How to Clean Suede Shoes?

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The suede shoes is commonly referred as a fashionista item. Not many can pull it off as wearing them require careful choosing of clothes. Despite their great appearance, suede shoes can be hard to clean. Thus, if you want to keep them on your rack or in your closet longer, you should learn how to clean suede shoes.

What it Means to Wear Suede Shoes?

Suede is a type of soft leather that is produced from the underside of a cowhide or any animal’s skin or hide. In the past, it required the excellent skill of an expert to separate the hide after tanning. Today is different though as machines do most of the work. 

For obvious reasons, it is also cheaper than leather. Suede is a soft, delicate material used not only on shoes but bags, furniture, and even clothing. 

Maintaining the Elegant Appearance of Suede Shoes

Suede being a delicate material also needs delicate cleaning. It must not be cleaned just like how you would clean your dirty sneakers.

Suede easily catches dirt due to its texture. The raised hairs (or nap) are naturally harbors dirt and stains. Suede is unlike leather where it repels liquid naturally. Just wiping the wetted surface of a leather makes it clean already. 

Preliminary steps for caring suede shoes include the avoidance of wearing them during the rainy season. If it’s not obvious enough, the suede material absorbs liquids due to its porosity characteristic. Another step to protect the suede material is by spraying it with a repellant spray. We place great emphasis in using a water and stain protector as the best way to protect a newly-bought pair of suede shoes. Coat the suede shoes with spray again after a few weeks. By this method, the cleaning process becomes easier later.

What You Must Not Do

Never attempt to clean suede shoes in water. As said earlier, suede is a vulnerable material and susceptible to damage if washed in a soap and water solution. You’ll need only small amounts of water on the surface of the shoe depending on the stain. Otherwise you’ll risk the delicate shoes to having water stains. Water stains make the shoes look old and battered. They also make the suede material discolored. 

How to Clean the Suede Shoes?

It surely can’t be avoided for shoes to get dirty. For the most part of the cleaning, there’s a special brush made for cleaning suede material. If you don’t have one, an old toothbrush will do. However, depending on the stain, you may need special tools like a suede eraser, shoetree, or nail brush.

Method #1: Basic Cleaning by Brushing

First thing to make sure is to make the suede shoes dry before cleaning. The purpose of the suede cleaning brush is to remove dust or dirt. It is done by brushing in the same direction. Brush in the direction on the grain of the suede. Never go back and forth so that the dirt would be lifted out of the surface. 

Depending on the suede material, you may use soft bristles if there are visible fibers on the shoes. Or you may use harder bristles on shorter suede. Better yet, invest in a brush kit composing of different kinds of suede brushes varying in length, softness, hardness, etc.

In any way, the suede brush rids the shoe surface from dirt and also prepares the suede shoes to more intensive cleaning processes later on.

Method #2: Removing Scuff Marks

It’s of paramount importance that you immediately clean yoursuede shoes when they develop scuffs or stains before they settle permanently on the suede.

You can also use the suede brush in removing scuff marks. In this case, you are to brush the affected area back and forth. The brushing removes any loose fibers but remember to brush only the scuffed area. Otherwise, the undamaged area would have the same problem.

Method #3: Treating Water Stains

The only way to remove water stains is also with water. Applying small amounts of water would cause discoloring. So, it’s better to wet the entire surface of the shoe. In this case, the discoloring won’t be noticeable. By using a nail brush, lightly coat the entire outside of the suede shoe. Afterwards, ensure the wetness is even by dabbing a sponge across the exterior. The sponge (or a dry cloth may do) absorbs the excess water. 

If you have a shoetree, put each one inside the shoes to help retain the shape of the shoe exterior while drying. As an alternative, you can use white-colored papers and ball them up. Don’t use colored papers or newspapers as the ink would leach and, in turn, stain the suede shoes. Let the shoes dry overnight. By the next day, when the shoes are fully dried, use the suede brush to brush the fibers evenly.

Method #4: Treating Oil Stains

Oil or grease stains can be very hard to remove. Depending on the severity, badly stained shoes may never look the same again. Thus, it’s imperative to immediately take care of the matter before it gets worse.

The first step in treating oil stains is to blot away the grease with a paper towel. Be careful in doing so as you don’t push the stains further into the material. Next is to scrub them just like how you would with a scuff mark. The preliminary treatment involves suede brush by brushing back and forth. After that, use a nail brush to scrub the stains further. Just like in the previous method, wet the surface evenly, but this time, use warm water.

Another way to remove oil stains instead of warm water is by sprinkling the surface with cornstarch or talcum powder. Let it sit overnight. After that, shake the powder off the shoe. You can also opt to moisten the stain with steam iron and lastly remove what’s remaining with your suede brush.

Method #5: Treating Mud Stains

If the suede shoes is stained with mud, the best option is to wait for the mud stains to dry out. However, prior to the drying, wipe the outermost surface gently until you have removed large chunks of mud. You can then use a nail brush or a suede brush to remove the remaining mud and dirt particles after they have hardened. Be sure to brush the affected areas in the same direction across the grain of the soft material.

Method #6: Treating Salt Marks From Water

If the shoes have traces of salt marks because of being in contact with water, you can remove them by using white vinegar. Use only a small amount and dab it on the marks with a cotton ball. The vinegar reacts with the salt, and also makes a good and cheap option to being a suede cleaner. The smell of the vinegar may invade the nose so leave the shoes untouched for a few days before you decide on wearing them.

The vinegar also works with food stains or any stains that are initially hard to remove with suede eraser.

Method #7: Treating Ink Stains

Inks are one of those stubborn stains that are tricky to remove. However, hope is not lost yet for your suede shoes. Simply blot away the stain before it fully settles into the suede. Then, scrub the affected area with a sandpaper to remove the ink, but do it gently. A suede erase is applicable to remove lighter stains. Harder ink stains can be removed through the help of alcohol on a cotton.

Method #8: Treating Blood Stains

If your shoe comes into contact with blood, clean it immediately. Treat the blood stain with hydrogen peroxide. Use a towel or a cotton ball to do so and dab it onto the shoe surface. You can then brush the nap with a suede brush.

Method #9: Treat with Suede Eraser

A suede eraser can be obtained cheaply in shoe stores. It’s an effective material where you can see the filth lift off from the shoes as you do the scrubbing. Apply only a moderate pressure at first and increase the intensity for more stubborn spots and stains.

Method #10: Treat By Freezing

This method only applies to wax, gums, or anything that shares the same properties. As you already know, when you brush away a gum at room temperature, the gum just spreads onto the material. So, to avoid this, freeze the affected shoe to harden the gum. Afterwards, you can simply lift it off from the shoe using a suede brush.

Method #11: Suede Protection Spray

Last but not the least is to protect your newly cleaned suede shoes with a special spray. You can buy one from your favorite shoe store. Coating your shoes with suede spray waterproofs them from future stains and marks. Invest in one because this would be your suede shoes’ best partner.

Store Them Away If You’re Not Wearing Them

Suede shoes are special shoes. Thus, they require great care when they are stored. You can prevent them from fading by not exposing the shoes under the sun. Instead, store them in shoeboxes inside your closet.


The first step that you must master after owning a pair is to learn how to clean suede shoes to keep them in their mostpristine look. The above methods tackle on different kinds of stains. But, remember that every stain requires a different kind of cleaning approach.

Pamela Couch

I am a designer, shoe-obsessed lifestyle expert, and founder of, a shoe boutique located in Downtown Atlanta. I love shoes and I love being able to share my passion for them with others.

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