Suede is one of the most loved and robust materials out there that allows us to enjoy garments and shoes made from it year round without showing any wear or scuff as easily as leather or calfskin. Plus, it’s usually much easier to clean and maintain suede than, say, calfskin so it’s lending itself to a tad more abuse, which is actually great, because there is not much you can do when it goes to the ER with some serious cleaning issue. Or is there? Today, we’ll be sharing some suede cleaning tips you will find handy for sure next time you need to renew your suede of nubuck shoes or clothing without causing any damage to the fabric or cutting its longevity short.
1. With a Toothbrush
Since washing suede the way you do with polyester or cotton fabrics is a big no because it could make suede look frayed and old after a while, you can try cleaning it with a toothbrush. With gentle strokes in the opposite direction of the fiber, you will instantly see that your garment or shoes will look like brand new. The secret is to be very gentle when brushing the item to avoid causing the fiber look coarse.
2. With Water
Suede shoes usually come protected from water. However, you may still end up with shoes that have gotten significantly wet in spite of all the precautions you might have taken. In this case, although it seems somewhat counter-intuitive, there is no easier solution to treat splotchy water stains than with plain water! You just wet a clean, soft, rag with water (lukewarm) and gently brush the fabric with it. The suede will dampen, and when it’s dry, you’ll see that the water stains are gone. Don’t forget to pat the suede with a dry rag or towel to help remove excess water. Then, to speed up the drying process, fill the shoes (if you are cleaning suede shoes) with newspaper and lay on their side (to prevent saturating the soles).
Another way to go around this is to place a towel inside the shoes (or any old, clean rag – just make sure it’s not dark-colored), and then spray a thin layer of water on the surface of the suede shoes. Use a nail brush to scrub the stained area (always gently), making sure you also brush around the edges of the stain to remove the stain marks. With a damp cloth, blot excess water to help the shoes dry evenly and let them dry in a well-ventilated, dry area. Avoid placing the suede item in front of direct sunlight, heat or fire because it will most likely fade the color and make the fabric dry unevenly. This will also leave you with water marks that will have to be re-treated. That aside, if you try to over-boost drying, you may get yourself into deeper trouble and end up with a rough suede surface that will need a tedious series of actions to bring back to its original condition.
Tip: You can use a shoe tree to help dry a pair of suede shoes. Insert one to ensure that the shoes will dry evenly and won’t lose their shape. Once they are completely dry, you can brush them with a suede brush to re-fluff pile.
3. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is great if you want to remove ink stains from suede. Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and apply on the fabric. For fresh stains, use a suede eraser to scrub them away. Some experts suggest you also use fine grit sandpaper instead.
4. With a Nail File
This one will make cleaning suede a walk in the park and is particularly effective on lumpy mud stains. The quickest and safest way to get it over with is by filing the stain(s) off with a nail file. Besides gentle, you also need to be patient to prevent any damage to the fabric.
5. With an Eraser
An eraser will help you get rid of light surface stains and scratches without breaking up a sweat. Use it to rub the affected area and the stain or scratch will vanish in front of your eyes. For old or stains that have set in, it might be best to follow any of the other methods mentioned above.
6. With Vinegar
Vinegar has many incredible uses. You may use it as an effective disinfectant and, of course, to clean suede. Dip a clean cloth or towel in some vinegar and gently rub the stained area with it. You do need to be extra careful, though, to prevent fading of the color. Once done, wipe the item with a wet cloth and let it air dry. If the stain has not gone yet, repeat when the fabric is dry.
If your suede shoes have persistent stains (including food stains) and road-salt lines, white vinegar is your go-to solution. Pour just a little on a clean cloth and wipe the stained area with it,
7. With Cornstarch
Grease stains are very difficult to remove. Although you can try cleaning them with some water (see above), chances are you’ll need something more drastic. On top of using water, you can sprinkle cornstarch on the stain and leave overnight. You can also do the same with talcum powder. The next day, brush off the powder with a suede brush (just lightly) and use a steam iron to moisten the stain just a bit. Use your suede cleaning brush to remove the stain.
Another method to treat an oil stain is to degrease the affected area with cornflour or powder and blot it with a rag dipped in vinegar. Brush gently and allow to dry.
Note: It is usually not recommended to use commercial stain removers as they will most likely damage the fiber, leave you with uneven blotches, and fade the color off. Maybe you could consider suede cleaners that are designed for professional use. Ask you local dry cleaner for recommendations.
Additional Tips & Things to Remember
If you want to remove wax or chewing gum from suede, you can freeze the item (provided it fits inside your freezer!) for a few hours to help harden the surface of the wax or gum. Then, it will be super-easy to chip them off with a nail brush.
Before you wear suede shoes, it’s best to spray them with a product that will protect and waterproof them. This will make your life easier and help avoid stains. Just remember to brush the shoes both before and after the application of the product.
An excellent way to maintain the beauty of your suede items, always brush the fabric after each use to remove any dirt and spot any fresh stains early on (so you can treat them more effectively), before then store the item.
Have you noticed that the color of the suede has started to fade? Spray the fabric with a same-color suede dye.
Never try to remove stubborn stains yourself. If a tough stain has not come off, better take the item to a professional cleaner who specializes in suede and leather. In any other case, you may apply a cleaning method that’s too aggressive and cause irreparable damage.
Do not use a blow dryer to speed up the drying process. Always prefer to have your suede item dry naturally and in a nice, shady place.
Wearing your beautiful, yet delicate, suede shoes on a rainy day is like asking for trouble! So, just avoid doing so!
When storing suede, avoid plastic bags or covers. It might encourage mold growth and create a musty smell. Instead, allow the fabric to breathe by storing it in cloth bags.
Speaking of storage, when you are putting your suede clothing away for a really long time, it’s always recommended to get them out of storage from time to time. This will allow the fabric to breathe and unravel to get back to shape and not get unwanted creases and wrinkles from being put to storage for an entire season or more. It will also help the suede to maintain relatively new.
The worse case scenario includes dying the suede item to a darker color. You may consider this options as a last resort when the fabric has faded unevenly, or you are dealing with a stubborn stain that just won’t come off. Dying it to a darker color will help cover up any color-related issues.
If your stain is quite stubborn, and you haven’t been able to remove it with any of these 7 suggested methods, then your best alternative is to take your garment or shoes to the nearest dry cleaner, who will know what to do to get the job done without causing any scuffing or other damage to the fabric. To remove dry stains from suede, they will shampoo the fabric, rinse with clean water and allow to dry. Re-fluffing pile is their next task, followed by conditioning and recoloring the suede. They brush the suede again to re-fluff pile again and finish with a product that will help protect and waterproof the fabric against future stains and damage. It might cost slightly more than any at-home suede cleaning treatment, but it’s definitely worth it.
Have you found another way to clean suede? What’s your most effective method? Tell us all about it in the commends!