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How to wax suede shoes

How to wax suede

Fabric Wax on Suede Shoes? It’s not a combination most of us would contemplate, but it keeps water out and extracts a rustic look that will set you apart from the crowd. Sit back, grab a wax bar and extend the life of your suede!

The first waxed suede shoe

Suede history

When I say the “beginning”, I mean the 5,500-year-old first shoe beginning. Mankind and dirty leather have a glorious history that spans the ages. Whether that be herding cattle in an ancient Mesopotamian field or a rainy trip to the office, our leather will get wet and dirty. The creator of the first shoe used a salt and clay combination to preserve his leather. Then, around 2200 BC early forms of tanning with Alum salt were used to prevent rot and decay. But, by 1000 BC, central Europeans began treating and preserving their leather with cedar oil. Consequently, our ancient ancestors figured out that natural oils will both soften hides and provide water repellency. If we fast forward to the turn of the century, modern petroleum-based leather treatments would replace more expensive natural alternatives. But, modern consumers increasingly demand a return to a more natural, durable, and manly leather proofing routine.

Suede protector

Your suede shoes are a hassle to maintain and will inevitably loose their factory fresh appearance. Worry not, some quality fabric weatherproofing will transform them into something to be proud of. The process of waxing suede both creates a unique matte finish and makes them totally waterproof and impervious to dirt and stains. But first, lets dig down into the grain of the matter with some important differences between suede and other types of leather for shoes.

Suede has a unique appearance and fibrous feel that is unique to the type, this is due to the processing and splitting of the leather. A full grain cowhide is rock hard and nearly a quarter inch thick, making it totally unsuitable for use in foot ware. To combat this, tanners slice the leather into layers based on the variance in grain and texture consisting of top-grain, interior, and underside. So, the first two splits are used in standard leather production but the underside is processed into the fuzzy suede we know and love.

Like our skin, the outer layers of leather are tougher than the new growth underneath so, the outer splits are used for tougher applications. In contrast, the underside layer used to make suede has a lot more flexibility, making it ideal for when comfort is a priority. In addition to all this, suede’s have varying degrees of “nap” (the little hairs that stick out from the leather). The length of the nap depends on how it’s processed and is usually a good indicator of quality. A really short nap is going to be more expensive, but will have a great ‘velvety’ appearance.

Waxed shoe next to a virgin suede shoe

Nubuk Vs Suede

Nubuk and Suede have been used for centuries to protect us from the elements. Suede and nubuck leathers are both more comfortable and fuzzier than common smooth leathers and are most commonly used for footwear and accessory products. The fluffy nap that is found on suede and nubuck leathers are crafted by sanding leather hides to remove the top layer of material.

However, there is a key difference between the two materials. Suede is crafted by sanding or rubbing the inside layer of the leather hide. Nubuck is crafted from the sanded outside layer of the leather hide.

The outside layer of the leather hide tends to be much thicker, sturdier, and durable. This means that nubucks will feel harder to the touch but much more durable. The added durability and toughness makes nubuck perfect for footwear applications.

The inside layer of hide that is used to make suede leathers tends to be supple, soft and thin. Suede is therefore considered to be a very luxurious product that is great for next-to-skin applications such as gloves and higher end footwear.

How To Darken Suede

Rockport is a heritage brand with a tradition of quality and sturdy construction, their Captoe Oxford’s sport a light nap, which is perfect for fabric weatherproofer application. Furthermore, the wax will smooth out the appearance and mat down the nap, leaving a consistent slick appearance fit for the aesthete among us. Worry not, this treatment will not diminish the suede appearance but amplify and slightly darken it to classy matte sheen.

Is Suede Waterproof

Suede is very sensitive to water. Just one run in with nasty weather can ruin a new pair of suede shoes. Consistently, treated and synthetic suede is generally marketed as water resistant, meaning a material that is water resistant is one that is naturally able to resist water penetration to a degree, but it will not protect it entirely. This means it will be perfectly protected in a small rain shower but anything more and there might not be adequate protection. In contrast, a waterproof material is one that can be treated so that it can be submerged in water without being damaged. However, this imperious barrier can only last for so long, so if a material that is waterproofed is fully submerged in water it will only remain undamaged for a certain amount of time. Hawk Tools Fabric Weatherproof is waterproof.

Common leather like suede does not pay well with water. Yes, it has some water resistance, but too much water will cause the leather to become wet – due to the material’s permeable nature, and as the leather dries it can become stiff and hard, losing that wonderful supple texture. If the leather doesn’t dry quickly enough, it could even start to rot.

Due to its permeable nature, leather can never be truly 100% waterproof, especially as the leather gets older and is left untreated. However, if suede is treated with fabric weatherproofer, it will increase the lifespan of your suede for years and also improve its level of waterproofness.

Wax Suede Supplies

Before we begin, make sure you have all the right gear for the job.

1. A 5oz bar of the best fabric weatherproofer available.

2. A Dauber Palm Brush

3. Hair dryer or heat gun

4. A pair of Modern Break Captoe Oxford Shoes.

The application process is quick and simple if you follow the instructions below. Plan for about 30 minutes to really hone the matte look, but there are are optional treatments to consider for a more polished appearance.

Step 1. General Inspection

Suede shoe on a stump

Look for obvious signs of tears or stretching before application. Remove your laces to make a full inspection and prep for wax application. If you notice any damage, have your local cobbler make any needed repairs before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2. Clean your suede shoe

Cleaning suede shoes with a dauber palm brush

Scrub the whole shoe down with your Dauber Palm Brush to clean off dirt and debris. Purchase a Dauber Palm Brush here.

Step 3. Support your shoe

Newspaper stuffed into suede shoe

Use a quality news paper to support the shoe from the inside. We don’t push any brands but the Wall Street Journal is our first choice.

Step 4. Rub fabric wax into suede

Rubbing a fabric wax bar into a suede shoe

Rub the first layer of wax in with your hand. Remember, your thumb is the easiest option and it’s perfect to create some extra friction. This friction will generate just enough heat to get the wax flowing into the suede.

Step 5. Progressively apply wax to your shoe

Rubbing fabric wax into a suede shoe

Start by applying the wax to one part of the boot at a time. Once it’s been applied to a medium sized area, smooth it out with your fingers to create an even coating.

Step 6. Use a heat gun to spread wax

Heat gun softening a fabric wax bar before application

To help spread the wax faster, use a hair dryer / heat gun to warm up the end of the wax bar. When the wax get’s shiny from melting, apply directly to the leather. Use caution to prevent burning either yourself or your leather. Always use on the lowest setting

Step 7. The more the merrier

Wax Coated suede shoe

When using a hair dryer / heat gun to help spread the wax, you’re going to end up with a pretty heavy coating of wax. At this point, you might be wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. Everything is going to be just fine once we move on the next step.

Step 8. Heat is your friend

Wax applied with a heat gun to suede shoe

To create an even coloration, melt the wax into the suede. The wax will get shiny for a second and then absorb into the suede as the pores open up from the heat.

Step 9. Clean up with the dauber palm brush

Dauber palm brush held over a waxed suede shoe

Use the Dauber Palm Brush to clean up extra wax from around the welt and between seams and re-apply heat to even out the appearance

Step 10. Finished waxing your suede shoes

Re-laced waxed suede shoe

Re-lace your shoe and wear. Your waxed shoe will require less maintenance than virgin suede and repel water and stains. Occasionally brush off dirt and debris with the Dauber Palm Brush and quick annual touch-up waxing is all that’s necessary to keep your suede shoes classic.

How to Wax Suede Shoes (Summary)

  • Remove laces and inspect for damage.
  • Clean your shoes with a Dauber Palm Brush.
  • Pack your shoes with the best newspaper around.
  • Start rubbing wax onto your swede with constant pressure
  • Use your fingers to pack wax into the swede.
  • Warm up the end of your wax bar with a hair dryer.
  • After thick application use your hair dryer to open up the pores and help the wax penetrate.
  • Use a Dauber Palm Brush to clean excess wax around the welt and seams.

Waterproof Suede

Your suede is now waterproof, but what other uses are there for a bar of Fabric Water Repellent? Well, suede jackets, hats, bags, and so many other products we use in our daily lives. The soft natural texture and inherent strength of the material make it the perfect candidate for comfortable and reliable daily use. Remember, proofing your suede makes it last longer and repel stains. The waterproof performance is an added benefit.

How to care for suede shoes

Make sure to grab a clean Dauber Palm Brush. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with suede or nubuck, the texture of “fluff” of it traps dirt more easily than leather or synthetic material. Which can trap dirt over time. Simply give your waxed suede a good scrub and make sure to get under the nap, where dirt likes to hide. This has the added benefit of perking up and evening out the nap, revitalizing the appearance further. Waxed suede is easy to care for. The inherent weatherproofing quality of fabric wax repels water, dirt, and debris. So, congratulations! You just extended the life of your favorite suede shoes for years of manly fan fair!

Waxed shoe next to a virgin suede shoe

Scotchgard for shoes

Never use spray waterproofing agents on natural suede. They are packed full of toxic chemicals that will break down the natural fibers in your suede shoes. Not to mention the cancer and organ damage some of these chemicals will cause.

How to check:

  • Ingredients include Heptane, Fluorochemical Urethane, Naptha, Acetone, Acrylic, Silicone, VOC’s or other PTFE/PFOA’s.
  • Comes in the form of a CO2 aerosol canister.
  • Is inexpensive and can be easily purchased through a major retailer.
  • Bickmore Gard-More, Nikwax and Scotchgard all produce waterproofing products marketed for use on nurbuck and suede.