stain, concentrate the baking soda on that area.
    2. Let It Sit: Allow the baking soda to sit on the suede for several hours, or even overnight. This duration gives it ample time to absorb odors and lift light stains.
    3. Brush Off: Using a suede brush, gently brush off the baking soda. This not only removes the baking soda but also helps in lifting away the dirt and restoring the nap of the suede.
    4. Repeat if Necessary: For persistent odors or soiling, the process can be repeated.

How Do You Clean Light-colored Suede?

Light-colored suede shows stains more easily. For regular maintenance, use a suede brush gently. For stains, a mixture of white vinegar and water applied with a soft cloth can be effective. Always test any cleaning method on an inconspicuous area first.

How Do You Moisturize Suede?

Moisturizing suede helps maintain its softness and prevent cracking. Use a suede conditioner, applying it lightly with a soft cloth. Avoid over-saturating the suede. Let it dry naturally and then brush gently to restore the nap.

By following these tips and methods, you can effectively clean and maintain your suede items, keeping them looking fresh and new for years to come. Remember, when in doubt, especially for expensive or cherished suede items, consulting a professional cleaner is always a safe choice.

Our Expertise

Our team of copywriters thoroughly researched all methods of cleaning suede. After finalizing the initial draft, our senior editor proofread and reviewed the article. Finally, our editorial team collaborated with a team of our very own professional cleaners to confirm all details, recommendations, and suggestions are accurate. We aim to ensure factual accuracy.

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