Suede shoes are a popular choice for colder seasons, providing both style and warmth. However, the soft and fuzzy texture of suede also makes it vulnerable to wear and tear. Regular use exposes your shoes to dirt, grime, oils, scuffs, moisture, and salt, especially in harsh weather conditions. Cleaning suede isn’t as simple as soaking them in soapy water due to the material’s sensitivity to excess moisture.
But fear not, with the right tools and techniques, cleaning your suede shoes is a manageable task. While you can purchase specialized suede cleaning products, common household items work just as effectively. Below, we’ll guide you through a step-by-step process, including tips for tackling common stains on suede footwear. These cleaning methods will help you restore the soft and spotless look of your favorite suede items.
What is Suede?
Suede is a type of leather crafted from the underside of animal hide. Its standout feature is the small, raised fibers that are sanded to create a fuzzy and velvety surface, offering a smooth and soft feel.
What You’ll Need:
- Suede brush or toothbrush
- Suede rubber or clean block eraser
- Emery board nail file
- White vinegar
- Suede protector spray
- Microfiber cloth
How to Clean Suede Shoes
Before you start cleaning your suede shoes, make sure they are completely dry. If there are any spots or splatters on damp shoes, trying to clean them can push the stain deeper into the material.
Use paper towels or a soft cloth to blot up as much moisture as possible, and let the shoe air dry naturally.
Avoid using a blow dryer, direct sunlight, or other heat sources, as they can cause the suede to dry out and harden. Once your shoes are completely dry, follow these steps to clean your suede shoes.
- Brush Away Loose Particles: Use a suede brush or a toothbrush to remove any loose dirt or particles. Brush in the same direction as the nap’s pattern or grain. If dealing with set-in grime, use a gentle back-and-forth motion until the spot is clean.
- Rub out Stains with an Eraser: Spot-clean your suede shoes using a suede eraser or a clean block eraser to eliminate small marks. Gently rub the eraser back and forth over the mark. If this doesn’t work, try another suede stain removal method to avoid damaging the material. An emery board nail file can also help lift the nap and buff out stains with light pressure to prevent scratching.
- Clean Suede with Vinegar: For tough stains, dip a microfiber cloth in white vinegar and gently rub the stain. Be careful to dampen but not soak the surface. The vinegar might temporarily change the suede’s color, but as it dries, the material should return to its original color. Let the wet spot dry, then check if the stain remains. Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone. Once clean and dry, brush the surface to restore its original appearance.
- Apply Suede Protector Spray: Some suede shoes are pre-treated to resist moisture and stains, but adding an extra layer of protection is a good idea. Choose a protector spray specifically designed for suede and apply it following the manufacturer’s instructions. Even with added water- and stain-repellent protection, the best way to keep your suede shoes clean is to use them in dry weather and avoid spills and splatters whenever possible.
How to Remove Stains from Suede Shoes
Different stains on suede shoes call for specific cleaning methods. Follow these steps to tackle some of the most common stains found on suede shoes and boots.
- Dirt or Mud: Start by making sure the suede is completely dry. Use a suede brush or toothbrush to brush off as much dirt as possible. If marks persist, try gently using a steamer to loosen the dirt and then blot with a paper towel or cloth to lift it out. Let the area air dry.
- Oil or Grease: Apply cornstarch to oil or grease stains and let it sit for a few hours to absorb excess grease. Gently brush off the cornstarch. Repeat until the stain is gone. For dried grease stains, use a small amount of dish soap on the area, letting it sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse by blotting with a damp cloth. Avoid soaking suede directly in water.
- Salt: If salt stains appear from snow or ice melt, start by brushing away as much salt as you can. Use a clean cloth dampened with cold water and a bit of dish soap to gently blot the stain, avoiding rubbing. Repeat until the stain vanishes. Allow the shoes to air dry completely.
- Water Stains: Surprisingly, water can help remove water stains on suede shoes. Lightly spray water over the surface and gently brush using a suede brush or toothbrush. Blot any excess water with a clean cloth or paper towel, then let the shoe air dry completely. After drying, apply a suede waterproofing spray to prevent future water spots.
Taking Care of Your Suede Shoes
Suede shoes possess a distinctive and appealing appearance, but their unique qualities make maintenance a bit challenging. Suede is prone to scuffs, scratches, and water damage. However, just like standard leather, proper care can significantly extend its lifespan.
In this guide, we explore what suede is, its characteristics, and its durability. We provide practical tips on how to care for and clean your suede shoes to keep them in excellent condition for an extended period.
How Durable are Suede Shoes?
Suede is a durable and robust fabric, although it is thinner than standard leather. While it is more flexible, regular cleaning and protection can ensure that suede shoes last as long as their thicker leather counterparts.
Is Suede Waterproof?
Unlike leather and nubuck, suede is easily damaged by water, leading to irreparable stains. It’s advisable to avoid wearing suede shoes in the rain. Water-resistant or waterproof finishes can be applied to suede shoes, but they may affect the textured fibers.
How to Clean Suede Shoes
Never put suede shoes in the washing machine. Clean them by rubbing with a damp, lint-free cloth or a specialized suede brush. Use straight motions in different directions to remove dirt without pushing it deeper into the fibers.
Tough stains may require a dedicated suede cleaner, ensuring it’s intended for suede to avoid damage.
For a thorough clean, consider professional leather cleaning.
How to Fix a Scratch on Suede Shoes
Address scratches based on size and depth. For small scratches, rub them with your finger to buff them out. Deeper scratches may need suede conditioner and gentle buffing with a suede brush. For significant scratches, consider a leather filler kit or seek assistance from a leather expert.
How to Treat Suede Shoes
Frequently treat unfinished suede with a suede conditioner—apply it with a soft cloth or brush in different directions. Follow up with a protective finish, such as a water-resistant product, to guard against stains.
How to Store Suede Shoes
Store suede shoes away from direct sunlight and heat to prevent fading. If not wearing them for an extended period, wrap them in tissue paper and place them in a shoebox or a specialized shoe bag. Store them in a cool, dry place to prevent mold in humid conditions.