Is Suede Waterproof?

You might have heard that suede’s natural resilience makes it impervious to moisture and other environmental forces. You might also have heard that getting suede wet is a surefire way to ruin it for good. Which is it?

The answer is: it’s not all cut and dried.

Investigating the relationship between suede and water can lead you into some pretty murky territory. Still, it’s an important concept to wrap your head around if you want to get the most out of your suede belongings.

Join us as we examine the history of this highly-sought-after material and unpack some of its unique strengths and weaknesses. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or card-carrying connoisseur, we guarantee you’ll learn something.

Common Uses for Suede

Since its introduction to the textile industry, suede has been a popular choice for clothing, accessories, upholstery, and all manner of other consumer goods. Look around, and you’ll find the fabric everywhere, from handsomely rugged suede shoes and coats to designer gloves and purses to couches, car seats, and virtually everything in between.

The main reason for suede’s enduring popularity is its luxurious feel. Compared to other types of leather, suede is lighter, more flexible, and softer to the touch. As a result, the material has gained a reputation for being well-suited for items that require a fine finish.

This trend began over two centuries ago, when suede was used to manufacture women’s gloves and high-end boutique wares, and it’s still going strong today.

Suede’s Chemical Makeup

Suede is a variety of leather fashioned from the skin of young game animals, such as calves, lambs, goats, and deer.

Unlike full-grain leathers, which use the thickest, toughest part of the hide to ensure maximum durability, suede consists of the underside of the skin, which is more delicate and supple. One can also produce it by splitting those tough outer hides into thin sections with a visual and tactile character similar to that of the skin’s underside.

Once someone has harvested the hides, they’re brushed or sanded to increase their softness. This process gives suede its trademark “nap,” or the plush, velvety texture that makes it so delightful to run your hands and eyes over.

All the extra space within this nap makes it more porous and more absorbent than other kinds of leather. This can present issues when it comes to keeping suede clean and dry, as you’ll see later on.

Is Suede Inherently Waterproof?

Here’s where things can get a little confusing.

The term “waterproof” essentially means water cannot penetrate a material past a certain amount. This definition applies to suede and other leathers.

Technically speaking, suede is waterproof in the sense that exposure to water and other fluids won’t ruin the material outright.

At worst, prolonged saturation could create unsightly spots and stains in the once-uniform finish or leave the nap feeling stiff and unyielding for a few hours until it’s had time to dry out. But it won’t cause suede to fall apart or break down in any way that might affect its performance.

However, putting semantics aside, we can also say that suede is not waterproof in the way or to the degree that most responsible consumers would hope.

As such, it’s always a good idea to further secure your suede items using a dedicated waterproofing product. There are several very good reasons for this suggestion.

First and foremost, all materials deteriorate over time. Repeated wetting and drying will take a toll on your favorite handbags and pair of boots! Just like normal launderable items are subject to gradual wear-and-tear through regular washing and drying. Waterproofing then acts as a prudent means of forestalling the inevitable.

Secondly, the same characteristics that make suede so cozy and attractive also make it vulnerable to devaluation, monetarily or otherwise. Even if getting caught in a freak downpour won’t destroy your suede clothing and accessories, it can cause them to emerge stained, matted, and ruffled, which can significantly reduce their overall appeal.

Finally, waterproofing suede makes it a more practical option for everyday living. Chances are, you’ll get much more enjoyment out of your suede goods if you know that any liquids they encounter will simply roll right off.

Is It Possible to Safeguard Suede Against Water?

We’re glad you asked.

Just because suede and water aren’t a great mix doesn’t mean you can only wear that amazing vintage bomber jacket you dug up at your local thrift shop indoors. There are steps you can take to protect your precious suede items and keep them looking like a million bucks when things get wet and wild.

In fact, imbuing suede with enhanced moisture-resistant properties is an astonishingly simple project. It all comes down to choosing the right waterproofing product.

The best way to get your suede ready to take on the elements is to invest in a quality waterproofing spray. While it is possible to treat suede using rub-on oils, waxes, and polishes, sprays are much easier to work with since they offer superior distribution and penetrating power.

A good waterproofing spray will coat the leather and seal up some of the nap’s extra space, leaving less room for water to find its way in. A great one will also make it harder for spots and stains to take hold.

These products’ magic lies in their specially-formulated ingredients, which usually consist of natural components derived from plant and animal sources, such as mink oil, vegetable waxes, and pine-based turpentine. These sorts of substances are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water. Needless to say, this quality makes them an ideal shield for materials like suede.

It may seem obvious, but be sure to look for a spray that’s designed specifically for use on suede, nubuck, and other textured types of leather. Not all waterproofing sprays feature the same ingredients, and you don’t want to end up with one that’s going to harm rather than help your suede items.

You’ll also want to steer clear of products containing silicones, petroleums, resins, or other chemical additives, as they can do lasting damage to the leather.

How to Make Suede Waterproof

Before you begin the process of waterproofing your suede boots and other goods, it’s important to clean the material thoroughly. Doing so will help ensure that your waterproofing solution of choice doesn’t end up mingled with anything that might interfere with its water-resistant properties.

Sweep the suede lightly with a stiff-bristled, non-abrasive brush to dislodge any dust, dirt, or debris that happens to be clinging to it. If needed, go over especially dingy areas with an approved leather cleaner to restore them to their former glory. Allow the fabric to air dry completely before moving on.

When you’re ready to get down to brass tacks, grab your waterproofing spray and give the can a good shake. Position the nozzle four-to-six inches away from the suede and wave the can back and forth while holding down the button to hit the fabric from every possible angle. Afterward, let the item sit undisturbed for a few hours before you take it for a spin.

For more detailed instructions, check out our full article on waterproofing suede or other treatment options.

The Last Drop

Try to get in the habit of cleaning and spraying your suede sundries about once a month, or perhaps more often if they frequently brave wet weather. With consistent care, they’ll retain their buttery finish and ravishing good looks for years to come.

If you’re interested in the waterproof properties of other fabrics, check out our other articles below.