How to Clean Suede Shoes

Nothing beats suede’s buttery-soft texture, but how do you keep this luxury material in the best condition? Here’s how to clean suede shoes correctly to keep those favorite boots or heels in mint shape.

how to clean suede shoes and apply spray protector.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Suede is a form of leather made from the underside of animal hide. It’s quite different from other leather because its surface is sanded. This unique process gives that fuzzy and soft feeling that suede is famous for.

Besides the obvious enemy, water, there are a few other things that can damage your suede, and occasionally, you will find your shoes getting a bit dirty. Here are some effective ways to clean your suede shoes without relying exclusively on a suede cleaner.

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How to Clean Suede


Suede should never be washed in the washing machine because consistent exposure to water can cause irreparable damage to the material. You can clean suede shoes by rubbing them with a damp, lint-free cloth or with a suede brush.

Brushing suede shoes with a suede brush.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
  1. To remove dirt, start by wiping in straight motions with alternating directions. This will keep dirt from sinking deeper into the fabric. The moisture from the slightly damp cloth may temporarily darken the color of the suede but don’t be alarmed. It should dry the correct color.
  2. For most stains, start with some gentle brushing. You should invest in a high-quality suede brush with soft bristles; you’ll want something that can effectively remove the dirt without causing any damage.
  3. To avoid damaging suede, you’ll need to ensure any cleaning product you purchase is specifically designed for suede. After you select a product, test a small area before using it. A dedicated leather cleaner like Clark’s Active Foam Cleaner is a helpful purchase to remove tough stains or thoroughly clean leather.
Using a leather foam cleaner and brush to clean suede boots.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Tough Stains and Home Remedies

Stains on suede shoes can be a nightmare, but luckily, these simple household staples can be your savior when dealing with water stains and more. Items like vinegar, baking soda, and cornstarch are kept in most kitchens, making excellent DIY solutions for suede cleaning. Try some of these at-home remedies:

Baking soda being used to clean suede shoes and remove odors.
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  • Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, and gently blot the stained area with a clean cloth. Lastly, allow the shoes to air dry.
  • Rubbing alcohol, like vinegar, can remove spots from suede. Apply the solution using a soft cloth and allow it to dry completely.
  • For oil-based residues, sprinkle cornstarch on the affected area and let it sit overnight. You can brush away the residue by the following day, and your suede should be stain-free.
  • Baking soda is a fantastic option for freshening up suede shoes. You can create a paste with water to gently scrub away stains or sprinkle a small amount inside your shoes to absorb odors!
  • Erasers are excellent for scuff marks. Rub the eraser gently over the marks to watch them disappear, and voila, your shoes will look good as new!
How to clean suede shoes with an eraser.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dealing With Scratches Both Big and Small

Imagine pulling out your favorite fall ankle boots and finding a scratch on the toe. Scratches on suede can be frustrating, but don’t panic. In most cases, the scratches can be easily removed.

Using a suede brush to buff out scuffs.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

If the scratch is relatively small, rub your finger over it to try buffing it out. But if the scratch is deeper, you’ll likely need to add suede conditioner. Apply the conditioner with a clean cloth or suede brush in straight motions using alternating directions. If that still doesn’t work, bring out the suede brush. Remember to be gentle.

If the scratch is persistent and you’re at a loss, you could try a leather filler kit to patch the deep scratch. Or, you can take your suede shoes to a leather expert so they can work their magic.

Protecting Your Suede

Now that you have a cleaning regimen that works for you, what are the next steps? Prevention is always better than damage control, and luckily, there are many options for suede.

Protecting suede shoes with a water-resistant spray.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Sealing your suede shoes with water and stain-repellent suede protector spray can shield them from potential damage. It may go without saying, but apply the repellent evenly across the surface of your shoes and let them dry thoroughly before wearing. Remember, water is the enemy of suede.

Make sure you know how to store your shoes, too. Investing in a shoe tree, which can sit inside your shoes to preserve their shape while you’re not wearing them, is a good idea. Sometimes, the worst damage comes not from wear and tear but from improper storage. Here are a few tried and true tips:

  • Always keep them out of direct sunlight to avoid color fading.
  • Keep them away from heat sources like radiators and vents.
  • Allow them to air dry if they get wet.
  • Keep shoe trees on them to maintain their shape.
  • Store them away in quality shoe bags when out of use (seasonal changing of your wardrobe, including your shoe wear, is a great idea)

So that’s our rundown on suede care 101. Remember to invest in quality products that enhance the cleaning process and ensure the longevity of your suede shoes. Maintain a regular cleaning regimen to avoid any potential damage.

Knowing how to clean suede shoes is a step in the right direction to get the most out of these luxury products. With the right care, your suede shoes will continue to be show-stoppers for years.

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