Taking care of your Birkenstocks is essential for them to have a long life. One of the most difficult materials that Birkenstock has to keep in good shape is the suede uppers. Whether they are on a sandal, a clog or a shoe you will need to do a few extra steps to keep them looking as new as possible.
Right now "the color" is Taupe Suede. It's a natural light tan that Birkenstock has had in the line since the beginning. You could even go as far as to say it is their signature shoe if there ever was one. Sadly, it has got to be the hardest color (except for maybe the white suede coming in 2023) to keep clean. Some people don't care how they look - and that's all good - but for those of you who want to try to keep the color looking good, we have some tips and tricks to share.
First step - honestly - out of the box you really want to spray them with some sort of water or weather protection spray. Make sure it is recommended for Suedes. Some weather guard sprays are only for boots and will have mink oil. They will turn your suedes very dark and look weird. I recommend that you spray 2 - 3 times before you start wearing them all the time. I also recommend that with your sandals you put down a paper towel inside the footbed - so if it's a leather liner like Birkenstock - you don't seal those too. It will darken them slightly when you first spray - as they are a little wet. If you're worried it will make them darker - do a small area that no one will see to test. As the spray dries they will return to their "before color". Make sure to do in a well ventilated area or outside as most of these product smell really bad and are not good for you to be inhaling. Please understand that this will only guard against terrible staining. This will not keep it all away. That being said.
THESE WILL NOT COME OUT OF YOUR SUEDE (trust me...)
I have found that a few things do NOT come out of any color suede. Such as Gravy, Blue Laundry detergent, Gas and Chicken Noodle Soup to name just a few. Between the dyes, the fumes or the oil in these items - I hate to say it - you're uppers are doomed.... Just have to keep in mind what your doing in your suede shoes with these materials so they aren't ruined.
So after you've worn them for a while they will get dirty. There is no getting around it. You will need some supplies in order to take care of them. Many of these items you might already own, but rest assured you can also use most of these items on other things in your house - couches, jackets, purses, belts, decorative pillows other shoes and boots - so its not going to be list of stuff you will never use again for anything else.
180 - 220 grit seems to do the trick
Suede Brush: Gets into the nook and crannies
Birkenstock Kit: Has The stain guard and the brush
Suede Kit: Cleaning Block and nylon brush
Weatherguard: spray to protect
Suede Cleaner: spray cleaner to get the worst stuff
You don't need all these items, but some combination will help you get the stains and dirt out better than just having one. You will also need some sort of rag - generally old t-shirt material is best.
Open your straps so that you can get to the whole strap. Also
allows you to access under the buckle.
Lay flat so you can get a good surface to work on. May want to lay down
a rag or old t-shirt to work on so you don't ruin your table.
Will use one of a couple items Suede Cleaner - can spray on material or
spray onto a rag and scrub. If worried it will darken, again try on a hidden area. If you have the Suede Kit - use the block to scrub the suede. You won't
hurt it. The block is a chemical eraser that will lift many stains. Like a pencil
eraser it will leave debris goobers - that's what the brush is for. Be prepared for
a mess - best to do somewhere easy to clean up. Maybe put a towel or rag
down to work on.
Sandpaper can also be used - but sparingly - use in small motions in small areas.
This works especially well on the marks your straps leave and little trouble spots.
Suede is nappy so if you sand it too much or too hard you can bald your material. Any of the brushes can also be used on the suede. This will rough up
the suede and release dirt and grunge build up. If you are cleaning just a spot
on an older pair - you may leave a "watermark" from the cleaning solution. You
will either need to do the whole shoe or use the brush or sand paper to rough out
the edges a bit.
After everything has dried and you're done cleaning, we need to reseal that suede. Again you will want the Birkenstock stain protector that comes in your kit, Weatherguard or some sort of Scotchguard for suedes and nubucks. Again spray a couple times to make sure it's in the leather, let dry and you're ready to go.
Depending on what you've used before (or maybe its new) you may want to test
out the spray in a small area to make sure it doesn't darken your shoes. Every
brand is different and can leave the shoe looking slightly different.
Need a visual? Check out our Youtube video How to Clean Suede Birkenstocks Like a Pro to see all the steps live.
In a nutshell, that's how to best clean your Birkenstock Suede straps (or uppers). This technique I would also recommend for other suede products you may have. The biggest difference will be the thickness of the suede. Birkenstock straps are a pretty thick and sturdy leather. Many other brands will use a more fine suede - lower nap and thinner material - this material you must be especially gentle with. No hardcore scrubbing and no sandpaper. You still want to test any products you want to use in a small out of the way spot to make sure it will work properly
on your shoes (or jacket, purse, pumps etc.).
Not sure if it will work? If you have any questions bring your sandals or shoes into the store and we will take a look. We don't guarantee that the stain will come out - but we will definitely help you figure out the best way to do it.
Hope this helps!
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