A well-balanced fashionable wardrobe deserves, among other things, the indulgence of the soft and velvety suede. Sneakers, boots, loafers or oxfords—suede shoes provide that perfect balance of casual and dressy that makes them so versatile. And let’s face it, it’s really hard to resist the allure of a camel suede jacket. Also, doesn’t every fashionista own a fringed suede bag these days? On the flipside though, it is just that much of a hassle to take care of your suede-made articles. Unlike something like, say, patent leather, just wiping them off doesn’t get rid of all the dirt and grime your suede shoes have to endure in their lifetime (they go on the feet after all!) Suede outfits and accessories come with their own share of troubles (think salt lines from sweat and oily finger marks), and whether you’re dealing with suede leather or fabric, it is truly high maintenance. So how to clean suede shoes? With a little prudence and effort, you can still find ways to keep your suede goods looking fresh and perky and I’m here to tell you exactly how.
What makes suede attract so much dirt?
Suede is leather too, as you know, but it is different from regular leather in the way that its surface is sanded to create that furry, velvet-like texture that is its signature look. But all that standing also makes the leather porous which makes it extra vulnerable to staining and scuffing. Therefore, to clean it you must resort to a good deal of scrubbing to target grime stuck in the pores and to also get the soft surface fluffed up.
Things you need (and alternatives that you may have at home):
Suede brush— a brush specially designed for this job and is available both online or at the store you bought your shoes or bag from
Alternatively, you can also use a clean toothbrush or a soft nylon brush
Suede eraser— a cleaning tool that removes tough stains that a brush fails to
In place of an eraser, you may use an emery board or a nail file or even a good old rubber eraser
Water— it is best to avoid harsh chemical-based cleaning agents (like dry-cleaning solvents) as they might wear out the texture and cause the color to fade; stick to water for the more persistent stains
Vinegar— mixing vinegar with water also helps clean tough stains on suede
Tissue paper or wads of paper— many use newspapers to stuff suede shoes but they might leave ink stains over time especially if the shoes are moist
Mild soap— for tough cleaning, mild soap solutions would do; never use harsh chemicals or detergents as they make the material hard
How to Clean Suede Shoes advice!
Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning suede off of different kinds of stains:
How to Clean Suede Shoes : Mud and dirt
- Make sure your shoes are completely dry before you attempt to clean them. Rubbing the surface when it is still moist (either from water or sweat) can cause the dirt to further spread and get trapped within the pores.
- Once dry, the mud should cake up and be easier to remove with some light brushing. Remember to brush along the grain of the surface in short swift strokes and keep at it until you are satisfied with the result.
- If there is too much caked up mud, it may require more vigorous brushing both along and against the grain, but once the suede is clean, remember to brush the nap back along the grain.
How to Clean Suede Shoes : Scuff marks
- Scuff marks are harder to remove, therefore need a special eraser, but you can also use an emery board or a nail file (basically, something with a rough surface) to rub over the surface, effectively scraping off the kinks. This will obviously require you to apply more pressure.
- However, all that pressure can cause the nap to fall flat, so you will need to brush it back to life.
- For best results, stuff the shoe with wads of paper (not newspaper) or shoe trees if you have them already, to lift the shoe up and avoid getting them disfigured from all the pressure applied. It will also make the cleaning process much easier.
How to Clean Suede Shoes : Water stains
- You’re smart enough to know not to wear suede shoes or jackets in rainy weather or wet conditions, but in spite of all your precautions, sometimes there might be spillages to blame. In such situations, try to act immediately. Letting stains sit will make them harder to remove.
- Water leaves stains because they make the affected area of the suede seem a different color from the surrounding areas. Applying water in small amounts all over the material (preferably with a brush) will help even out the discoloration.
- Now remove the excess water by dabbing with a towel or dry cloth.
- Let the suede air dry at least overnight, leaving them in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place.
- In case of suede shoes, stuff them with tissue paper to further help in the drying process. But never use newspaper as they might leave ink stains.
- The last step after any cleaning process involving suede is to brush them to lift the nap.
How to Clean Suede Shoes : Oil stains and finger marks
- These are the real enemies and are particularly tough to remove. Dip your suede brush in warm water and scrub the surface vigorously.
- Cornstarch or talcum powder is also known to be helpful. Sprinkle some over the stains and let dry overnight. The next day, brush off the powder and moisten the stained area in a steamer or with a steam iron to open up the pores which make the cleaning easier. Finally, use your brush or eraser to rub off the stain.
- If using the steam method, don’t forget to let the shoes (or bag or jacket) to completely dry before use.
How to Clean Suede Shoes : Ink/ Wine/ Blood stains and Salt marks
- Ink stains are best dealt with alcohol; use cotton balls dipped in alcohol to wipe away the stains. It could also require some scrubbing with a brush or eraser.
- For wine stains, first, blot out the excess wine. Next, make a solution with mild soap and lukewarm water and dip a soft brush or sponge in, using it gently to scrub off the stain. Then clean the soap with a damp cloth and let dry.
- To remove blood stains, peroxide comes handy. Apply with a cotton ball until the sain fades.
- One part vinegar mixed with two parts water is also helpful for getting rid of stubborn stains, especially salt lines either on your jacket or any other outfit made from suede leather or fabric.
How to Clean Suede Shoes : Wax or chewing gum
- Chewing gums stuck on shoes are a common hassle but can be removed by freezing the affected shoe for a few hours. This will harden up the gum which should break off in chunks.
- Same with wax (however they might have ended up on your shoe!), but remember to brush in the end as wax tends to be finer and therefore stick within the pores.
How to maintain suede shoes
If you maintain your suede shoes, you may never need to think about how to clean suede shoes. It is advisable to take preventive measures when dealing with suede shoes or outfits so you don’t find yourself in dire situations in the first place. Here are some tips on how to take care of your suede goods:
- Always read the care instructions that come with your purchase and try to adhere to them.
- If the manufacturer or store makes suede-care products, pick them up when you’re buying your shoes or accessories. Suede is high maintenance after all! A little investment on its upkeep will increase their shelf life by a huge margin. Clarks sells a shoe care kit that is specially created for suede and nubuck.
- Newly bought suede should ideally be treated with a coat of suede protecting spray to help prevent stains and scuff marks.
- Regularly brushing the shoes, jackets, bags or hats helps keep the nap from falling flat over time.
- Use shoe trees if they come with the package or simple wads of paper or tissue paper to keep the original shape of your suede shoes intact.
- Sometimes the color fades and you don’t want to part with your favorite boots yet. Suede dyes can be helpful in such situations but overuse of the same can ruin the look and feel of the material.
- Never wash suede in the washer with hard detergents. This will harden the material and might even cause it to crack. Always resort to dry cleaning with suede goods.
- If none of the above procedures work, it is time to take them to professionals who know their job. Take your outfits to a dry cleaner that specializes in treating suede and take your shoes to a cobbler who has been around and handled all kinds of suede crises.
- Know when to give them up. It is difficult letting go of your favorite outfits or shoes but if they have been damaged beyond repair, like burns or tears, you might be able to recycle scraps and pieces of the fabrics and get your crafty genius on!
That’s all my secrets. Do you have any tips on how to clean suede shoes? Let me know in the coments bellow.