How to Clean Suede at Home

A Nice Clean Pair of Black Suede Shoes.

How to Clean Suede

Suede is a type of leather that has a soft and smooth, velvety surface. It is used to make gloves, boots, dresses, accessories, shoes and purses. Suede is stylish, warm, and fashionable.

Suede is not something worn only during the fall season anymore; many are wearing suede anytime they feel like it. Although there are those that do wait to take their suede shoes and bags out until fall – I say life is too short – if you love them, wear them.

Suede is made from a thinner piece of a hide, so it is less durable than normal or full grain leather. The velvety texture of suede, called the “nap”, makes suede soft but also more susceptible to damage from stains and water spots.

Cleaning suede may seem like a daunting task, especially if you have a vintage item you want to clean or you live in a wet weather climate, but it’s not impossible. Knowing how to clean suede stains will come in handy on down the road.

Having your Suede Professional Cleaned

Although cleaning suede at home is possible, your favorite items and garments should be professionally dry-cleaned.

The material itself can be problematic and the wrong method of cleaning can leave your fabric damaged. If you do not want to risk this, use a professional dry-cleaning service.

For basic care such as rising the nap and restoring softness to an item, use a suede brush gently in a circular motion.

Cleaning Suede at Home

Cleaning suede can be somewhat difficult, but overall, the process is fast and simple as long as you know the proper process.

  • If the item is wet, use an absorbent towel to gently blot and dry the suede as much as you can then let air dry. Keep in mind, any moisture you put onto the material needs to be dried as soon as possible.
  • Try using a pencil eraser to clean small stains on the fabric. This often works to remove most stains on suede materials. Clean the eraser tip when necessary to keep from creating unnecessary smudges.
  • Do not use stain removers, especially chemical based products, on your suede as this can cause additional stains.
  • Rather than rub or scrub, brush the suede. This will remove most of the loose debris and it will allow you to easily clean the surface. There are a variety of suede brushes on the market such as brass or nylon bristles, synthetic and rubber crepe brushes.
    • Do not use the steel or iron bristled brush your husband might have in the garage. In most cases these brushes have been used to scrub and clean greasy, dirty things which can be transferred onto your suede. Even clean there is a possibility a steel or iron brush could leave black marks, especially if the suede is wet.
    • I know, I tried this a long time ago. I really don’t know why I did this as suede brushes are relatively inexpensive.
  • White vinegar is a safe, non toxic solution for cleaning suede. However, only apply a small dab of it to a cleaning cloth and then blot the material.
  • If you don’t have a suede brush, you can use a fingernail file to lift off dried mud from shoes.

Allow the suede to air dry completely after stain removal to determine if any of the stain remains.

Removing Oily Stains from Suede

Body oil, salad dressing or grease stains are tough. If you want to give this a try yourself instead of taking the item to a dry cleaner, here’s what you can try:

  • Put the suede item on a towel under it and with the oil stain facing up.
  • Sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons of corn starch directly on the stain. The corn starch acts as a poultice to draw the greasy oil from the suede.
  • Place plastic wrap on top of the corn starch then put a heavy item such as a book on top of that.

Keep the cornstarch pressed up against the stain for several hours. Check and see if the stain is reduced or removed. You can repeat this as many times as necessary.

When finished, use a brush to remove the residue. If there is any staining left, I would recommend you take the item to a professional.

Tips to Help Keep Your Suede Jackets Stain Free from Body Oils

To help keep your suede jackets clean for a longer period of time, wear a scarf around your neck to keep body oils from staining the collar (hey, men can even wear scarves fashionably now) and if you are prone to sweating, wear shirts with sleeves.

How to Remove Ink Stains from Suede

If you get a tough stain on a garment, again I recommend it be professionally dry-cleaned.

But there are things you can do if you can’t get the item cleaned right away.

  • If you’re out or at work and get an ink stain on suede, you can use a damp cloth and gently blot the stain; this should help to keep the stain from setting. Do not overly wet the cloth, just a little damp and don’t rub the ink stain as this can cause it to spread.

Care and Maintenance Tips for Suede

Suede is a little more “high-maintenance” than smooth grain leathers. It shows stains easily, its nap wears off and it cannot be oiled as smooth leathers can; oil will simply stain suede and it will ruin the nap.

  • Use a suede protector to help against water damage and staining.
  • Store suede in a way that it can breathe; this means you shouldn’t store them in a sealed bag or container. If you only wear the item occasionally and want to keep the dust off it, use a thin sheet to cover large items and something like a paper towel to cover small items like shoes.
  • Store suede in a cool environment that is well ventilated, this will help prevent your items from drying. Do not store suede in a cold and damp environment, this can cause mold and mildew growth.
  • If your garments get wet, let them air dry before you put them back in the closet. If they are excessively wet, absorb as much water as you can with a clean towel by blotting the item, then let air dry.
  • Keep suede out of direct sunlight as this can cause the item to fade over time.
  • For shoes and boots, use a shoe or boot tree to help maintain their shape.

Now that you have some options for cleaning your suede, wear it! Don’t keep it hidden in the closet anymore.