As a suede-lover, I am often baffled by the fear suede footwear evokes in others. Can you relate? Have you ever fallen in love with a pair of beautiful suede boots only to talk yourself out of them and instead select a smooth leather or textile option? Well, I am here to try and help put those fears behind you!
The reality is that both smooth leather and suede shoes require maintenance in order to look great and last long. Leather should be cleaned, conditioned, polished, buffed/shined and protected just as suede should be cleaned, brushed, and protected.
What Is Suede? Suede is a type of leather created from the underside of animal skin. It is soft and has a fuzzy texture - this 'fuzz' is referred to as nap.
Caring for your suede footwear is actually pretty simple. Below you will find quick and easy ways to protect and clean suede footwear (and some great product recommendations to do so).
Note: It is good practice to test products on a small inconspicuous spot to ensure no discoloration occurs and if products have pigment that the colour properly matches footwear.
Before wearing your new suede shoes, consider protecting them against accidental spills or weather damage. Suede is naturally porous, meaning water will seep through it. Protecting your suede makes them water and stain repellant. This is especially important if you're walking through rainy, snowy, slushy, or salty conditions. Think about this step as placing an invisible shield on your footwear.
Note: Many suede boots at White-Balmer Shoes are pre-treated to be water-resistant or even waterproof (+ salt resistant). Some companies urge against the use of protectants on their pre-treated footwear, so it's always good to ask about product care when buying new footwear.
The Pro-Tex Water & Stain Protector is a suede-safe spray that evenly coats footwear to repel water, dirt, salt stains and accidental spills.
How To Use: Lightly spray clean footwear (8" away). Repeat this once more about an hour later. I like to use this product outside as I am sensitive to smells.
Why I love: This Canadian-made, all-weather, year-round spray works great and is silicone free (silicone can dry out and darken leather).
Even when being extra careful, your shoes are bound to need cleaning. Depending on the severity and type of cleaning required there are different steps and types of products that can be used.
Tip: Always clean your shoes when they are dry. Otherwise, dirt and stains could be rubbed deeper into the suede.
Suede brushes are great for removing dirt or surface level stains. They also help raise the nap on suede and nubuck (fibers can get matted down over time). These are my two favorite brushes to use:
This basic Nylon Brush gently cleans without harming suede or nubuck. It can be used with cleaners to scrub and lift stains.
Why I love: This brush has a nice wooden handle and fits the hand comfortably.
The Deluxe Suede Brush has four sides to remove trapped dirt, refresh nap and clean hard-to-reach welts and seams. The rubber and nylon/brass bristles offer multiple levels of impact on the suede.
Why I love: You don't need several brushes to effectively clean - this all-in-one brush does it all!
How to Use: Gently brush to loosen and remove any dried dirt. Light to moderate pressure is all you need as aggressive brushing can damage suede. Make sure to do one last brush down in the same direction as the fibers, so the nap nicely lays one way.
Many shoes have been saved with this handy little Suede & Nubuck Block. This magic eraser works wonders on spot treating mild surface stains on suede and nubuck.
How To Use: Gently rub the block over surface stains or scuffs and watch it magically disappear.
For tougher and deeper markings, this Suede, Nubuck and Fabric Shampoo can be used.
How to Use: After removing loose dirt, brush a pea-sized drop of cleaner into the stain. With a clean cloth, wipe off the excess product once the mark’s no longer visible. Finish by brushing in one direction to restore the nap.
Why I love: This Canada-made solution is safe on many materials and increases water + stain resistance.
How to Use: Simply rub the solution onto the salt stains and brush using the bottles applicator.
Why I love: So easy to use with the application brush that helps loosen tough salt stains.
Tip: You can also use warm water and vinegar to tackle light salt stains.
Use this Suede Renew Spray to refresh faded suede and nubuck. This product coats fibers with natural oils and colouring while replenishes moisture loss during normal wear.
How To Use: Lightly spray and coat cleaned footwear. I like to use this product outside and place boots in a cardboard box while spraying.
Why I Love: This product has great pigment and gives life back to faded footwear. I also like the brush included on the can's lid.
So, I hope this post has suede you to go shoe shopping and that you now feel confident in caring for suede.
Wait, What Is Nubuck?
Reading this post, you may have asked yourself, "What is nubuck?" Don’t worry, you aren't the only one. Many shoppers are not aware of the difference between suede and nubuck. Often customers call nubuck suede in our store as they are quite similar in look and feel.
The key difference is that nubuck uses the outer layer of an animal's hide. The nap in nubuck is created through a sanding process. Since the outer layer of an animal is thicker, sturdier, and tougher, nubuck is often more durable. Generally, suede is more supple and soft.
Caring for suede and nubuck is similar and many of the same products can be used. Since suede is more delicate, some nubuck specific products may cause damage on suede, so be sure to check product labels to ensure they are safe to use on your type of leather.