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How to clean suede: Your complete guide

Keep your jacket looking its best for the life of the coat

Man dancing with a woman in suede jacket
Arina Krasnikova / Pexels

Sure, a solid leather jacket can make you look as cool as Indiana Jones or Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, but it isn’t the only kind of jacket that can give you the essence of coolness. A good suede jacket gives you the same silhouette and the same aura, only with a softer look. Of course, if you are going to pick up a suede jacket, you need to know how to care for it and clean it properly.

We are here to tell you that you do not have to be intimidated by suede! You can keep your jacket looking fresh by following this simple guide. With a couple of small tools, you can clean your suede jacket at home, saving time and money. These tools, designed specifically for suede, will also help restore the beautiful nap of your jacket that made you want to buy it in the first place.

The best part about this guide is that you do not have to treat your suede with any chemicals beforehand for these tools to be useful. Weatherproofing chemicals can help protect your best men’s jacket, but they can also muddle that beautiful suede texture. They can also discolor the dye, and once they are applied, there is no way to get them off.

Man in leather jacket in woods with camera
Ben Collins / Unsplash

Suede vs leather

One of the more confusing things about suede is its relation to leather. While many people think they are completely different, they are actually very close to being the same. The smoothness of leather is due to it being the outer side of the animal hide. The softness of suede, however, is due to it being the inner side of the very same hide. While they are the same hide, they look and feel very different. And therefore need to be cleaned very differently.

Man in suede coat with child
Tatiana Syrikova / Pexels

Using a suede eraser and brush

Suede erasers and brushes are great tools designed specifically for cleaning suede. A suede eraser is a block of soft rubber that effectively works the same way as a pencil eraser on paper, rubbing stains off of suede. A suede brush is a very coarse brush, often made of nylon or sometimes horsehair and metal bristles. The brush wipes away particles pulled up by the eraser and restores the nap of the suede where it has been matted down.

  • Use the eraser on any visible stains or scuffs. Use medium pressure in small back-and-forth motions in the same way you would erase pencil from paper.
  • Use the brush to wipe away any dirt and debris pulled up by the eraser. Brush with broad strokes, using firm but gentle pressure. Too much pressure can scratch the suede. After focusing on the stained areas, brush the rest of the jacket to create an even texture.
Man in suede sport coat
João Vítor Duarte / Unsplash

Treating liquid stains

Liquid stains are a bigger issue for suede than dirt stains and scuffs but they are still treatable at home. All you will need is a good suede or nubuck shampoo.

  • Mix your shampoo in a small bowl using two parts warm water to every one part shampoo. Take the brush provided with the shampoo or your suede brush, if none was provided, and stir it the shampoo mixture until you have a lather on the brush.
  • Rub the stained area firmly enough to build up a foaming lather. Be careful not to apply too much pressure because you could scratch the suede. This step may be repeated until you see the stain fade.
  • The shampoo will darken the suede a lot at first but only slightly after it dries. You will need to scrub the entire jacket to create a uniform color. This will also help clean and treat the entire jacket.
  • Allow time to dry, then repeat steps 1 to 3 if necessary.

Suede jackets are an excellent addition to any wardrobe. They’re versatile because they match practically everything and they single-handedly upgrade any outfit. A good suede jacket can be worn with slacks and a button-down to add complexity to a formal outfit or it can be worn with a t-shirt and jeans to add respectability to a casual outfit. There are countless uses. Once you learn how to clean your suede jacket yourself, you can wear it unburdened by the fear of stains.

Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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