how to wax suede and give it a fab new look

Martin Margiela waxed suede boot Checking out the “ingredients” of a product —whether food or object— can yield a lot of information about how the thing is made, and inspire ideas for riffs and innovation on the theme.

While shopping for pair of boots online, I stumbled on a pair by designer Martin Margiela made of “waxed suede”. Waxed suede? I wondered what it looked like and if waxing might be a solution to suede that had become lousy-looking from use. So I ordered the boots to check them out. The boots had a slightly rough but definitely cool, sophisticated patina. It would be GREAT to be able to transform worn suede products into that. I decided to try waxing some suede myself to see what would happen, and if I could achieve an interesting effect myself. First question: what to use, since I had no suede scraps lying around? The unseen “inside” side of an old suede belt would allow me to still wear the belt without anyone seeing my experiments, so the belt would be my test material. Next: what kind of wax to use? Having recently done a post on waxing cotton, I tried Otter Wax, rubbing the block into the belt to make a rectangle.

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

The wax lumped a bit so I tried rubbing it in with my finger (ouch!). Then I used a hair dryer to melt the wax and soak it into the suede. After it cooled and set for a half hour or so, I buffed it, first with a cloth, and then with a toothbrush. The effect interesting, though way more mottled than the Margiela boot. Then it dawned on me to try Briwax, furniture paste wax I’ve been using for years to clean and restore vintage furniture. It’s a mix of beeswax and solvents so it is not as environmentally friendly as Otter Wax, nor something you want to wear next to your skin. But I thought it would be fine for the outside of boots and shoes.

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

The Briwax soaked right into the suede leaving an opaque coating. As I do when waxing furniture, I let it set for a half hour or so. Then I tried buffing it, first with a rag, then with an soft toothbrush.

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

Briwax buffed to a fine slightly shiny coating, very similar to that of the Margiela boots. In the photos directly above and below, you can see how the two waxes coated the suede: Briwax is on the left, Otter Wax on the right.

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

A day later, any trace of Briwax’s solvent smell was gone, and the surface seemed tightly sealed, so it might just be fine using on a suede bag. It’s very possible other waxes would work as well, and would be worth a test. What look you prefer is up to you. For me, Briwax is an immediate winner. Having stayed away from suede because it degrades so easily, knowing I can wax it has liberated my thinking about it, and its possibilities. Related posts: how to wax cotton…jackets, jeans, anything! resources for fixers ‘the furniture doctor’ and other hot tips for second-hand andrea zittel’s investigative living

4 Responses to how to wax suede and give it a fab new look

  1. Andy 10.07.2013 at 4:45pm #

    I put some mink oil on my brown suede boots a few years ago to help repel water, they came out with a finish similar to what you are looking for,

  2. Leanne 10.08.2013 at 12:58pm #

    An intriguing post! I got some bags for my shop from the Netherlands recently that were “Greased” suede and I immediately recognized it in the Margiela boots in your post. It’s really a beautiful effect.

    I did some digging online, and an old post at the Style Forum linked to this article, which recommends using Sno-Seal:

    It looks like Sno-Seal is a beeswax-based product without the solvents, so it might be a good substitute for Briwax.

    I generally avoid suede because I live in a rainy climate (Pac NW) but this might be the solution!

  3. Leanne 10.08.2013 at 1:04pm #

    Oh, I forgot to link to the Style Forum post:

  4. Sally 10.09.2013 at 10:45am #

    GREAT. So so far other options we have are Sno-Seal and Mink Oil. I love it. Lots of possibilities.

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