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What is Suede Fabric: A Comprehensive Guide

Suede fabric is a commonly used material known for its soft texture and warmth. You might own a suede jacket in your wardrobe or a suede sofa in your living room. Due to its versatility, suede fabric appears in many designs in various fields. In this blog, we will provide detailed information about how suede fabric is made, the different types available, their pros and cons, their uses, and the right way to take care of your suede product.

What Is Suede Fabric?

Suede fabric is made of the inner layer of animal skin, typically sourced from cows, pigs, sheep, and deer (although deerskin is less common because of its higher cost). The leather goes through several specialized treatments, giving it a matte yet silky appearance and a surface with dense, thin, and soft short naps. Thanks to its softness, warmth, breathability, and durability, suede is suitable for making spring and fall coats, jackets, sweatshirts, and other apparel and decorative items. Besides, suede fabric is also widely used in the furniture industry.

How Is Suede Fabric Made?

  1. Curing the raw animal hides with salts to avoid deterioration during transportation or preservation.
  2. Removing the salts from the hides by soaking them in clean water. 
  3. Preparing the hides for the tanning process through liming, fleshing, deliming, bating, and pickling.
  4. Tanning the hides, transforming them into leather, and the leathers need to be washed and dried.
  5. Splitting the leather into inner and outer layers, and trimming them.
  6. Dyeing the leather and drying it in a special machine.
  7. Drumming the leather in rotating drums to make it soft 
  8. Napping the leather with napping rollers to protrude dense fibers on the leather, making it matte and more textured.

Types of Suede Fabric

  • Cowhide Suede

Cowhide suede is typically skinned from the hides of cattle and buffalos. The pores of these two hides are small and evenly distributed, resulting in a smooth and matty surface, and a firm texture when touched. When you press the surface of the leather, small folds appear. Due to its thickness, cowhide suede imparts a stiffer appearance to clothing made from it.

  • Sheepskin Suede

The raw material of Sheepskin suede is generally from sheep or lamb, making it usually softer than cowhide suede. The texture of sheepskin suede is delicate and lightweight, which is a skin-friendly choice for clothing. Besides, if you press its surface, there will be noticeable creases.

  • Pigskin Suede

Pigskin suede is a thick and heavy fabric. The raw material of pigskin suede is pigskin, an animal skin with large pores that are spaced far apart, leading to the unevenness of the leather surface. That is why the texture of the pigskin suede feels rougher compared to the other two types of suede.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Suede Fabric

Advantages

  • Luxurious Appearance

The suede fabric looks more luxurious and refined than other leather fabrics. It has a matte finish and slightly sheen, making it favored by high-end fashion designers.

  • Comfort

After napping treatment, the surface of the suede fabric is sanded with many tiny naps, making it soft and smooth. Being a popular fabric option for winter coats, the suede fabric is lighter and more breathable when compared with other fabrics.

  • Powerful Cleaning Performance

Natural suede fabrics are great for making cleaning cloths for delicate electronic products such as lenses and other fragile surfaces. They are highly absorbent and provide excellent cleaning performance without leaving scratches. In comparison to synthetic fabrics, suede cleaning cloths are more environmentally friendly because they are reusable and naturally degradable.

Disadvantages

  • Poor Dirt Resistance

Due to its unique fiber structure, Suede fabric has excellent water and oil absorption capabilities. However, this also makes it prone to leave watermarks and oil stains on its surface, which can be quite challenging to remove. (Especially for black suede fabric, as stains tend to be more noticeable in this color.)

  • Poor Water Resistance

Suede fabric is prone to shrink, crease, and even stiffen after washing. Additionally, the color fastness of suede is poor and it may bleed if soaked in water for too long.

  • Complex Caring Procedures

Suede fabric is delicate and cannot be repaired once damaged, so it is crucial to use it carefully daily and regular caring is required. However, you can’t put the suede fabric in the washing machine. Instead, professional cleaning tools and cleaners are essential when you clean suede fabric shoes and bags.

The Applications of Suede Fabric

  • Outerwear

Suede jackets are cozy and keep you warm. Jackets made of cowhide suede are sturdy and add a Western cowboy-like appeal to men. In addition, sheepskin suede can be used to make shearling jackets, which retain the warmth and softness of the wool inside as well as the delicate leather on the outside side.

  • Footwear

Of the many types of suede, cowhide suede is the most durable and that is why many suede shoes are made from it. Suede shoes are both formal and offer protection against wind, while also providing warmth.

  • Accessories

Suede fabric is a versatile material that can be combined with different metals and beads to create fashionable jewelry such as earrings or used to make straps for garment adornments. Suede fabric can also be used to make accessories such as belts, gloves, and hats to add a vintage touch to your overall look.

How to Clean Suede Fabric?

Cleaning suede fabric products can be quite tricky, here are some tips for cleaning suede fabric effectively:

  1. Suede Eraser

If you’ve got a small and new stain on your suede fabric, you can try using a suede eraser to gently rub the stain clean. However, it’s important to note that if the stain has been on for too long, a cleaning eraser may not be able to remove it completely.

  1. Suede Cleaner

First, wipe away any dust on the surface with a soft brush or dry cloth gently. Second, apply some suede cleaner on the fabric’s surface,  then gently brush the stain with a soft brush. Third, use a clean cloth to absorb any excess cleaner. To avoid damaging the fabric, ensure you don’t use too much cleaner and keep the fabric dry after cleaning.

  1. Baking soda

If you don’t want to spend money on cleaning products, you can use a versatile yet cheap cleaner instead, which is baking soda. Simply apply baking soda to the area you want to clean, and gently scrub the stains with a soft brush. Make sure that the baking soda is distributed evenly on the surface. After some time, brush off the baking soda with a brush. 

FAQs

  • Is suede fabric sustainable and vegan?

Yes, the suede fabric is sustainable. it is made from the backside of animal leather, which reduces waste in the meat industry. Unlike synthetic materials, the natural suede fabric is biodegradable and does not lead to environmental pollution, making it an important sustainable fabric. However, suede is not vegan because its raw material is natural animal hides.

  • What is the difference between suede and faux suede?

Suede is a natural fabric made of animal hides. Meanwhile, faux suede is a type of artificial leather that is cruelty-free. To find a more affordable alternative, synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon, are invented to produce an artificial fabric that imitates suede fabric, which is faux suede. Faux suede overcomes suede’s shortcomings, such as shrinkage and being not moth-proof. It is also a great substitute for suede if you do not like animal products.

  • What is the difference between leather and suede?

These two fabrics have different features due to the use of different materials and production processes. When the animal hide is separated into two layers, the rough and robust outer side of the hide is used to make leather. And the inner side of the hide, which is the flesh side, is the raw material of suede. After several treatments, the resulting fabric appears smooth and is light in weight.

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing fabrics, factors like breathability, waterproofing, and vegan options are important to consider. Suede and its faux alternative are versatile fabrics that meet many of these requirements. In this article, we provide detailed insight into the pros and cons of suede, as well as its uses and cleaning processes. By understanding these aspects, it is easier for you to make wise choices in your purchase and keep the beauty of your suede fabric product with our cleaning tips. 

More Resources:

Suede – Source: Wikipedia

Leather – Source: Wikipedia

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