Tag Archives: birkenstock

tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede

how to get oil stains out of suede

|  via Instagram  |

Who doesn’t love a good life hack? An honest-to-goodness, palm-to-forehead-thwacking solution to an everyday problem – I mean, that’s what bought Martha Stewart her first chicken coop, right? When it comes to a really successful life hack, I can’t get enough. And I know you’re with me, because the most popular story on this entire site (by a long shot, in fact) isn’t my trip to Paris or my foolproof packing lists, but “how to stretch the waistband of your jeans”.

So, here’s a genius little gem you should file away: how to get oil out of suede. Remember those jolie laide Birkenstock shearling clogs I picked up a while back? I know, I know…they’re UGGs with arch support. Don’t judge me too harshly.

Anyway. I’ve been wearing them more than is at all reasonable, including – regrettably – while cooking. The other night, I was putting the finishing touches on a lovely piece of olive oil-rubbed salmon when a piece leapt off the grill and onto my shoes. Which, as it turns out, was much more catastrophic than I could have anticipated. The oil seeped into the suede in a matter of nanoseconds, and left a dime-sized calling card right there on my Birkenstock-clad toe. Since it’s one thing to wear sensible shoes, but entirely another to wear oil-stained shoes smelling vaguely of fish, I knew drastic action was needed.

After trying every trick I knew without success (as a rule, Dawn dish soap is the mother’s milk of removing oil stains), I was nearing full-blown panic when I saw someone online recommending cornstarch. And as I considered it, it kind of made sense – cornstarch certainly inhales moisture in a hurry, but doesn’t get gloppy or pasty as other starches can. So, I tried it. And praise the shoe gods, it worked like a charm.

Since I’m desperately hoping I’m not the only person who does things like this (see e.g., “deep frying while wearing silk”…), I thought the least I could do was share this brilliant little hack with you.

The procedure is thus:

  • Heap a tablespoon or so of cornstarch on the soiled area* – be generous about it.
  • Use the back of the spoon to gently press the cornstarch into the stain, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Dump off the cornstarch and lightly brush off the residue (I used the spoon again) to see how things are looking.
  • Repeat if necessary. (My first try loosened about 80% of the stain – the second try got me to 100%.)
  • Use a suede brush, or really any soft-bristled brush (I used the dry brush I’m supposed to be using to exfoliate my skin) to brush off the excess cornstarch and restore the nap of the suede.

* Note: you want to do this as soon as possible after tragedy strikes. If you do end up letting the oil stain dry, re-moisten the area before starting this procedure.

My hand to Chanel, that oil stain just vanished. I am one picky pants when it comes to stain removal, and I can’t even tell where it happened. (Also, this one is pretty reliable about tracking down food smells, and she’s not at all interested in these shoes. Very good sign.)

While I can’t say for sure, I’m pretty confident that the same process would work to remove a water stain from suede…but again, you want to get to it while it’s still wet.

Here’s hoping you’ll never have to use this little tidbit, but if you do, will you promise to report back?


Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Facebook Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Google+ Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Pinterest Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Twitter Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Email