How to Clean Suede Shoes

How to Clean Suede Shoes in Easy Steps

Some of our favorite shoes are available in stylish suede, from men's and women’s winter boots to Oxfords, derby shoes, pumps, flats, and sneakers. We love wearing our suede kicks with our favorite fleece sweaters, flannel shirtsjeggings, and other chic apparel pieces. But rocking suede shoes comes with a price. Just like any other shoes, suede footwear can easily get dirty as you trek throughout the day. Additionally, if you clean suede shoes wrong, you can ruin the finish and shape.

However, if you research how to care for your suede shoes, you can extend their shelf life and keep them in pristine condition. Once you know how to clean suede, you’ll realize that it’s no feat at all to clean them yourself. You may even already own some of the common household items that you’ll need to clean suede shoes. Follow the tips below to keep your suede shoes beautiful all year long. Perform preventative actions, such as avoiding wearing your suede shoes on a wet day. Also, spray them with a protective spray after buying them and after cleaning.

1. Brush Vigorously Using a Suede Brush

Invest in a suede-cleaning brush. You can easily do a quick Google search and buy these brushes online or look for them at your local grocery store. However, if you don't have a suede brush, you can also use a nail brush or toothbrush. Light strokes will remove loose grit, dust, and dirt. Brush with the suede’s grain (or in the same direction of the fibers) so that you won’t ruin the finish. Apply a bit more pressure to stubborn marks, like scuffs. Before brushing, make sure your shoes are dry since suede is sensitive to water. You’ll be surprised at how much better your shoes will appear after just brushing them.

2. Use a Stain Eraser for Stubborn Stains

If some stubborn marks and stains managed to remain even after your vigorous brushing session, then you can use an eraser for set-in stains. Water, grease, and oil stains are especially tough, so you’ll need to apply more pressure as you rub them away in a back and forth motion. Invest in a special suede eraser designed to tackle those stubborn marks. But here’s a tip for the busy woman: if you’re in a pinch while on the go and can’t find time to look for a suede eraser, use the eraser on a pencil. Yes, you can use that eraser too for quick-and-easy touch-ups.

3. Shave With a Razor to Restore Smooth Texture to Suede

Keep your beautiful suede looking smooth by shaving away the strings that may appear on your suede fabric after a while. Any razor will do, so grab one from your razor pack and shave any strings you may see at any time.

4. Treat Tough Stains Using White Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol

Another way you can treat those pesky stains is by using white vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Tough grime caused by spilled wine, food, salt, and oil needs a bit more TLC that you may not be able to achieve using an eraser or a brush. Fortunately, you probably already have rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet or vinegar in your kitchen.

Just like the steps above, treating the toughest of stains with white vinegar or alcohol is easy but will require a bit more patience. You’ll need a bowl for your liquid of choice and a piece of clean cloth. Dip (don’t drench) the cloth in the liquid and gently apply it to the spots. Reapply and repeat as necessary. You may even have to wait for the suede to dry to repeat the cleaning process to determine if you’ve removed the stains. A bit of tough love will have your suede shoes looking as good as new in no time.

5. Use a Sponge or Dry Cloth to Soak Up Excess Water

If you were caught out in the rain, you may encounter suede shoes with water stains. Water isn’t a close friend of suede, but in this case, water may benefit you if you properly apply it. Apply a light coat of water with a brush to the entire outside of your shoes. Then, use a sponge or a dry cloth to soak up excess water. To get rid of water from the shoes’ interior, put dry paper in the shoes. However, avoid using paper with ink, such as a newspaper or ripped out magazine pages, since the ink can soak into your shoes. Balled up paper can also help maintain the shape of the shoes, which is a bonus. Then, let your shoes dry overnight. If the shoes’ finish lost a bit of smoothness, use your handy brush to whip your suede shoes back into shape.

6. Put Shoes in the Freezer for Wax and Chewing Gum Stains

Your freezer will come in handy for removing sticky, gooey substances, like chewing gum or wax stains. This step works great for off days. So, slip into some comfy clothes and brew a cup of coffee. While waiting until your shoes are frozen, you can catch up on some reading or other cleaning tasks. Then, once your shoes are frozen, scrape off the gum or wax. Simple, right?

7. Apply Suede Protectant Spray

After buying new suede shoes, treat them with a suede protectant spray. Again, you can find a spray online, at footwear stores, and even at supermarkets. Make an educated decision by reading customer reviews and pick out one that seems the most effective. Treating your suede shoes with a protectant spray will protect them against water damage and stains down the line. After each clean, spray your shoes. And, depending on the label on the bottle, spray your suede shoes from time to time throughout the year.

Now that you know how to clean suede by hand, there are still a few things you must keep in mind to avoid ruining your shoes. First off, unless otherwise indicated by the manufacturer, avoid using a mixture of soap and water if possible. Unlike other types of leather, suede can worsen if you apply soap and water. Also, suede is very delicate, so avoid throwing your suede shoes in the washing machine. If you’ve invested in suede, you should also take the time out to clean your precious kicks by hand.

Cleaning suede isn’t hard if you know the tips and tricks that’ll keep your shoes looking brand new all year long. Next step? Learning how to clean your winter coats, cashmere sweaters, and flannel shirts!


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