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How to Clean and Care for Suede: Easy Instructions and Tips

Audrey shares her tips on keeping suede looking like new. Real or imitation, suede adds an accent to the wardrobe.

The Downside to Suede

As we go shopping for wearing apparel, we have more choices than ever in fabrics. Most individuals agree that nothing can compare with the look and feel of suede with so much available to us.

But there is a downside to this great-looking fabric. Even though it is durable, it's tough to clean. It is susceptible to stains and spots. Knowing how to maintain the softness, keep your suede clean, and look new will assure you longer enjoyment of your product.

What You Will Need for Cleaning Suede

Always read the cleaning label and instructions that come with the product. Depending on the particular stain or what the reason is for cleaning or caring for your item, you will need the following:

  • A brush for suede
  • A white towel
  • A Suede eraser or pencil eraser
  • Newspaper or just paper crumpled

Warning: If you use a chemical suede cleaner, protect your lungs by wearing a mask. Always provide ventilation in the area you are working in. Keep all cleaning products away from children and pets. Store in a high place.

Use a clean, white towel for cleaning suede.

Use a clean, white towel for cleaning suede.

Tips for Tackling Problem Stains on Suede

  • Oil or Grease: Using cornstarch, sprinkle a little on the stain. Let this sit overnight to soak up the oil. In the morning, brush away the powder, lightly wet the stain with a damp brush and brush away.
  • Wax or Gum: Place the suede item in the freezer to harden gum or resin. Then break the wax or gum into chunks and finish by brushing away smaller particles.
  • Water Stains: Using a damp brush to lightly wet the stain, soak up any excess water with a paper towel. Be sure to let the item dry overnight. Don't dry in sunlight, which may cause the color to fade.
  • Mud: Allow the soil to dry before cleaning your item. Once it dries, break the mud off into chunks. Brush away any smaller pieces of dirt.
  • Ink: Using a paper towel, dab at the ink to absorb as much stain as possible. If the ink has set, try rubbing alcohol to lift the color and use a suede eraser to continue scrubbing.
  • Blood: Pour a bit of hydrogen peroxide on a paper towel and lightly dab at the stain until it comes out.

I always make it a practice to use a suede protector on my new items. It works!

Using Talcum Powder for Rough Grease Stains

I learned this tip from my mother when I was in high school. I wore my new suede jacket to school. It was a birthday gift, and I was proud to show it to my friends. I spilled olive oil on my jacket sleeve during lunch as I whipped up my salad dressing. I was more than a little nervous as I ran into the kitchen to face my mother with this dilemma. Instead of a scolding, she assured me she could tackle that stain, and my jacket would look good as new.

I stood close by to watch the process:

  1. First, she laid a towel on the table and placed the jacket on the towel.
  2. Then, she began blotting out access oil using a clean paper towel.
  3. After the last drop of oil was gone, she covered the stain with a thick layer of talcum powder.
  4. She clarified that the powder must stay on the stain for 12 hours. This gives the powder time to absorb the oil particles from the fabric, leaving it stain-free.
  5. Lastly, she brushed off the powder using a wire bristle brush. Cornmeal can be substituted for talcum powder.

What About Imitation Suede?

Genuine leather suede is usually made from the underside of an animal, and the material is buffed to a high sheen. It's supple, warm, and less expensive than leather, but also less durable.

Washable suede, primarily synthetic, is a longer-lasting fabric that can be an excellent choice for an elegant but not overly-expensive look. It is frequently used to make women's and men's jackets, gloves, and other fall, winter, and spring wear.

Check the Label

Imitation suede can be comfortable, beautiful, easy to wear, and impervious to water. That said, it is essential only to launder washable suede, as accurate, non-washable suede does not mix well with water.

To know whether your suede garment is washable, check the label or get the advice of an expert.

Although the cleaning instructions may vary depending on the manufacturer, faux suede can typically be placed in a washing machine along with another laundry in a cold water setting. Even heavily stained articles will come clean using the same techniques as any other garment. This article is directed to genuine leather (suede).

Tips for Storage and Suede Maintenance

  • A suede eraser is terrific for removing stains and marks. Use the eraser or a towel when the fabric gets that "shine" and you want that nap restored. Always use a gentle touch.
  • Note: Rub a clean towel against the Suede until the nap has all been "fluffed" up. Bringing up the nap exposes more of the surface and loosens any dirt particles embedded in the nap. Next, use a pencil or suede eraser to rub out visible stains.
  • If the Suede is recently wet, let it dry and try using the suede brush or bath towel. If suede shoes get wet, insert the crumpled paper into the shoe to maintain the shape as they dry.
  • Do not apply heat to speed the drying.
  • Stain removers should never be used when cleaning Suede, but if stains remain after the eraser attempt, a slightly damp towel can be used to rub against the stain. White vinegar can also be mixed with water to dampen the towel, but be careful not to soak the towel. Just a bit of water and vinegar should be applied. When this is done, wait for the Suede to dry.
  • Colors in suede fade quickly, and it's' best to store them in the dark. Ensure it's' not damp because the moisture will attract mildew, and mildew is tough to remove from Suede or any other kind of leather. Never store or transport the Suede in plastic as the Suede may dry out and crack.
  • Use a waterproofing agent designed for Suede to provide additional protection, which can be purchased at most shoe and leather shops. This is a must. Prevention is the key when cleaning Suede.
  • If you should get wax on your garment, put it in the freezer until you can break off the wax, and then use the suede brush (or toothbrush) to lift the nap gently.
  • Using a little Windex for ink stains has been proven successful for many.
  • Stale bread will rub out stains on the Suede.
  • Do not try to clean the Suede using water. Water can spot the Suede or alter its appearance.

Remember that we are talking about genuine leather, not nubuff or imitation. Different directions apply to those types. If all else fails, you may want to take your suede items to a professional cleaner. But one thing is for sure—the feel of Suede next to your skin will leave you singing for joy.

Suede Alternatives Can Be a Great Option

Suede has reinvented itself in a variety of ways over the years. We have more choices now than ever before when choosing fabrics and styles.

I prefer alternatives to suede. Being an animal activist, I avoid all products made from animals (including food.) Suede/leather is made from the underside of the skin of animals such as lambs, goats, calves, and deer.

There are three advantages to using alternative fabric:

  • The resistance to stains
  • Resistance to liquids.
  • Less expensive

Find leather alternatives under the following names:

  • Vegan leather
  • Artificial leather
  • Pleather
  • Prometric artificial leather
  • Bicast leather

Whether you choose genuine suede/leather or an alternative fabric giving your suede, a little TLC will bring you years of wear.

References

  • wikipedia.org/wiki/Suede
  • thinkexist.com

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Audrey Hunt

Comments

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on June 16, 2018:

Peggy

I'm with you. I only wear suede alternatives. The jacket I display at the beginning of this hub is a suede substitute as I throw it in the washer and dryer and it comes out like new. I like that it's nice and light as opposed to suede which is heavy. Thanks, my friend and enjoy your weekend.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 15, 2018:

After reading this I think that I would only want the suede alternatives and not the real thing because of them being much easier to keep clean. I have had suede shoes in the past but none currently. Thanks for these tips on how to clean and care for suede should I ever be tempted to purchase some.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on November 21, 2014:

rebeccamealey

Thanks Rebecca. You really are a leather lover. :)

Great to see you and appreciate your taking the time to read and comment on my hub. It was starving for some attention.

ChitrangadaSharan

It's so nice to hear that my tips on how to care for suede are useful. Suede is beautiful and always classy. And as you have pointed out, maintaining suede is slightly tricky.

Thank you for sharing my hub and for the vote up. Blessings - Audrey

AudreyHowitt

I know I'm in for a great feeling when you come a-calling. Thank you fabulous lady! Audrey Too

Audrey Howitt from California on October 09, 2014:

Very helpful! Now off to clean those blue suede shoes!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 09, 2014:

This is really very informative and helpful hub for Suede lovers!

My family loves Suede coats and shoes. Maintaining them whether coats, pants, jackets or shoes is slightly tricky.

Thanks for sharing the useful tips! Voted up!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on October 09, 2014:

Great Hub! I've always loved suede, and I have a leather sofa that needs some attention...car seats too.Thanks!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 02, 2013:

mike - It's really a matter of preference I usually like the lighter hues. Mixing the dark and light works too. Thanks..

mike on October 24, 2012:

when u brush suede with your hand and you go back and fourth what suede gives you the best pattern change when suede goes from dark to light .

Thank you

Mike

Katie McMurray from Ohio on August 05, 2010:

I've never really had much success at cleaning suede and now I know why, I was doing it wrong. Thanks for the guidance on who to clean and care for suede.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 05, 2010:

I'm looking forward to another of your articles, especially on shoes. My feet can only "live in" shoes such as Birkenstock which features a nice padded arch, or Alegra (sp) brand. I wonder if Birks make boots. How fantastic that would be. The "prelude" to your nominated hub about pearls is an example to writers who are weak with "introductions" (including me). Thank you for taking time to leave a comment. I appreciate it.

nenaargent on August 05, 2010:

Thanks for the idea about using a suede eraser for getting rid of shine...and just as I was going to ask where they are sold, I read the the follow up comment that a pencil eraser will work. So simple and so effective. Also, thanks for your comments on my hub!!! Aside from jewelry, I also write about shoes (which is why the suede tip was helpful) and will be posting more articles shortly. It's very encouraging to write more when there's feedback. TY

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 02, 2010:

Thanks. Appreciate your commenting. Love your hubs!

Holle Abee from Georgia on August 02, 2010:

Great tips for cleaning suede!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on July 16, 2010:

yellowstar2000 - If you dont have a suede eraser, just use the eraser tip on a pencil. Works great! Thanks for stopping by.

Candice Collins from WestCoast Florida on July 16, 2010:

I've never heard of a suede eraser before! thanks for the great tips!!!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on July 15, 2010:

Prasetio - Thank you very much for commenting on my hub.

Have a wonderful day!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on July 14, 2010:

Nice hub and good information. Thanks for share with us. I really enjoy your tips. Good job. Thumbs up for you!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on July 12, 2010:

I appreciate your taking the time to stop by and to comment. Have a very nice day.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on July 12, 2010:

I love suede and thank you for all your good tips.