There is a lot of misinformation out there about suede shoe repair and restoration. People worry that dying suede can’t be brought to life, or that scratched suede shoes are destined for the waste bin.

But suede is just another form of leather. And there is nothing mysterious or magical about restoring leather shoes. All it takes is a little bit of knowledge and a few special tools. In this post, you’ll learn the methods that the professionals at Cobbleron use to clean, dye, repair and restore suede shoes.



Suede Shoes Fix


Can you repair suede shoes?

Yes, suede shoes are repairable in a number of ways. Understanding some of the properties of suede will prepare you to learn how to maintain and restore your shoes:

  • Suede is porous. It absorbs moisture, water, dirt and other substances with ease. Therefore, one of your first priorities is to maintain your suede’s waterproofing in order to avoid deep stains and excessive moisture.
  • Suede is soft and thin. Compared to traditional leather, suede isn’t nearly as tough. While this allows it to appeal to a gentler esthetic, it also means that suede is more prone to scratches and discolouration. So you need to be committed to cleaning and repairing your suede shoes more often than you are used to.
  • Suede has a “nappy” surface. In the manufacturing process, leather is thinned, split and textured in order to create that unique nappy look and feel that we associate with suede. Restoring your suede shoes will require a little extra care to maintain this soft texture.


Suede Shoes Repairs & Restoration


Cleaning suede shoes

The following process is appropriate for general suede shoe cleaning, as well as removal of light to medium stains. If you have any deep stains that won’t come out, that’s the time to seek professional assistance.

Step 1: Wash the shoes with warm water

For the best effect, mix a little suede shampoo with lukewarm water. If you don’t have any shampoo, don’t try to substitute with other household cleaners, as you might cause permanent damage to the material. Just stick with straight water. It usually works well enough.

Dip your nylon brush into the mixture and scrub just the suede parts of your shoes. If you have laces, it may be helpful to remove them first. As you scrub, work in every direction and avoid saturating the leather too heavily. Remember, suede is very porous. Too much moisture could ruin your shoes.

Suede Shoes Repairs & Restoration 3

Properly caring for your suede footwear can help preserve them for decades and beyond, says Vasilios Christofilakos, professor of footwear and accessories design at Fashion Institute of Technology. 


Step 2: Dry the shoes

Start by using a microfibre cloth to gently collect as much exterior moisture as you can. Your other goal is to wipe away any suds that remain from the shampoo.

Your cloth will start the drying process, but you’ve got to let the shoes air dry for a few hours after that. If you’re in a rush, you can use a hair dryer, but you have to be extra careful. Keep it to low heat and stay far from the shoes to avoid permanent burn damage.


Suede Shoes Repairs & Restoration - Drying


Step 3: Treat stains (if necessary)

Once your shoes are dry, you can assess how much more cleaning work they need. Often, a simple soft bristle scrub with water and shampoo is enough to get the job done. If there are still stains remaining, you have two approaches to take:

  • For light stains, use a suede eraser to gently spot clean areas that still require attention. These are typically made of rubber and are specially designed for cleaning suede and nubuck. As a bonus, you can use these on your suede furniture, car seats, jackets and more.
  • For heavier stains, you can try a wire brush. This is really a last ditch effort, though, and needs to be attempted extra carefully. You want to use the brush in as small an area and with as little pressure as necessary. Too much force from a hard brush can damage the suede irreversibly.

If you are nervous about ruining your shoes with improper cleaning methods, or if all your efforts just can’t get the stains out, it’s time to call in an expert.


Suede Shoes Repairs & Restoration 2


Waterproofing suede shoes

You should regularly keep up with the waterproofing of your suede shoes in order to reduce staining and maintain their lifespan. Aim to waterproof them every three months at a minimum, or whenever they seem to be losing their resistance. Additionally, you should always re-waterproof your suede shoes following a cleaning.

The good news is that this is a fairly simple process. All you need is a suede waterproofing spray. Apply the spray over the entire shoe in several light coats, allowing a few minutes to dry between each coat.


waterproofing suede shoes

Prevention is key when it comes to suede shoe care. The suede protector spray creates a protective barrier that repels liquids, stains, and dirt. –


Dyeing suede shoes

Suede shoes can be dyed, although the colour selection is somewhat limited. Your options include browns, blacks, dark greens, and navy blues. You may want to dye shoes to change the colour, but often you just want to reinvigorate the original colour.

Here are some important considerations to keep in mind before deciding to dye your suede shoes:

  • Dyeing shoes is not a simple process. There is a lot of room for error, especially if you are trying to transform them to a new colour..
  • Dyeing is messy. Use disposable gloves, wear old clothes and lay down something to protect your work surface.
  • It’s not easy to achieve a consistent quality. If you are working with expensive or highly beloved suede shoes, you should strongly consider hiring a professional.

Here is the basic process for dying suede shoes:

  1. Give the shoes a thorough cleaning per our instructions above.
  2. Remove any shoelaces to prevent them from getting dyed.
  3. Stuff the shoes with something like newspaper in order to help them keep form while you work.
  4. Use a brush or dauber to apply the dye in an even coat. Be especially careful around the non-suede areas, such as the soles, zippers and eyelets. You may want to use a smaller brush when working near these spots.

Keep in mind that you don’t always need to dye the entire shoe. If a spot or two have been discoloured, such as by water damage, you can just dye the damaged portions to restore the appearance of the shoes. However, if the dyed areas are large, the difference in colour shade may be noticeable.


dying suede shoes - repair & restoration


How do you revive dead suede?

Your suede can lose its nappy, fluffy appearance due to a variety of factors. Time, moisture and even the stress of cleaning can all play their part. Without that distinctive texture, your shoes will barely be recognised as suede.

Here are the steps to bring dead suede back to life again:

  • Carefully hold the shoes over a light stream of steam, such as from a boiling pot of water. As previously warned, avoid letting the suede get too wet.
  • Scrub the shoes slowly all over with your rubber suede eraser. This should bring back the nappy texture.
  • If the shoes still need reviving, you can gently fluff the surface with a brass bristle brush in multiple directions. Again, hard brushes can be too abrasive if not handled properly, so be very careful.
  • Finally, applying mink oil and brushing the suede over with a horse hair brush will help to recondition the surface to make it look good as new again.

There does come a point in which the desired nappy texture can’t be achieved, or at least not evenly, without professional service. In this case, reach out to an expert cobbler to see what can be done.


reviving suede shoes with a brass bristle brush

Suede becomes more prone to damage when it is wet. You won’t be able to get all the moisture out by patting the shoes dry, so let them air dry on their own. –


How to fix suede shoes

Suede shoe repair for larger damage can be achieved through professional techniques and materials. If your dog got to your shoes and gnawed a hole in them, for example, all is not lost. Likewise, old worn-out soles can often be replaced.

Suede shoe restoration like this isn’t a do-it-yourself job. An expert cobbler can assist with these sorts of repairs and more:

  • Minor cracks and tears can be repaired with special adhesive and targeted dyeing.
  • Holes can be fixed with suede patches. This may require the whole shoe to be re-dyed so that the discolouration isn’t noticeable.
  • Worn zips can be removed and replaced. Typically, we recommend replacing both shoes so that they match, even if only one zipper really needs it.
  • Structural elements like heels and soles can be replaced in order to extend the lifetime of your suede shoes. When working with the bottoms of shoes, it’s important to replace both at the same time to maintain a consistent height.


suede shoes repairs & restoration australia

Ready for professional suede shoe restoration? Call on Cobbleron!

You’ll be amazed at what a professional cobbler can do to an old pair of shoes. Whether your suede shoes took on too much water, got chewed up by the dog or have just been worn to near death, the experts at Cobbleron can bring them to life again.

We love a challenge, especially if it requires a bit of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. So no matter the extent of your suede shoe damage, give us a call to see if we can help. Or, feel free to try our online form to request your estimate today.

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