Soft, durable, and comfortable, suede shoes are the pinnacle of casual luxury. Their versatility is their unique selling point. From casual tees and jeans to formal suits and skirts, they go with any outfit and occasion while giving you a myriad of colors to choose from.
All kinds of shoes are made from suede, from suede sneakers to those new suede boots you have your eye on. But the fear of stained suede shoes might be keeping you from buying them. Getting even the slightest blemish on suede shoes can feel like a disaster if you don’t know how to clean this soft material.
But it’s not impossible! To help you out, here’s a detailed guide on how to clean suede shoes in six easy steps so that you can wear them without worry and up your style.
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What Is Suede?
Suede is a type of leather made from the underside of animal skin. Despite the fact that it’s made from leather, its look and feel are entirely different.
Unlike leather’s smooth, solid, and polished appearance, suede has a fuzzy, napped finish that’s capable of keeping warmth in during the colder months.
In terms of durability, suede falls in the middle ground between general fabrics and tough leather. Generally used for shoes, jackets, bags, furniture, and other items, suede is lighter and more affordable than leather.
However, suede’s softer, more porous material soaks up liquids and holds in stains, making it hard to clean and maintain.
General Tips for Cleaning Suede Shoes
Caring for suede shoes doesn’t need to be a Herculean task. All you need are some tricks, tools, and a big bucket of know-how to get your suede looking clean and fresh quickly.
● If it’s a light stain, firmly brush the suede using a simple back and forth motion with a stiff and coarse-bristled brush. Alternatively, you can use a suede eraser to remove spots.
● For more stubborn stains, moisten a clean cloth with a cleaning solution made of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. You can also use a suede-safe liquid shoe cleaner and wipe the stained area with steady circular motions. Let your shoes dry thoroughly. Once dry, fluff up the fabric using a brush and wipe away any dirt that came loose.
● Unless you’re dealing with water stains, never use water to clean suede shoes as they can make stains permanent and even cause discoloration.
Products You’ll Need
Before cleaning your suede shoes, here are some tools to have handy:
- Hard-bristle suede brush
- Paper towels and a microfiber washcloth to wipe off stains, dust, and smudges
- White vinegar or rubbing alcohol
- Water-repellent spray or fabric protectant sprays
- A suede eraser or a pencil eraser
- An old razor
Steps for Cleaning Suede Shoes
1. Let Them Dry
The first thing to know about cleaning a pair of suede shoes: Never clean them when they’re wet. If they’re damp, use a lightweight clean towel or paper towels to absorb the wetness from the fabric.
Take care not to rub or brush too hard. Instead, gently press the fabric down to blot the moisture out.
Alternatively, you can stuff the shoes with paper towels so they gradually absorb the moisture. Begin the cleaning process only after they’re completely dry.
2. Give Them a Good Brushing
Using a thin cloth towel or a firm-bristle suede brush, gently rub the shoe’s surface in one direction to scrape the grime off the top layer. Before you start rubbing, take note of the suede’s natural resting direction of the fibers and make sure to brush in the same direction and not against it to prevent undue stress to the fabric.
After removing the grime, use a suede brush to pat the surface again. If there is any deep-seated dirt in the nap of the fabric, lightly brush against the grain in a back-and-forth motion to clean it of dirt completely.
3. Use an Eraser to Rub Out Stains
Use a suede rubber or a regular pencil eraser to remove stains or scuffs that are deeper in the suede.
Since erasers contain a chemical compound that disintegrates upon contact with suede, it’s easier to pluck deeply sunken dirt and contaminants from the material’s fiber.
Firmly rub the eraser over the stain until it’s gone. Since it can get messy and take some time and effort, it’s best to be outdoors when cleaning your shoes with a suede eraser.
4. Use White Vinegar for Difficult Stains
Dampen a microfiber cloth or a soft cloth towel in white vinegar or rubbing alcohol and firmly scrub it over the stain in a back-and-forth motion.
You can repeatedly dip the damp cloth in vinegar as you make additional passes over the stain but do not soak the fabric in it. It’s best to use it as a cleaning agent only to gently coax stains out.
As you clean your shoes, keep in mind that suede can change color when it’s wet. If this happens, don’t panic. The original color will return once the vinegar evaporates and the material dries.
Before proceeding with the next step, allow the fabric to dry. Doing so will help you determine how well you were able to get rid of the stain.
5. Fluff the Fabric With a Razor and Brush
After all the scrubbing and rubbing, suede can get slightly gristly. You can use an old razor to shave loose strings of fabric away.
After smoothing down the fabric, use a brush to fluff it up and restore your suede shoes’ smooth texture and luster.
6. Apply a Suede Protectant Spray
The last step in cleaning suede shoes is prevention! You’ll feel more confident pulling them out of your closet if you know they have a bit of protection.
By treating your suede shoes with water-repellent sprays, you can ensure that they won’t get as dirty in the future and can keep them cleaner for longer. Many suede protector sprays are available online at affordable prices.
Make sure to spray your shoes all over and according to package directions and let them dry before wearing them again.
Suede Cleaning Tips for Specific Stains
Are you battling specific stains on your suede shoes? Here’s how you can get rid of some of the most common stains:
Dirt or Mud Stains
Regardless of where you walk, small particles of mud will accumulate on your shoe’s surface, mainly due to the presence of moisture. Hence, when it comes to mud stains, you need to let the mud dry completely before trying to clean it.
Dried mud crumbles off the shoe surface easily and you can later use a brush to break off the dried dirt. You can also use a steamer to remove dirt from suede shoes. Make sure to blot the spot with a paper towel or dry cloth later.
Water stains on suede shoes are common during winter and fall. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, the best way to treat water marks is by applying more water. When done correctly, it’s the most effective strategy for ridding your shoes of water damage.
Wet your shoes from the outside (don’t drench them) until they are evenly wet and there are no visible water stains. Stuff them with paper towels which will absorb the moisture. Do not use newspaper as it can cause ink stains.
You can insert a cloth or sponge to soak up excess water. Place the shoes in a well-ventilated area and leave them overnight to dry. Even if only one of your shoes gets wet, it’s best to clean both shoes.
Tough stains like oil, blood, and ink can be difficult to remove. Here are some tips to make the task easier.
Wax or Gum Stains
If you accidentally stepped on chewing gum or got some wax stains on your shoes, place them in the freezer for about two hours. Once the gum or wax hardens, you can easily scrape it off in chunks and brush away the remaining debris.
For blood stains, you can use hydrogen peroxide-soaked paper towels or cotton balls and dab the affected area until the stain comes out.
If the ink is still wet, you can dab the stain with paper towels. For dry stains, use rubbing alcohol. Once dry, use a suede eraser to completely remove it.
Oil or Grease
Completely cover the oil stains or grease stains with cornstarch and let it dry for a few hours or overnight. This is especially useful if the oil stain is still wet. You can brush away the cornstarch in the morning by vacuuming or dusting it. Avoid using a suede brush as it can make the stain permanent instead of removing it.
What Household Products Can I Use to Clean Suede?
You don’t need to go shopping for tools to clean your shoes. Most suede cleaning tools are readily available in your kitchen. Here are some common common household items that double as suede cleaners:
- White vinegar is a great replacement for suede cleaner.
- No vinegar? No worries. You can use a mixture of mild soap and water.
- If you don’t have a suede-cleaning brush, an old toothbrush can do the job easily.
- For more stubborn dirt lodged in the matted suede surface, gently rub an emery board, or nail file, back and forth over the problem area.
- For stubborn marks from oil and grease, baking powder or cornstarch work well.
- While suede erasers should be your first option, in their absence, an ordinary pencil eraser will also work.
Does Water Ruin Suede?
No. Water won’t ruin suede as long as you let them dry properly. It only causes temporary discoloration.
In case your shoes get wet, follow the steps we mentioned to deal with moisture and any stains.
Buy the Suede Shoes!
Now that you know how to clean suede shoes, you don’t have to let stains keep you from buying new suede shoes or wearing those cute ones in your closet! Suede may seem like a delicate and tricky fabric to own, but knowing how to take care of it will keep your kicks looking new for longer and will allow you to get more use out of them.
While you’re cleaning your shoes, why not clean your white Converse? Make them look brand new again!
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