9 Easy Ways to Clean a Suede Jacket

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Before I embark on a description regarding the accurate and effective cleaning of a suede jacket, let me tell you a little bit about what suede is.

Suede, technically, is a type of fuzzy leather with a napped finish. It’s distinctively known for its smooth finish and snug fittings. It was popular in the 1960s and 70s and it’s making a comeback in the fashion industry again.

This “velvet-ish” material is commonly found in earth tones—red, brown, and ochre yellow (of course they can be dyed any color). It makes for great jackets—they are soft and warm without being fleecy. It also makes for great shoes (especially boots) and couches!

To clean a suede jacket is no ordinary feat, however. The fabric cannot be run through the washing machine, so that option is as good as out of the window.

Basic Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining a Suede Jacket

A  suede jacket is no ordinary jacket. It requires good upkeep and maintenance.

If you own suede clothing, you must keep in mind a few basic tips.

1. The first thing to remember while putting on a suede jacket is that water is the suede’s arch-enemy. Water damage causes the material to warp and bloat.

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2. Purchasing a suede protector spray is also a smart investment, for it protects the material against weather conditions and/or accidental staining. It does require frequent reapplications (once a month), but this product does guarantee good coverage.

3. Minor spot cleaning is easily done, with the aid of a suede brush (they generally have rubber bristles). The brushing ought to be gentle because harsh movements might worsen the stains or scuff marks.

Brush in the direction of the fiber. Suede jackets are not meant for regular use, they need to be air-dried quite often. This process allows the material to breathe and thus prolongs its lifespan.

4. The storage of suede jackets also requires careful consideration. The two primary factors to keep in mind are:

  • Protect from direct sunlight
  • Ensure that there is adequate ventilation

Suede when exposed to sunlight for a prolonged duration of time tends to shrink and harden. Avoid wrapping suede in packaging materials as the material needs breathing room. The perfect storage location is therefore a cool, dark recess with enough air circulation.

Methods to Clean Suede Jackets

1. Brushing

Brushing is the most commonly recommended method for suede cleaning. There are mainly two types of brushes for this—a smaller, wire brush for cleaning out of hard-to-reach abscesses and crevices, and a larger rubber brush for a more large-scale cleaning procedure. The brushing action should be gentle but impactful, enabling the bristles to pervade the material and clean out the dirt.

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Brushing in the direction of the grain is imperative, it helps maintain uniformity. Excessive pressure is discouraged as it can lead to irreversible tear damage.

Although brushes are almost entirely effective, they can sometimes fail to do their job. Use a suede eraser for such situations. A suede block is another useful tool that evens the surface out and gets rid of any noticeable shine.

Using a steam cleaner( for 10-15 seconds) before you brush is highly recommended.

2. Dab with Water

This might not work for every situation, but is one of the most effective methods there is.

In the eventuality that there is a stain on your suede jacket, apply water liberally on the concerned area. Use a dry paper towel to gently apply pressure, and gradually soak up the moisture.

Repeat until you notice a visible lightening of the stained area. Water has a cleansing effect on the stain, while the concentrated pressure prevents the stain from spreading any further.

In case your jacket still feels wet to the touch, use a towel or sponge to soak up the excess. Dry the jacket out overnight, preferably hanging it in an area that receives proper air circulation. Use a suede brush in the morning to brush out any folds or creases. This will help restore the original look of the fiber.

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3. Removing Dried Liquid Stains

Here’s a good old DIY method to the rescue!

Talcum powder is great for the removal of dried liquid stains. All you need to do is pat the area dry, apply a layer of talcum powder, and leave it overnight. Use a suede brush in the morning to remove the talc layer.

You will notice a visible fading. Proceed to use a suede block on the affected area as it helps restore the nap. A suede eraser can also prove effective in a similar scenario.

While these are broader classifications, there are also particular methods of the removal of particular stains- be it mud, oil, or coffee.

4. Removing Oil Stains

Oil stains do not often show up on suede (unless the color is light enough). But they do leave a lasting imprint, akin to a waxy sheen that only gets more stubborn over time.

Use a suede brush, followed by a nail brush dipped in warm water. This ensures that the stains are removed effectively. Make sure to not apply too much pressure.

5. Cleaning Mud Marks

The key to getting rid of mud stains is to let the mud dry. Dried mud can be scraped off quite easily. The residual mud can be treated with a suede brush. The bristles loosen the mud particles, while the brushing eventually leads to their removal.

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6. Cleaning Coffee Stains

A DIY brushing method that has proved to be quite the success, place 2-3 layers of paper towels over the stain and use a suede brush. This works equally well for tea and juice stains too.

7. Removing Ink Stains

Ink stains often seem impossible to get rid of, thanks to their deep pigments. Quickness is of the utmost importance if your suede jacket gets an ink stain—use a paper towel to stem the spread. Rubbing alcohol, which is used in a lot of home hacks has a good track record against ink stains. Use a cotton ball dipped in some to get rid of the worst of it.

You could also try scraping the stain off with sandpaper. But sandpaper is abrasive, and can potentially damage the material.

8. Stains Caused by Salinity

White vinegar to the rescue! Hands down the best way to deal with salt stains, make sure you do not apply too much of this bleaching agent. Direct application is also strictly discouraged. Use a rag or sponge as an intermediary surface.

Let the vinegar dry and then use a suede brush to dust it off.  Vinegar is just an awesome cleaner!

9. Removing Wax

Wax tends to harden if cooled, and that is exactly how you should deal with wax staining on a suede jacket. Put the jacket in your freezer for a couple of hours, or at least until the wax is hard enough to be scraped off with ease. Use a suede brush after that.

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Things to Keep in Mind When Cleaning a Suede Jacket

1. The cleaning method used for your suede jacket should depend on the type of stain.

2. A DIY vinegar-based recipe is a trick worth having up your sleeve. A proportional amount of vinegar in a warm water solution works wonders, given that you understand and apply the correct implementation.

3. Exercise both caution and care when cleaning with a wire-bristled brush, because although effective, they are often guilty of inflicting permanent damage to the surface of suede.

4. The removal of water stains with water is a lesser-known but highly effective method. Although a direct application of water is inadvisable, you can spray water onto the suede jacket or use a damp cloth to moisten the surface.

Fluff up the nap immediately with a suede brush, after you have successfully soaked up the thin layer of water you previously applied.

5. Cornstarch is another home remedy that can be used to soak up grease or oil from suede. A dry application is recommended.

6. Even though I would personally never recommend the washing machine for a suede jacket, hand washing might not be an option all the time. If you are compelled to employ the washing machine, use a suede cleaner and put the machine on a gentle cycle. Do not use fabric softener.

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After the garment is out of the wash, straighten it out immediately taking care to avoid any folds or creases. Dry it out.

7. Another trick I have picked up along the way (courtesy of extensive internet research) is that even though the results are not quite the same, a toothbrush or sponge brush can fill in for a suede brush in case the latter is unavailable. This is not fit for long-term use but it’s a temporary solution.

To conclude, suede jackets are neither easy to maintain nor easy to clean. But as is the case with every similar quandary, there is a way around this. And that is vigilance.

Keep an eye out for how you treat it—make sure it stays away from water and in the way of plentiful air. Use a suede cleaning spray when you feel the need to and not only when you feel you must. Look after the jacket as you would after a favorite plant or pet, and you will be free from worries!

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