How to Clean and Care for a Suede Jacket
Natural suede leather coats are soft, luxurious, and usually quite expensive—but they have a fuzzy surface finish that easily attracts dust and absorbs stains. Overall deep cleaning of genuine suede items must be done by a professional dry cleaner who specializes in leather care. But light cleaning with a suede brush can be done at home, and you may be able to handle some small stains yourself, using techniques tailored to the type of stain. Removing stains is not a matter of dissolving the staining agent, as it is with most types of fabric, but rather finding a suitable method to blot, scrape, or abrade the staining material off the leather.
Click Play to Learn How to Quickly Remove Stains From Suede
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Suede brush
- Microfiber cloth
- Pencil eraser or art gum eraser
- Blunt knife or plastic card
- Emery board nail file
- Baby powder or cornstarch
- Paper towel or napkin
How to Clean Oily Stains
Oily stains are among the hardest to remove from suede surfaces. Applying an absorbent powder several times can gradually remove the stain. If the spot is still discolored, you can try dabbing the area with rubbing alcohol to loosen the staining material.
Blot Up Oily Liquid
The longer oily drips stay on suede, the deeper they penetrate. If a bit of oily food falls on a suede coat, blot it immediately with a paper towel or napkin. Do not add water and do not rub, as this can harm the fabric.
Apply Absorbent Powder, Then Brush
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
When food or wet mud gets on a suede coat, never rub the stain. Rubbing will only drive the stain deeper into the leather.
Remove Wet Material
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.
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
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.
Commercial glue removers like Goo Gone can damage natural suede and leave a discoloration that is nearly impossible to remove. Never use commercial solvents or stain removers on suede.
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.
Brush Off the Sticky Residue
Once the sticker is removed, allow the area to air-dry away from direct sunlight or heat. Brush with a suede brush, which sometimes is enough to remove all the sticky residue.
Erase the Stickiness
If residue remains, try an art gum eraser. Use short, gentle strokes, without hard scrubbing. The eraser should pick up any leftover glue in the fibers.
Use an Emery Board
If the suede brush and art gum eraser didn't completely remove the sticky residue, use an emery board to gently rub the area. Use a very light touch to prevent damage to the texture of the fabric.
What Is Suede?
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. Most suede items available commercially are made of sheepskin or lambskin, but they can also be made of goatskin, cow- or calfskin, deerskin, pigskin, or other animal skins. Suede is typically thinner and more supple than full-grain leather, but it is also somewhat less sturdy and less durable. Compared to full-grain natural leather, suede is cooler, breathable, and lends itself to more design choices.
Suede Jacket Care and Repairs
A two-sided suede brush is a must-have item if you have a quality suede coat. Inspect your jacket after each use. Use the wire side when removing dried mud, dirt, or other staining material, and use the soft side to buff the nap. Brushing should be done only when the jacket is completely dry, and never use hard pressure, which can damage the surface of the leather.
When new, applying a protective suede conditioner will make your jacket less likely to absorb stains. Never use ordinary leather polish on suede, however. A suede protector will also guard your jacket against water.
Holes and rips are generally best handled by a professional, though there are a number of leather repair kits you can buy if you want to try your own repairs.
Storing Suede Jackets
Leather coats and jackets should be stored by hanging them on a well-fitting wooden or fabric-covered hanger, and hung in a place that's well-ventilated and out of direct sunlight. Never store a leather coat folded up or in a closed container.
How Often to Clean a Suede Jacket
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.
Tips for Keeping Suede Jackets Clean
- 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.
- For very stubborn stains, dabbing the area with rubbing alcohol, then blotting, may dissolve and loosen the stain.
Can you iron a suede jacket?
Ironing a suede surface is not recommended, but you can sometimes remove wrinkles by ironing the leather from the inside at low heat and using a cotton cloth to protect the leather.
How do I remove smells from a leather jacket?
Place the jacket in a sealed garment back along with a sock or cloth pouch filled with baking soda. After several days, the odor should be gone.
Can I steam my suede jacket?
A steamer can help eliminate wrinkles, open leather pores, and loosen dirt and grime, but it's important not to get the leather wet or to touch the suede while applying steam. The best way to steam a jacket is to hang it in a bathroom near a running hot shower for several minutes. After this treatment, the jacket will be more amenable to brushing and stain removal.