How to Remove Denim Dye Transfer from Suede Bags or Shoes

June 10, 2017

Dark denim

What's the deal with denim dye transfer?

Everyone loves denim except when it rubs off onto your favourite suede bag or shoes. Unfortunately, the indigo dye used for denim (and other fabrics) is not always colour-fast and can ruin shoes, bags, clothing, furniture and car seats. 

The Backstory

Denim is dyed using indigo, a natural inky blue dye, using a deliberately low-grade method that only penetrates the outer layers of the fabric’s fibres. This allows for natural fading over time as the white inner layers are exposed, giving denim the characteristic broken-in look that we all love. Manufacturers also deliberately pre-age denim via a host of abrasion techniques. Colour transfer from rubbing (or “crocking” as it’s technically known) is inevitable but the real trouble starts when dark blue, unfaded denim is created. Many manufacturers continue to use the same, inferior dyeing process rather than adjusting their techniques for dark denim. Dyeing dark denim properly is more time consuming and complex and, therefore, is often done badly.

Save my Bag

Your beautiful suede bag (or shoes) has blue dye all over it. Now what? Take heart, all is not lost. There’s a simple (and inexpensive) household item that can revive your beloved accessory. What is it? An eraser.  Yes, really! 

There are specially made suede erasers available on the market but a regular eraser works equally well. Just make sure it’s plain white (uncoloured).

Pictured below (top) is a customer’s suede bag after her brand new indigo scarf transferred colour like crazy all over it (that same scarf also ruined the light-coloured clothing she was wearing that day). Frankly, it looked like a hopeless case.

Pictured below (bottom) is the same bag after using a regular, white eraser.

We were blown away by the result.


How to remove dye transfer off suede bag

How to do it

Before using the eraser, wipe the surface with a dry, clean cloth to remove any loose dirt or dust. Do not use water.

  1. Take the eraser and rub over the marked area.
  2. You will see the blue dye in the rubbings. Brush them away as you go.
  3. Continue until satisfied with the result. Take care not to rub too hard or you may damage the suede fibres.
  4. When you're done, use a suede brush (or soft toothbrush), to gently brush the suede to restore its natural texture.

If the result is not as good as you’d hoped, take your bag to a specialist dry cleaner.

For more information about dye transfer and what to do about it, check out this blog Although not specifically about suede or removing dye from a bag, it has tons of great information about the problem and what to do before it ruins yours bags, clothes or shoes.

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