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Changing color of suede

Updated February 21, 2017

There is nothing quite like the comfort and style of suede. Fuzzy, warm and durable, many items, including coats, shoes and furniture, look beautiful when made of suede. An animal hide product, suede is the underside of leather buffed smooth. With time and use, however, it can appear somewhat dull and worn. Renew the look with a cleaning and dye job. While suede can be difficult to dye another colour, it is still possible if you follow a few guidelines.

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  1. Brush the suede item to remove any excess dirt from it and to raise the suede's nap. Use a special suede brush, as a wire-bristled brush can damage the material.

  2. Sand the item lightly with very fine-grit sandpaper, following the grain, if the suede is matted and dull.

  3. Mix a gallon of warm water with a two drops of liquid dish or washing powder. Avoid adding too much soap, as it can leave a residue on the fabric and ruin it. New suede items may not need cleaning, which means that you can dye the item right away, but older items will benefit from a thorough cleaning.

  4. Dip either a toothbrush or clean, soft cloth into the detergent solution. Wring most of the water out, then wipe the suede with the implement in gentle, circular motions. Rinse the cloth or toothbrush after every stroke and continue until suede is clean. Blot the suede with a dry, soft cloth to remove any excess water, then allow it to air dry.

  5. Apply the dye to your suede. Pour a very small amount of the dye onto a soft, clean cloth and blot it onto the suede. Rub in a circular motion after blotting so that the colour both works into the grain and spreads out. Some dyes instruct you to either use a wool dauber, which will push the dye against the fabric, or to brush the dye on with a dye brush using long, even strokes. Blot the dyed area with a fresh cloth to remove excess colour. Follow the dye manufacturer's suggested application and be sure to spread the dye evenly with any procedure.

  6. Brush the suede with your suede brush while it is still damp and allow it to dry for an hour or two. Brush it again when dry, if needed. Clean the brush between applications with warm, soapy water and allow it to dry. Repeat the dye application until the suede reflects your desired hue.

  7. Tip

    Consider using a commercial suede cleaner or dry cleaner solvent to clean suede. Follow the manufacturer's product instructions to clean your suede item. It can prove next to impossible to lighten the colour of suede. To darken, you often have to dye the item an intermediate colour before darkening it to its final colour.


    Do not apply more than four layers of dye to avoid drying the suede out. The better you clean your suede first, the better the dye will work; dirt and stains can prevent the penetration of dyes.

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Things You'll Need

  • Suede brush
  • Fine-grit sandpaper (120 grit or better)
  • Bucket or other container
  • Soap (dish or laundry)
  • Toothbrush
  • Soft cloths
  • Suede dye
  • Wool dauber

About the Author

Karie Lapham Fay

Karie Fay earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology with a minor in law from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. After growing up in construction and with more than 30 years in the field, she believes a girl can swing a hammer with the best of them. She enjoys "green" or innovative solutions and unusual construction.

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