The Ultimate Waxed Suede Tutorial

The Ultimate Waxed Suede Tutorial

This tutorial is a little different than what we've done in the past since we're actually going to be using our Heavy Duty Fabric Wax on sueded leather. Truth be told, suede is one of my favorite things to wax because it's going to add a ton of character while also improving on function by making them waterproof. Before we get down to the waxing, it's important to highlight some things about suede that make it different from other types of leather.
How to Wax Suede with Otter WaxDuring processing, thick cowhides are typically sliced down to three "splits", consisting of top-grain, interior, and underside. While the first two splits are processed into leather that's finished to be all smooth and shiny, the underside split is what's used to make our suede. Just like our own skin, the outer layers of cowhide are tougher than the new skin underneath, which is why these layers are usually used to make firmer, more rigid leathers. In contrast, the underside layer used to make suede has a lot more flexibility, making it ideal for when comfort is a priority. Think of it this way, a black motorcycle jacket made with top-grain leather is usually going to weigh a ton and be really stiff before it's broken in, while a suede jacket is going to be relatively light and flexible right from the start. In addition to all this, suedes have varying degrees of "nap" (the little hairs that stick out from the leather). The length of the nap depends on how it's processed and is usually a good indicator of quality. A really short nap is going to be more expensive, but will have a great 'velvety' appearance.
For this tutorial, we'll be waxing a pair of suede 1883 Wolverine Men's Chukkas.
Applying our Heavy Duty Fabric Wax to suede is relatively straight forward project, however I've thrown in a couple of optional steps depending on what look you want to achieve. From start to finish this project took about 30 minutes, and used up about 3/4 of one of our Regular Size Otter Wax bars.
How to Wax Suede with Otter Wax

 

I'd say the suede has a medium nap, but the top part of the boot seems to be made with slightly higher grade. It doesn't really matter though, since the wax we'll be applying is going to lay all of those leather fibers down. One of the things I really like about finishing suede with our wax is how it will take on the appearance of a smooth patent leather, but there's still some degree of texture left, giving it a much more natural look. Wolverine lists the color as Crepe, but they're almost a medium brown. Once waxed, they will darken up considerably.

 

Step 1: Remove the laces.

Step 2: Stuff boot with crumpled paper so that everything is supported evenly. I wouldn't advise using a shoe horn since it won't support the top half of the boot.

Step 3: Make sure that the suede is free of any dirt, dust, or debris. A horsehair brush does a great job and is gentle on the leather (Brushes available here).

Step 4: Start rubbing the wax onto the suede. Use a little bit of pressure while rubbing the bar back and forth to create friction. This helps soften the wax and makes is spread out easier.

Step 5: Start by applying the wax to one part of the boot at a time. Once it's been applied to a medium size area, smooth it out with your fingers to create an even coating.

Step 6: Use the edges of the bar to reach difficult areas.

Step 7: Thoroughly coat the seams.

Step 8: To help spread the wax faster, use a heat gun to warm up the end of the bar. When the wax gets shiny from melting, apply directly to the leather. Use caution to prevent burning either yourself or the leather. Always use on the lowest setting.

Step 9: When using a heat gun to help spread the wax, you're going to end up with a pretty heavy coating of wax. At this point, you might be wondering what you've gotten yourself into. Everything is going to be just fine once we move on to the next step.

Step 10: To create an even coloration, melt the wax into the suede. The wax will get shiny for a second and then absorb into the suede as the pores open up from the heat.

Note: If you like the idea of a more matte finish, you can stop at this point. Skip to step 12 to see how to to clean everything up and get rid of any leftover wax left in those hard to reach spots.

Step 11: If you want the suede to have a little bit of a shine to it you can add another layer of wax. Apply the wax directly to the leather without using any heat.

Step 12: Use a wooden smoothing tool (available here) or similar item to remove any spots of leftover wax. You can also smooth out any areas that might be slightly uneven.

Step 13: Apply pressure and use the flat side of the tool to remove wax from seams. This helps push the wax into the seam for a better seal and removes excess wax that might have clumped around the threads.

Before & After. Here's the before-and-after of the waxed suede chukka boot. As time passes, these will develop a great patina on the pressure points (toe, heel, and sides) that will give a little extra shine to the front and sides of the boot.

Final Result The finished Wolverine Chukka waxed with Otter Wax.

Field Testing Reapply was as often as necessary or desired.

Comments

Otter Wax

Thanks for the great tutorial! Really appreciated it, as well as the comment about the wooden leather burnishing bit someone else shared here.

Otter Wax

Is the amount of wax you used (3/4 of a bar, as described) for one shoe only? Thanks!

Otter Wax

I love it best idea for water proof shoes.

Otter Wax

Nicely done! Any plans on a tutorial for waxed wool fabric ? I’ve had some success using just beeswax but am wondering if a wax/oil recipe like your product would make it easier or better.
Unlike leathers, you need to saturate rather than coat the fabric to coat the fibres then go through a bit of a removal process to keep the fabric flexible. I’d love to get your input. Thanks!

Otter Wax

Hi,
I sent my old suede jacket to the dry-cleaners – when I got it back, the texture of the suede looks “dead” and the jacket has a smell of chemicals!

What can I buy from you to:
- get rid of the smell
- get a nice suede finish

Best regards,
Hans
-

Otter Wax

Great tutorial! One thing I would add for a finishing option is the use of a smooth-wood leather burnisher (using a wooden Dremel bit) that really gets the wax into the leather, prevents crease marks from wear and adds to the finished sheen. Not only that, a Dremel tool with a $5 cocobolo wood bit will makes the burnishing quick and painless.

Otter Wax

Is there a reason that you used the fabric wax instead of the boot wax? And is there a difference in the end product?

Otter Wax

Just curious as to why you would use the heavy duty fabric bar instead of the boot wax. Would there be a significant difference in the end result?

Otter Wax

Hi! Nice tutorial!

Quick followup question. How would you care for waxed suede? Would a brush for the nap afterwards do more harm than good (ie remove the wax)?

Otter Wax

thank you so much I will be trying this on a pair of suede boots to make them waterproof and to give them that look as well I will let you know how it goes and take pictures thanks again!!

Otter Wax

Great instructions. I was looking for a good product to weatherproof my suede boots and came across yours. I am also in the Pacific NW, so waterproofing is imperative. How often should I expect to reapply the wax to keep the seams water resistant? Also, does the heat treatment help the waterproofing or is this more for aesthetic purposes?

Otter Wax

how many bars per pair of chukka do you recommend using?

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