Can I Use Shoe Polish on Suede?

Take Elvis, for example, he can’t even stand his blue suede shoes getting stepped on, yet I wonder what would he do if you spill some shoe polish on them?! What I am trying to say here is that I have been thinking about an old pair of suede shoes that my wife used to wear on various occasions.

They were a dark blue that looked very stylish. Now, the color has faded somehow and I was very tempted to use just a dab of blue shoe polish to bring them back to life. However, the truth is, shoe polish is not really a good solution for any type of suede problems.

Can I Use Shoe Polish on Suede?

You can’t use shoe polish on suede since it will change the suede’s color, and cause irreparable damage. The absorbent nature of suede’s fuzzy surface will soak in all the polish almost permanently. It will also not give it a shine, and that’s guaranteed.

You would have to go through a hard cleaning process to take out the polish. Nevertheless, you can still make your suede shoes look like new without any polish. All you need is a natural bristle suede brush. The trick is to brush them before and after every use regularly. Make sure the suede shoes are dry before you attempt to use the brush on them.

Why You Should Not Use Shoe Polish on Suede?

Shoe polish is waxy and the suede is super absorbent and dry; the two are never a good match. In fact, they should not come close to each other at any time unless you intentionally want to ruin a pair of suedes. Ethylene glycol and the colorants add to the sticky and pasty nature of the shoe polish, which is another great way to stain your suede shoes. 

Perhaps though, it would be interesting to consider a simple question first:

What is Suede?

It is basically a type of feathery leather. The feathers are too tiny though, and this type of leather likes liquids too much. When you apply the shoe polish on suede, it immediately starts to absorb glycol, wax, colorants, lanolin, and other gel-like ingredients.

This is because the surface of the suede is hydrophilic, meaning it is looking for a way to bond with watery liquids and oils. That’s why It is really difficult to remove the waxy polish once it’s absorbed. Keep in mind: liquids will discolor and dull the suede.

Suede quickly gets dirty and is very difficult to maintain and clean. If suede clothing did not look so cool, then probably nobody would use it on any apparel due to its complicated features. You need special cleaning agents when it comes to suede, and the best way to do that is to get a suede eraser, a suede brush, and waterproofing spray.

There are too many recipes on the internet for alternative homemade approaches, including vinegar and cornflour mixtures. I suggest you leave those recipes in the kitchen! Specially designed suede cleaners would be a wiser move after all.

How Do You Get Shoe Polish out of Suede?

You will need some tools and patience in order to take off shoe polish from suede. In general, it is best to clean the polish stain while it is still fresh, but when it comes to suede, we need a completely different approach. Polish needs to get dry before we try to remove it from any suede material. We would only make things worse if we rub or brush it while it is still wet.

There are two different methods you can use to get shoe polish out of suede.

The first one requires you to get some paper towel to take off any excess shoe polish. Round up the paper towel and form it into a ball shape. Blot off lightly by gently pressing on the shoes and then lifting fast. Once you are done, and nothing gets picked up by the paper towel, and then you can use your hairdryer to speed up the process.

Blow some hot air to your suede shoes. After they are fully dry, start by rubbing the dried polish off with a suede eraser. Do your best and try to remove as much as you can. Next, get a good quality natural bristle suede brush. This is where you have to be patient since it might take a long time. Brush up all around the shoes until the dried shoe polish comes off.

The second approach is to put the suede shoes into warm water and a mild detergent filled bucket. However, this approach should be tried only if the first one does not work out. You must understand that you can permanently damage your shoes. So, please proceed with caution.

Rub off your shoes with cloth inside the warm water for no more than 10 minutes. Fill up a new bucket and repeat if necessary. Air dry fully afterward and brush the shoes with a suede brush once they are completely dry.

Can You Use Shoe Polish to Dye Suede?

Your worn-out suede apparels might get a new look when you dye them with shoe polish but it is not going to be a good one. Most people tend to use leather dyes for that purpose, and they do have a good reason to do so.

Remember that you can’t really use shoe polish on suede and the final look will be different than the original color. Lighter color suedes are easier to dye. You can turn your grey suede shoes to black, however, the opposite is not possible since you can’t dye a darker suede to a lighter color.

Ideally, you should use a special dye for suede, but before that make sure they are clean. Use a quality suede brush to get rid of any dirt and dust on them. Cover all the surface with the brush thoroughly. It is important to brush with different angles and directions to fully clean up the shoes. This will help you to remove any tiny dirt that is stuck in the little feathers of the suede. Next, take off the shoelaces if there are any.

Get your dye out and use a toothbrush or similar as an applicator. Dip the brush into the dye and then gently apply on the shoe by making small circles. Cover all the surface without leaving any empty spots. Remember, you must air dry them very well afterward. Make sure you apply waterproofing suede spray once they are dully dried.