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Care of Leather & Suede

Updated on February 19, 2016
relache profile image

Raye loved playing dress-up so much, she studied costume and makeup for her BA, then got an MFA in surface design.

DIY Leather Care

Leather is a natural product, having once been living animal skin and it is not always easy to clean once it gets dirty. It is best to maintain leather garments regularly and then they will be protected from accidental spills and will resist wear-and-tear from normal usage. With care, leather garments can be useful beyond a single owner.

Regular care will maintain the water-resistance and beautiful appearance of leather. Any scrapes or scratches in the outer surface will not only take away the color but allow moisture to get into the hide. For seasonal garments, it's best to clean them at the beginning and end of the wear season. For garments worn frequently and year-round, once or twice a month might be appropriate depending on how much dirt and scuffing they receive.

A Good General Leather Conditioner

Pecard Leather Dressing, 6 oz
Pecard Leather Dressing, 6 oz

If you want to keep something on-hand that will work for a wide range of clothing, shoe and luggage pieces, Pecard's is a good, general use product. It can really bring back the suppleness and surface of vintage items.

Many people feel that the biker-style leather jacket is the "classic" image of the garment.
Many people feel that the biker-style leather jacket is the "classic" image of the garment.

Basic Leather Cleaning

The first thing to try is simply wipe down with a damp cloth or sponge then allow to dry. Another way and probably the best way to clean a leather is with 'saddle soap' which you may find at a good leather shop. Then you need to give it a good coat of quality leather polish, regularly. It'll keep the leather soft and semi-waterproof. You can never fully waterproof leather.

You should also consider using a specifically made leather cleaner. Follow the directions. If the piece has cleaned up to your satisfaction then treat it with a conditioner to restore its luster and replace the leather’s natural oils. (Always test these products on an inconspicuous area before using).

If the leather has become discolored, there are available leather sprays that can restore color to the item. Simply match the color as close as possible to the original. If in doubt, seek the advice of a professional leather cleaner, especially if it is an expensive item. They will have the expertise to repair the piece as close as possible to the original color and condition.

Using Leather Dye

Cleaning and care of Suede

Suede by it's very nature has got it's problems when it comes to cleaning. What you need to weigh up is the value of the item before you take steps to clean it. If it is an expensive item then it may be better to seek the advice of a professional cleaner. Read on for some advice and tips for the maintenance, cleaning and removing of stains from suede items.


General care

  • The best way to deal with suede is to care for it well. Always clean suede before storing it. Suede can be brushed with a soft rubber or bristle brush, or a wire suede brush. Do not rub too hard and do it in a gentle circular motion.

  • Never use chemical fluid or spot remover on suede as the color of the garment will run and you will actually get light rings around the stain.

Stains and Marks

  • Most marks on suede can be brushed off with a stiff brush, a damp cloth or sponge. However grease and oil can be a real struggle to remove from suede.

Grease Marks/Stains

  • Cover the mark with talcum powder and leave overnight. The powder will absorb the grease. Brush clean in the morning.

  • Try making a thick paste of Fullers Earth and a little dry cleaning fluid and rub it into the stain. Leave for a few hours or overnight and brush it all away.

  • For grease marks round collars. You can buy special suede cleaning cloths that you c an rub over marks such as these.

Water marks

  • Suede is very prone to getting water marks. Once the suede is dry you can remove water marks from suede by brushing with a suede brush or stiff upholstery brush. You can also use a damp cloth or sponge. If ordinary brushing does not do the trick then try rubbing the area lightly with emery board, then steam over a boiling kettle.(Be careful with the steam)

Make up marks

  • Make up stains on suede can be removed by rubbing with a piece of stale bread.


Suede Cleaner

Kiwi SELECT Suede and Nubuck Cleaner, 5.5 oz
Kiwi SELECT Suede and Nubuck Cleaner, 5.5 oz

Suede is made by splitting leather horizontally, and the soft surface is from the inside layer of the leather. This means suede needs a lot more moisture protection than full leather, and it's going to be susceptible to dirt more too. It definitely needs it's own cleaning product if you have a lot of suede pieces in your collection.


Cleaning Leather & Suede Shoes


Don’t try cleaners, solvents and other usually normal cleaning solutions on leather. It is by nature a very porous material and often cannot be completely restored.

The biggest danger to watch out for is that leather is very prone to going moldy. Mold can forms on the leather when it has been stored in a damp place or in folds when it has been put away wet. Always bear this in mind when storing your leather products. If your item has got mold on it and you do not want to seek the advice of a professional then you must dry the product out. Do not put it too close to direct heat as that will damage the leather but hang it up in a warm room. When the item is fully dry then you can remove the mold with a damp cloth. Allow it to dry out again. You now need to clean the leather and re-seal the surface.


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    • Juiceyme profile image

      Juiceyme 6 years ago

      WOW!!! I will have to try your stale bread recommendation for getting makeup off. I have a suede, fringed jacket I absolutely adore. I have make up around the collar and could never get it out. I would never have thought to rub stale bread on it. Thank you for this wonderful information.

    • profile image

      multimastery 9 years ago

      Much-needed information ~ Thanks!

    • Julie-Ann Amos profile image

      Julie-Ann Amos 9 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

      Great hub thanks, have linked it to mine on same topic

    • relache profile image

      Raye 10 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I was a costume major in college and then worked for a leather garment company, so that's where I got all my know-how.

    • LdsNana-AskMormon profile image

      Kathryn Skaggs 10 years ago from Southern California

      Relache -

      Excellent Hub. Thank you for such relevant information about leather care. I have quite a bit of leather, be it jackets... too many - purses, and leather furniture. Your information is outstanding and that which I will apply.

      Thank you.



      (Again, a beautiful example of a well designed and written Hub. I am still learning how best to provide information:-)