How to clean suede shoes

Offering comfort and warmth with style, suede footwear is a wardrobe staple in colder climates. Unfortunately, the velvety nap that suede’s soft, fuzzy texture provides also makes the material highly susceptible to staining from moisture, dirt, and oils. With regular use, suede shoes and boots can collect dirt, scuffs, water spots, salt marks, and other grime, especially if you wear them in inclement weather. And because suede can be easily damaged by excess moisture, you can’t just soak your shoes in soapy water to remove stains and buildup.

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However, with the right tools and techniques, learning how to clean suede shoes isn’t difficult. You can find a variety of suede cleaning products at shoe stores and major retailers, but simple household items are often the best way to clean suede shoes. Below, we’ll walk you through the process step-by-step and offer tips for removing common stains on suede footwear. These cleaning strategies make it easy to restore the smooth, flawless appearance of your suede shoes and boots.

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How to clean suede shoes

Before cleaning suede shoes, make sure they are completely dry. Trying to treat stains or spatters while they are still wet can cause the stain to penetrate deeper into the material and make it more difficult to remove. Use paper towels or a soft cloth to absorb as much moisture as possible before allowing the shoes to dry naturally. Never use a hair dryer, direct sunlight or other heat sources to shorten the drying time; this can cause the material to dry out and harden. Once your shoes are completely dry, follow these instructions for cleaning suede shoes.

What do you need

  • suede brush or toothbrush
  • suede rubber or clean block eraser
  • Emery Nail File
  • Microfiber clothing
  • white vinegar
  • Suede protector spray
  • Step 1 – Remove Loose Particles

    Use a suede brush to remove any dirt or loose particles. When cleaning small areas, a toothbrush can also work. Start by brushing in the same direction as the pattern or grain of the nap. For stubborn dirt, use a gentle back and forth motion if the stain doesn’t budge.

    Step 2: Rub the stains with an eraser

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    Spot clean suede shoes with a suede eraser or clean block eraser to remove small marks. Gently rub the eraser back and forth over the mark. If it doesn’t seem to be working, stop and move on to another suede stain removal method. You don’t want to damage the material by rubbing too hard. An emery board can also help lift naps and buff out blemishes. Use light pressure to avoid scratching the material.

    Step 3: Clean the suede with vinegar

    For tough stains on suede shoes, dip a microfiber cloth in white vinegar and gently rub the stain, taking care to moisten and not soak the surface. Vinegar can temporarily alter the color of the chamois while it’s wet, but as the moisture evaporates, the material should return to its original color. Allow the wet stain to dry, then check to see if the stain remains. Repeat as necessary until the stain is completely gone. Once clean and dry, brush the surface again to return it to its original appearance.

    Step 4: Apply Suede Protectant Spray

    Some suede shoes come pre-treated to resist moisture and stains, but adding another layer of protection is always a good idea. Choose a protective spray designed specifically for suede and apply it following the manufacturer’s instructions. Even with the addition of a water and stain repellent product, the best way to keep suede shoes clean is to reserve them for dry weather and avoid spills and splashes whenever possible.

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    How to remove stains from suede shoes

    Certain stains require special techniques when cleaning suede footwear. Use these tips to remove some of the most common stains from suede shoes and boots.

    Dirt or mud

    To remove dirt or mud from suede shoes, first make sure the material is completely dry. Use a suede brush or toothbrush to remove as much dirt as possible. If marks remain, use a steamer to gently loosen the dirt, then blot with a paper towel or cloth to lift it up. Allow area to dry.

    Oil or fat

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    For oil or grease stains on suede shoes, apply cornstarch to the area and allow it to soak up the excess grease for a few hours. Gently scrape out the cornstarch with a brush. Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone. For grease stains that have dried, clean the area with a small amount of dish soap. Let the soap sit on the stain for about 10 minutes, then rinse the soap residue off by blotting with a damp cloth. Avoid soaking suede shoes directly in water.


    Salt stains from melting snow and ice are a common problem if you wear suede shoes or boots outside in the winter. To remove salt from suede shoes, start by brushing off as much salt as possible. Dip a clean washcloth in cold water mixed with a small amount of dish soap. Gently blot the stain; do not rub. Repeat as needed until stain is gone. Let dry completely.

    water stains

    Although it sounds counterintuitive, adding water can help remove water stains from suede shoes. Use a spray bottle to lightly spray water onto the surface. Lightly brush the surface with a suede brush or toothbrush. Blot up any excess water with a clean cloth or paper towels, then allow to dry completely. Once dry, apply a suede waterproofing spray to prevent future water spots.

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