Suede is a popular fabric used in home furnishings, clothing and accessories to convey luxury and elegance. This pliable and sumptuous leather is easily identified by its smooth napped finish. Unfortunately, suede is highly susceptible to dirt, dust and tearing of the delicate fabric and needs special care to be cleaned and repaired.
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Suede is leather made from the hide of animals, most notably cows. Suede is generally produced from the split hide section of the animal. Suede is easily torn and damaged due to the delicate nature of the fabric. However, full-grain leather can be transformed into suede or nubuck by applying a tool to the hide to distress the leather. Suede is most commonly used to create shoes, handbags, jewellery, home furnishings and clothing.
When suede is soiled, the best method to clean the material is a suede brush. A small, short brush with tough bristles, a suede brush is applied to the soiled area in a sweeping motion. The brush removes pieces of the napped leather, by forming small pill-shaped particles that reveal the smooth under layer of the animal skin. Suede erasers, metal brushes, suede stones, emery boards and sandpaper are also used to remove scuff marks off suede shoes and dirt from handbags, but are not as effective as the suede brush.
If a few drops of water fall on your suede shoes or bags, blot first with a towel to remove the moisture. Do not apply heat to the area. Allow the wet area to air dry naturally. If large amounts of water or liquids spill on your suede items, rush your clothing or shoes to a suede specialist immediately for cleaning. Suede fabrics, which are ripped or torn, can be repaired similarly to leather products. The fabric can be patched together or glued with another piece of suede material. However, this process must be performed by a leather specialist who is skilled in suede repair. Oily stains can be removed with a degreaser product made specifically for suede fabrics. A solution of one-part white vinegar and four parts water is another home remedy used to clean suede. Dab a small amount of the solution on a clean white cloth. Blot and wipe gently on the soiled area.
Shoes and handbags made with suede stain easily. These suede items can be weatherproofed with a silicone protectant spray. After every third or fourth wearing of your suede product, remove scuff marks, dirt, dust and grime using a suede brush or eraser. Products to clean and repair suede are available at your local shoe store and shoe repair shops. Synthetic suede used in upholstery may be treated with a protective solution or "Scotch-Guarded" to protect the fabric from frequent use.
Suede is less durable than patent leather or full grain leather and is more susceptible to tearing and damage from water and sunlight. Synthetic suede less expensive to manufacture and is less likely to soil or tear. Suede alternatives such as microsuede and ultrasuede are commonly used in upholstery, bedding, pillows, rugs clothing and accessories. In comparison to authentic suede, the synthetic version is stiff to the touch and does not have the same smooth consistency of real suede.
Before you treat any shoes or suede accessories, use a patch test on a hidden area to prevent damage to the items. When using a suede brush to repair the fabric, gently brush the fabric, instead of scrubbing harshly. Refrain from cleaning your suede items too frequently. After each cleaning session, the suede will begin to fade or disappear from the area when brushing and erasing has occurred. If dirt and oil remain on your suede pieces after being treated with soap, vinegar or a suede brush, take the items to a professional immediately.