How to Clean a Suede Coat

Close-up of camel colored suede jacket

 penfold/ E+/ Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Suede coats are soft, luxurious, and usually, quite expensive. Compared to full-grain natural leather, suede is more pliable, cooler, breathable, and lends itself to more design choices.

Created from the soft underside of a split-grain animal hide, suede is leather with a napped or fuzzy finish that has been left natural or dyed. It is this finish that easily attracts dust and absorbs stains like oil. While some small stains on suede coats can be treated at home, overall cleaning must be done by a professional dry cleaner who specializes in leather care.

Tip

Some coats appear to be natural suede but are man-made fibers (microsuede) instead. While some synthetic suedes can be machine-washed, be sure to always read the care label.

Whether you have a natural suede coat, jacket, shoes, or hat, with a few cleaning tips suede can be kept stain-free, soft, and supple for many years.

How Often to Clean a Suede Coat

After every wearing or at least weekly, use a soft-bristled suede brush on the surface to remove loose dust and soil. Regular brushing will help delay the need for professional cleaning. If you get caught in the rain, allow the damp suede to dry slowly away from direct heat or sunlight. You can then use the suede brush to raise any areas where the fabric has been crushed.

A suede coat should be professionally cleaned if it develops odors from perspiration or has significant stains. The coat should always be cleaned before storing it at the end of the season.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Suede brush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Pencil eraser or art gum eraser
  • Blunt knife or plastic edge
  • Emery board nail file

Materials

  • Baby powder or cornstarch
  • Paper towel or napkin

Instructions

How to Clean Oily Stains From Suede Coats

  1. Treat as Soon as Possible

    The longer oily drips stay on suede, the deeper they penetrate. If a bit of oily food falls on a suede coat, blot it with a paper towel or napkin. Do not add water and do not rub which can harm the fabric.

  2. Absorb the Oil

    Sprinkle the stain with baby powder or cornstarch to absorb the oil. The powder should begin to look oily after an hour or so. When that happens, brush away the powder with a soft brush. It is fine to leave the powder on the stain for more than an hour.

    If the oil stain is gone, give the coat a good brushing overall with a suede brush. If the stain remains, repeat the application of powder as many times as necessary until no more oil is absorbed.

How to Clean Food Stains and Mud From Suede Coats

  1. Use a Light Touch With Wet Stains

    When food or wet mud gets on a suede coat, never rub the stain. Rubbing will only drive the stain deeper into the leather. Use a blunt knife or the edge of a credit card to lift away as much of the wet solid matter as possible. There will be traces left that will be treated once the stain dries.

    If the stain is caused by a liquid, use a paper towel or a clean, white cloth to blot away as much moisture as possible. Put the cloth directly over the stain and apply some pressure to draw the moisture away from the suede and into the cloth. Keep turning the cloth to a clean, dry area and continue blotting. Allow the area to dry naturally away from direct heat.

    Warning

    If you have never worked with suede, always practice the steps on a small, hidden area first to avoid any discoloration or damage.

  2. Treat the Dried Stain

    Once the stained area has dried, it is easier to treat. Start with the most gentle treatment and move to more abrasive action. After every treatment, brush the area with the suede brush to restore and smooth the fabric.

    • Gently rub the area with a white, microfiber cloth to lift away as much of the dried-on matter as possible.
    • Use a pencil eraser or art gum eraser to gently rub away the stain.
    • As a last resort, gently rub the stained area with an emery board nail file to remove the dried-on matter.

How to Remove Sticker Residue From a Suede Coat

Sticky name tags or tape can leave a residue on suede when pulled off the coat. It's best to avoid them altogether but if there is residue left behind, it is crucial to work slowly to loosen the sticky mess from the fibers of the suede.

Warning

Commercial glue removers like Goo Gone can damage natural suede and leave a discoloration that is nearly impossible to remove.

  1. Remove the Sticker or Name Tag

    If the sticker does not pull away easily, dampen it lightly with a wet paper towel. Use the edge of a blunt knife or credit card to gently pry loose a corner or gently scrape the sticker away.

  2. Allow the Area to Air-Dry

    Once the sticker is removed, allow the area to air-dry away from direct sunlight or heat. Brush with a suede brush which might remove all of the residue if it is light.

  3. Erase the Stickiness

    If residue remains, try an art gum eraser. Use short, gentle strokes. No scrubbing! The eraser should pick up any leftover glue in the fibers.

  4. Use an Emery Board

    If the suede brush and art gum eraser didn't remove the problem, use an emery board to gently rub the area. Use a very light touch to prevent rubbing away the texture of the fabric.

Tips to Keep Your Suede Coat Clean Longer

  • Wear a scarf around the inside collar of the coat to prevent body oils from transferring to the collar.
  • While there are sprays designed to add stain and water-repellency to suede, always test them on a hidden inside area first because they may change the texture and color of the suede.
  • Never allow suede to remain wet for too long. Hang the coat and allow it to slowly air-dry.
  • Take a stained suede coat to a professional cleaner as soon as possible. The longer the stain remains on the suede, the more difficult it will be to remove.