Suede leather is a material that holds a worldwide appeal. For those who value high-end style and the soft, expensive feel of a high-quality material, suede leather is perhaps one of the more familiar leather options on the market for accessory enthusiasts.
But what is suede leather, and is it even the best option if you’re shopping for long-lasting leather goods?
What is Suede Leather?
Although made from the same core material, there are many differences that make suede unique in appearance, feel, and characteristics. It’s these characteristics that dictate which products are best made from different areas of the hide.
Is Suede Real Leather?
Suede is real leather, although it isn’t as durable and long-lasting as some other real leather alternatives.
In its traditional form, suede is made from real animal hides and is considered to be 100% real leather. However, in some cases, suede-like materials or faux suedes may be created by blending real leather fibers with synthetic materials. This blend is often referred to as "bonded suede" or "suede fabric."
These synthetic leather options typically will not last for long. For strong, long-lasting products that have that rugged appearance and signature leather scent, the thicker materials that come from the top of the hide might be a better option.
How is Suede Leather Made?
So, if real suede leather is made from the same hides as more traditional leathers, how does it get its trademark soft texture?
Creating suede is a meticulous process that begins right at the beginning with the hides. High-quality hides from cows, sheep, and pigs can all be used for luxury products. Cow hides typically make the roughest form of suede, while sheepskin suede is one of the softest options.
The hides are firstly cleaned and often tanned before they are split. Splitting is the process of carefully separating the different layers of leather to then be used for the crafting of different products.
The bottom layers that are less hardened are the parts that are used for suede. The top layer is where top-grain leather comes from, and its exposure to the elements explains its more authentic and natural appearance.
With the split (suede layer) separated from the hide, it can now be cleaned further, buffed, and dyed to reach the right texture and color. For softer suedes, the process will involve more buffing to achieve the desired finish.
Cleaning Suede Leather
Suede leather requires specialist care and can be easily damaged if not properly cleaned. This is the case for most real leathers, although some fare better than others.
Suede is especially susceptible to staining, which is why it’s key to act fast when dealing with this type of leather.
First, you will need to identify what type of stain or dirt you’re dealing with. Dry marks, wet stains, and oil-based blemishes will all require a different approach.
Cleaning Dirt and Dry Marks Off Suede
For dry dirt, you can most often use a very soft brush to clean away any mess. Avoid using harsh chemicals and abrasive brushes on this gentle fabric. Using a brush that’s too harsh can scratch the material and ruin your real leather products.
For more stubborn marks, it’s also possible to use a clean eraser sparingly to remove some of the surface-level dirt. Avoid overusing this method, or you could risk damaging the surface of the material.
Cleaning Wet Stains On Suede
For wet stains and marks, time is of the essence. Immediately blot (don’t rub) the stained area to try and take the liquid out of the material.
For more stubborn stains, you may be able to use a leather cleaner or a combination of white vinegar and water on a cloth. Gently dab the solution onto the cloth, not the leather, and never rub it, or you risk spreading the stain.
For oil-based stains, it's always recommended to get a professional to take a look. Water-based solutions won’t have too much of an impact on oily stains and can actually do more damage.
Bonus Tips For Cleaning Suede Leather:
- Always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area of the suede first to ensure it doesn't cause damage.
- Do not use water on oil-based stains. Instead, consult a professional cleaner.
- Allow the suede to air dry completely after cleaning. Avoid using heat sources like hair dryers or radiators, as they can damage the material and cause it to warp.
Advantages of Suede Leather
Suede leather is a popular and fashionable option for those interested in luxury goods. Its flexibility and super soft texture makes it ideal for jackets, coats, and some luxury leather bags.
It’s a lightweight and versatile option that is perfect for combining style and comfort.
Disadvantages of Suede Leather
The biggest downside of softer leathers like suede is that they aren’t as durable and can be very prone to damage if not properly cared for.
Real leather products are investment pieces, so it’s always best to try and understand what type of leather is best for regularly used day-to-day items.
What Is The Best Type Of Leather For Bags?
Bags and wallets are considered to be heavy-wear items that see a lot of use.
When buying luxury accessories like these, whether as a gift or for yourself, it’s important to consider how the material can impact a bag's longevity.
Here are some of our favorite bags that have elements of that soft suede material but are created in combination with stronger leathers to truly give you the best of both worlds.