Suede boots are great. The lightweight build, durability, and looks make the material an indisposable part of anyone’s wardrobe.
But the problem is suede has a tendency to fade out after enough wear and tear. This is true for all types of leather. However, suede kind of tops the chart in this case.
An ideal solution at this point would be to change the color of your suede boots or in other words, dye them. Giving a darker color is much easier so let’s put more emphasis on that.
So, if you ask me, how to darken suede boots, the answer won’t be a short paragraph. It’s a series of carefully formatted steps that’ll enable you to achieve the best results.
Without wasting any more time, let’s jump into it, shall we?
Here's What to Expect
- 1 Can You Dye Suede?
- 2 Benefits of Dyeing Suede Boots
- 3 How to Darken Suede Boots?
- 4 How to Make Suede Darker Without Dye?
- 5 FAQs
- 6 Wrapping Up
Can You Dye Suede?
We all know what suede is. It’s the softer version of the leather we see every day. While it is completely natural, the hide does go through a treatment process.
From the looks of it, anyone can guess that suede is an extremely porous material. It is because of that porousness that suede is so prone to getting water stains.
However, it also means that suede can basically absorb any liquid making it very easy to dye. And thanks to a wide range of colors available, you can make your suede any color you want. The possibilities are endless.
And if you get tired of that color after some while, you can always give it another dye. You can match your suede boots with any colored outfit you want.
The best part is the process is pretty straightforward. All you need is a bit of patience and some time. The rest is easy to manage.
How Much Does the Color of Suede Change After Dye?
Even if you use the best suede dye available on the market, you might not get your desired shade on the first try. You have to understand that the leather already has its own color.
The dye is only getting absorbed by the leather. It’s not putting on a separate layer on top like paint. On the first attempt, you might actually even be disappointed considering what color dye you chose.
However, don’t let that hold you off. Give it a few more tries. Obviously, do that after drying it out(more of the process later on)
Benefits of Dyeing Suede Boots
Dyeing might seem like a hassle but it’s really not. Suede is already a pretty fragile material. On top of that, it fades away rather fast.
You can’t condition suede without ruining the naps. So, dyeing them is pretty much your only option. Once you’re okay with doing the hard work, you’ll really start to see the benefits you’ll get by dyeing your suede boots-
Dyes Are Much Cheaper than A New Pair of Boots
This one’s a no-brainer. Anyone can figure out that dyes are much cheaper. As a matter of fact, you can buy a whole collection of dyes with the money for a new suede boot.
And it doesn’t end there. The dyes aren’t going to run out after only one application. You could use them for months. If you think about gaining in the long run, dyes are pretty great.
Gives Any Shoe a Fresh & New Look
Everyone knows how quickly suede fades away. Suede shoes just don’t like any kind of roughing up. Do that and the fading will start.
That’s where the dye comes into play. Simply apply the dye to your suede boots and they’ll be as good as new again.
Pumps New Life into Old Suede
Sometimes you just don’t have the option to buy a new pair of suede shoes or boots. But you still need them for a special day.
On occasions like this, dyeing your suede can save you with flying colors. You only need a bit of time to get the dyeing job done. Nobody will even notice that it’s the same old suede boots now that they are so full of life.
How to Darken Suede Boots?
It’s already a two-step process with many different steps. For your convenience, I’m not adding up any extra steps. But this means that the existing steps are going to have a lot of information inside.
The reason why I’m saying this to you is simple. Don’t just read the heading and skip to the next one. Give it some time and read what’s inside. I’ve taken my time to write this, so, it’ll be worth it, trust me on this-
What You’ll Need
Part 1: Preparing and Applying the Dye on Suede
Step 1: Remove the Laces and Start Cleaning the Boots
Some people remove the laces afterward. But doing that can leave out pesky dirt and debris in the crevices. Once you remove the laces, grab a horsehair shoe brush to brush out all the visible dirt.
A quick brushing session should be enough to remove all the dry dust. But if your shoes have been through a lot, you might need to take an additional step.
Don’t worry. It’s as easy as pie. Simply grab a piece of damp cloth(or a microfiber cloth) and wipe the shoes. Doing so should clean out any leftover dirt or debris.
Additionally, deal with any oil stains beforehand. Any kind of oil won’t let the dye set into the shoes.
Sprinkle some cornstarch on the shoes and brush off after a few hours. That should be enough to remove most oil stains. But if you still can’t get rid of the stains, maybe you should take the help of a professional shoe repair guy.
Step 2: Cover the Outsole and Any External Items Like Buttons, Zippers, etc
Most people don’t want to change the color of the outsole. But that doesn’t mean you can just leave them like that. Anything that comes into contact with the dye will be permanently stained.
So, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Put on tape anywhere you want to protect. Areas like the logos and stripes are the most difficult. So, don’t forget to take your sweet time in covering up those areas.
Step 3: Stuff Newspaper into the Boots
After a final once-over, the boots should be ready to go. Now, gather a couple of newspaper sheets and roll them into balls. If you haven’t already figured it out, these sheets are for holding the shape of the boots.
One by one, start putting all the newspaper balls into the boots. Thanks to these, the boots won’t lose their shape at all.
On top of that, the interior of the boots will be protected from any kind of wet dye. As you already know, anything that comes into contact with the dye will get permanently stained.
Step 4: Bring in the Applicator Brush and Dip It into the Dye
Almost all leather dye brands provide an applicator brush. While I appreciate the free gesture, more often than not it’s not that useful. I mean it’s basically a cotton ball attached to a piece of wire.
Using a sturdy toothbrush or any other applicator brush would make your job much easier. Just make sure you maintain two things-
Number one is to ensure the bristles of the brush are soft. Hard bristles can damage suede faster than you can imagine. And another one is to use an unused toothbrush if you do happen to use one.
After you’re done selecting the brush, dip the brush and wet it thoroughly. Make sure to drip off any excess into the container. With each application, you should aim to apply about half a teaspoon of dye.
Nevertheless, a bit of good advice would be to wear a pair of rubber gloves before you get started. As the dye stains pretty easily, don’t skip out on the safety measurements.
Step 5: Start Spreading on the Broader and Flat Surfaces
It’s the broader and flat surfaces that you should target first. But make sure to use a small amount at first. I mean, test out the waters, at least, won’t you?
There’s always a chance to apply more if you need it. The heel and toe are ideal areas to start.
And whatever you do, don’t focus too much on specific areas. Saturating excessively can leave uneven areas which isn’t a treat to look at.
Step 6: Use Circular Motions in All Areas Especially the Tight Spaces
The tight spaces are the ones that have a higher chance of not having an even finish. Thoroughly applying using circular motions will even out the entire boot in a few tries.
However, the seams are the biggest challenge. If your shoes are made with synthetic thread, then you’re going to have a hard time dyeing them.
Synthetic thread isn’t as absorbent as threads made out of natural materials. But don’t worry about it. Accept that you’ll have to work a bit harder for the durability they offer.
Steps 7: Dry the Boots for at least 24 Hours
Well, that’s it for the application process. Now, leave the boots in a dry and warm environment with enough air ventilation for a good 24 hours.
Remember not to touch the boots before the waiting period has passed. There’s a chance of the dye getting ruined if you touch it before it’s dried.
Steps 8: Put on Extra Coats If You Want a Darker Shade
The first coat might not be enough for you. It’s not uncommon for people to want a darker, richer shade than they initially got. The good news is you can do it by putting on another coat.
However, you need to be careful about putting too much dye on your leather boots. While the dye might give the boots a fresh, new look, it can dry out the leather with excessive usage. And as it’s suede leather, there’s no way to condition the leather.
Part 2: Protecting the New Look of the Suede
Step 1: Buff up the Boots After They’re Fully Dried
The nap of the boots should look pretty weighed down because of the dye. A good horsehair shoe brush should be enough to do the trick.
Although if you’re not sure whether they’re fully dried or not, you can use a hairdryer to fully seal the deal.
Step 2: Use Waterproofing Spray
This one’s a must. Let me say this again, you cannot avoid using a waterproofing spray on your newly dyed suede boots. Suede boots already need extra waterproofing.
And now that it has layers of dye on top, there’s no skipping out on the waterproofing. That is if you want the dye to last well for a few months.
If you don’t, only everyday simple usage is enough to fade out the dye. And you can pretty much forget about the dye if there’s rain outside or anything wet.
The process is simple as you already know it. Simply spray from a distance, wait for an hour and you’re done.
What you might not know is to avoid oversaturating the suede as it can actually damage the boots.
How to Make Suede Darker Without Dye?
Alcohol itself isn’t that good for leather items. So, it’s only natural for people to want to make their suede darker without using any dye.
While there are numerous processes available online. The only one I can recommend is the one using oil. People use different kinds of oil, so there’s no specific one here.
Whatever you do, make sure to use liquid oil as it can penetrate the leather more easily compared to thick pastes.
But here are a few tried and tested oils you can try-
Step 1: Pour a Small Amount of Oil on a Piece of Cloth
Only a small amount of oil would be needed in the beginning. The cloth doesn’t have to be lint-free or a microfiber cloth. But if you can manage one, that only increases your rate of success.
Another method is to wear a pair of rubber gloves. In this method, you use your hands for applying. While you do waste less oil using this method, using a cloth lets you use a bit more pressure, making the process a little bit easier.
Step 2: Rub the Oil into One Uniform Layer
Start rubbing the oil in circular motions until you cover the entire boot in oil. At one point, you will realize that the cloth has run out of oil.
Whatever you do, don’t put in extra oil. It might seem like you’ll get the job done faster. Instead, you’ll actually make a mess.
Step 3: Dry the Boots Overnight
Leave your suede boots like that in a warm and airy room with lots of ventilation. Overnight should be enough. But if it’s not, leave them for a good 24 hours.
Step 4: Apply Another Coat If Needed
After the drying period is over, you’ll either be filled with joy or you’ll be thrown into a spiral of thoughts about whether you should apply another coat or not.
If you’ve put in one coat till now, don’t be afraid to put in another one. It’s only when people put 2-3 coats of oil in their boots that the leather starts to lose its strength and suppleness.
- Do You Need a Specific Dye to Use on Suede?
Suede requires a special dye that can penetrate into the layers of leather. While regular dye and paint will roll right off the suede, the ones made for this purpose will stay on for a long time.
- Is Suede Dye Waterproof?
Suede dye is not waterproof. It won’t come off as easily as powdered colors. And people already use waterproofing sprays which increases the longevity even more. Despite all the things mentioned, suede dye is still not waterproof.
- How Long Does Suede Dye Take to Dry?
It can take from 10-12 hours to 24 hours for the suede dye to dry. At the end of the day, it depends on the manufacturer or brand as they are the ones setting up the drying time. This is why it’s always better to read more about the product descriptions before buying anything.
- Can You Dye Faux Suede Shoes?
You can’t dye faux suede shoes as they’re mainly made out of polyester. And suede dyes won’t stick to polyester. Even if it does, it’ll wash away whenever it comes in contact with water. However, you can use the Angelus Leather Paint which can get the job with faux suede shoes.
And that’s a wrap on how to darken suede boots. Instead of complicating the process with more steps, I’ve tried to narrow it down for your convenience.
If you’re in a hurry, you can simply go through the headings and still get a good idea about it. And if you want the full scoop, there are more details than you’d ever need for dyeing suede boots.
Richard is the Head of Content here at Bootpedia. It’s not like he dedicated his entire life towards boots but he did work at multiple footwear stores for over 7 years. Anything that’s posted here is double-checked by him. So, don’t worry about getting the wrong info off the internet.