How to clean suede

how to clean suede shoes blue Photo by Norasit KaewsaiWith fall well underway, now’s a great time to rearrange your closet and make room for all of your cold weather clothing. This means packing up items that won’t be able to handle these frigid, wet seasons —which includes any shoes made of suede.

Unfortunately, this stylish fabric just doesn’t do well when exposed to the wet grime of autumn and winter as it’s highly susceptible to stains and warping. Before you say goodbye to your favorite pair of suede shoes, make sure to give them a thorough cleaning so they’ll be primped and ready for spring.

For some best practices and tips on how to clean suede shoes, check out our guide below.

Get the Gear

Before you get started, make sure to grab some suede cleaning essentials. While some experts suggest investing in specialty combs or oils, we’ve found that the combo of a simple suede-cleaning brush and eraser does the trick just fine. Both of these items can be purchased on Amazon for as little as $7 and go a long way in keeping your sweet suede kicks looking fresh.

Stuff with Newspaper

Now that you’re armed with the necessary tools, make sure to stuff each shoe with some newspaper. This will help them retain their shape while you work around the suede’s nooks and crannies.

Towel Off

To start off the cleaning, run a clean, dry towel all over the surface. This will remove any superficial dirt and give you a smooth surface to begin your more intense scrubbing process. Use your brush and eraser to get rid of any smudges the towel may have left behind.


After running the towel over your shoes, you should use a special home elixir to get the suede looking even more spotless. Mix one cup of water with one cup of white vinegar and dip a small hand towel into the mixture. Rub the towel over the surface of each shoe.

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Once you’re done cleaning your shoes, spray them with a protective adhesive. There are many different kinds of suede protectors on the market, most of which do a great job of repelling dirt and water stains. Check out cost-effective spray options from Kiwi and Moneysworth.

Dry Completely

Before putting your freshly cleaned shoes away for the winter, make sure to let them air dry for a few hours so the vinegar and adhesive can really soak into the fabric. Packing them away while the shoes are still wet will lead to a miserable surprise come spring.

Editors' Recommendations

How to Clean Your Suede Shoes

Steps for Cleaning

  1. Stuff the shoes with some crumpled-up newspapers, particularly in the toe area so that they can hold their shape while you work on them.Step1
  2. Gently brush away the trapped dirt and mud from the surface of the shoes using a suede cleaning brush. Keep in mind that you need to brush it in the direction of the fibers rather than going back and forth.Step2However, if there are stubborn stains like caked mud, then you may have to scrub the affected area vigorously, regardless of the direction of the nap.
  3. For scuff marks and blemishes that cannot be removed with the cleaning brush, rub a rubber cleaning stone, a piece of crepe rubber, or suede eraser on the affected area. Besides, you can scrape the area with an emery board.Step3
  4. After the harsh treatment, you can brush over the suede with a nylon brush to help lift the nap.Step4In cases where the nap has worn down, you may have to brush the middle wire bristles of a suede brush vigorously before using the nylon brush.
  5. Finally, remove the crumpled newspaper from the shoes and store them. If you wear them occasionally, you may wrap the shoes lightly in tissue paper and then keep them in a shoe box.Step5
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While scraping tough stains with an emery board, you can consider steaming over the affected area with an iron, or simply a kettle to help open up the pores, thereby making it easier to clean.

Dealing with Water Stains

Though suede shoes should be protected from water still, if your shoes have gotten considerably wet in spite of all the precautions, then it is better to clean them with water.

This advice surely seems counter-intuitive but it actually helps avoid water stains. So, place a towel inside the shoes and spray a thin layer of water evenly on the surface of the shoes. Now, scrub the stained area with a nail brush.

To make the stain marks fade, it is best to work around the edges of the stain, in particular. Then, blot the water with a damp cloth. This is done to help the shoes dry evenly, thereby eliminating the chances of developing water stains.

Allow the shoes to dry in a cool, well-ventilated area; do not place them in front of fire or direct heat as it may cause uneven drying. In addition, quick drying can leave the surface rough. Placing the shoes in bright sunlight is also not advisable as it shall fade the color.

You can insert cedar shoe trees, though to ensure that the shoes dry evenly and stay in shape as well. Finally, when the shoes dry completely, you can brush them using a suede brush.

Cleaning Other Stains

  • Suede shoes with road-salt lines and stubborn stains can be cleaned using white vinegar. You need to pour a little vinegar on a clean cloth and wipe off the affected areas with this cloth. It can be used on food stains, as well.
  • Coming to grease stains, they are particularly difficult to remove. Nevertheless, you can try cleaning them with warm water. Plus, you could sprinkle cornstarch or talcum powder on the oil stain and leave it overnight. Next day, brush off the powder lightly and moisten the stain slightly with a steam iron. Finally, try to remove the stain using your suede cleaning brush.
  • For ink stains, you may apply a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. If the stain is fresh, try to scrub it away with fine grit sandpaper. Suede eraser, too, can prove to be useful in this regard.
  • In cases where chewing gum or wax is stuck on suede shoes, you may have to freeze the shoe for a few hours. This shall help the gum or wax harden on the surface, thereby making it easier to chip them off with a nail brush.
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Additional Tips

  • It is recommended to spray a water and stain protector on suede shoes before wearing them. It shall help avoid stains and make it easier to clean. Make sure you brush it before and after using the waterproofing spray.
  • To preserve the beauty and charm of your suede shoes, prefer to brush the shoes after each use, before storing them.
  • If the color of your shoes starts fading, you can spray a suede shoe dye of the same color on them.
  • When dealing with tough stains that you have failed to remove, it is better to take them to a professional cleaner who specializes in leather and suede. Otherwise, improper and aggressive methods of cleaning may cause irreparable damage.
  • Needless to say, do not wear your delicate suede shoes during the rainy season.

Related Links:

FabHow – How to Clean Suede Shoes

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