a pair of brown suede shoes on a wooden surface

How to Clean Suede Shoes

Ever found yourself staring down at a pair of dirty suede shoes, wondering how to get them back to their once-glorious state? You’re not alone. Suede, with its velvety texture, has a way of turning heads and making any outfit pop. But, as many of us know, this fancy material can be a bit tricky to clean. One wrong move, and you could end up with a bigger mess than you started with.

But don’t fret! We’ve got your back. In this article titled “How to Clean Suede Shoes”, we’re going to break down the cleaning process step by step. Think of it as a fun, easy lesson in shoe care. By the end, you’ll have all the know-how to tackle those stains and make your shoes look as fabulous as the day you bought them. Whether you stepped in a puddle or just have some everyday dirt, we’ll cover it all. So, lace up (or strap in) and get ready to dive into the world of suede shoe cleaning. It’s easier than you think!

Understanding Suede

The Origins and Characteristics of Suede

Let’s take a brief journey back in time. Suede comes from the underside of animal hides, primarily from cows. Unlike the outer layer, which is used to make the leather we see on jackets and belts, the underside is softer and has a unique, velvety texture. That’s what makes suede so special and loved. However, its charm is more than just about its feel. The material has been used in clothing and accessories for centuries, showing off its timeless appeal.

When it comes to our topic of “How to Clean Suede Shoes”, it’s essential to know these basics. Recognizing the delicate nature of suede will give you a better understanding of why it needs special care.

Why Suede Needs Extra TLC

Have you ever wondered why your suede shoes seem to pick up every speck of dirt or splash of water? That’s because of its porous and absorbent nature. Imagine suede like a sponge. It’s quick to soak up liquids and oils, which can lead to those pesky stains. Plus, its soft surface can easily get scratched or scuffed, unlike tougher materials.

So, while suede shoes look and feel amazing, they’re a bit like that friend who catches a cold at the drop of a hat – they’re sensitive! And that’s why, when you’re thinking about “How to Clean Suede Shoes”, it’s super important to use gentle techniques that respect its unique qualities.

With this foundation about suede’s nature, we’re all set to delve into the do’s and don’ts of cleaning and maintaining it. Remember, with the right knowledge and tools, your suede shoes will keep turning heads for years to come!

Preventative Measures

Before diving into “How to Clean Suede Shoes”, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could prevent those stains in the first place? Taking good care of your suede shoes from the get-go can save you a lot of time and heartache down the road. Here’s the lowdown on the preventive measures you can take to keep those shoes looking sharp!

Suede Protector Spray: The First Line of Defense

Imagine having an invisible shield around your suede shoes. Sounds cool, right? That’s pretty much what a suede protector spray does. By applying this spray, you create a barrier that repels water, oils, and other stain-causing villains. It’s like giving your shoes a superpower against stains. Using it is easy peasy. Just make sure your shoes are clean and dry, spray from a distance, let them dry again, and voila! You’re good to go.

Storing Those Beauties Right

How you store your shoes can make a big difference. Here are some quick tips:

  • Keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Sun can fade that rich suede color.
  • Don’t pile shoes on top of each other. Remember, suede is sensitive! A shoe rack or individual shoe boxes can help avoid unnecessary pressure or friction.
  • Consider using shoe trees. These handy tools help your shoes retain their shape and also absorb any moisture.

Dodge the Water and Watch Out for Hazards

Now, let’s chat about those pesky hazards. While wearing your suede shoes:

  • Always check the weather forecast. Suede and rain? Not the best combo.
  • Be mindful of where you step. Avoid puddles, muddy areas, and anything that looks spill-prone.
  • If you do get caught in the rain, let your shoes dry naturally. Never place them near a heater or use a hairdryer. That could harm the suede’s texture.

With these preventative measures up your sleeve, you’re setting yourself up for success. After all, when it comes to “How to Clean Suede Shoes”, prevention is often the best remedy! So, treat those shoes with care, and they’ll keep looking fab for ages.

Basic Cleaning Steps

Alright, pals, let’s dive into the main event: “How to Clean Suede Shoes”. Now that we know how to prevent those nasty stains, what do we do when life happens and our beloved suede shoes get dirty? Fear not! With these basic cleaning steps, we’ll have those shoes looking snazzy in no time.

Materials Needed

Gather up these handy tools to embark on your shoe cleaning quest:

  • Soft Suede Brush or a Clean Toothbrush: Ideal for gentle brushing without damaging the suede.
  • White Vinegar or Specialized Suede Cleaner: These will be your best buddies in tackling tougher stains.
  • Soft Cloth: For blotting and gentle cleaning.
  • Eraser (White or Suede-specific): Yep, like the one you used in school! Perfect for light scuffs.

The Cleaning Procedure

Roll up those sleeves and let’s get started!

Step 1: Dry Brushing is Your Best Friend

Before adding any moisture, give your shoes a good brush to remove loose dirt and debris. Always brush in the direction of the suede’s grain to keep it looking smooth.

Step 2: Say Goodbye to Light Scuffs with an Eraser

Got a minor scuff? No sweat! Gently rub the eraser over the mark. For best results, use light, short strokes.

Step 3: Bring Out the Big Guns – White Vinegar or Cleaner

For those more stubborn stains, dampen your soft cloth with a little white vinegar or your specialized suede cleaner. Gently dab at the stain, being careful not to oversaturate the suede. Remember, a little goes a long way!

Step 4: Drying Properly is Key

After your cleaning escapade, let your shoes dry naturally in a well-ventilated area. Avoid direct heat or sunlight. Once they’re dry, give them one last gentle brush to restore that classic suede texture.

And there you have it! With these straightforward steps, you’re well on your way to mastering “How to Clean Suede Shoes”. Remember, with a touch of patience and the right tools, your suede shoes can look as good as new. Happy cleaning!

Dealing with Specific Stains

Okay, let’s face it. While we all wish for a world where our shoes stay pristine forever, life has other plans. Sometimes, that means unexpected stains. But hey, armed with the knowledge from our “How to Clean Suede Shoes” guide, you’re more than ready to tackle these challenges. Let’s delve into handling some of those particularly tricky stains.

Water Stains

Water and suede aren’t the best of buddies. If you find your shoes have water spots or stains, here’s how to wave them goodbye:

The Blotting Technique

First, use a soft cloth to gently blot any excess water. Don’t rub, as this can push the water deeper into the suede.

Using a Damp Cloth for Uniform Wetness

Sounds counterproductive, right? But if the stain is stubborn, dampen the entire shoe area lightly (not just the stained spot) with a cloth. This ensures an even color when it dries.

Drying and Brushing Methods

Let the shoes dry naturally, away from direct heat. Once dry, use your trusty suede brush to restore the nap and get them looking top-notch again.

Oil or Grease Stains

Got a grease spot? Here’s the game plan:

Applying Cornstarch or Talcum Powder

Generously sprinkle cornstarch or talcum powder over the stain. Let it sit for a few hours, or better yet, overnight. These powders work like magic to soak up the grease.

Proper Removal and Brushing Techniques

After letting the powder do its thing, brush it away gently with your suede brush. The stain should lift right off.

Ink Stains

Ink on your shoes? No panic!

Using Fine-Grained Sandpaper

For minor ink spots, gently rub the area with fine-grained sandpaper in one direction. Be careful not to press too hard or you might damage the suede.

Alcohol-Based Methods

Dab a bit of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer on a cloth and gently apply to the stain. It can help lift the ink right up. After treating, let them dry and give them a gentle brush.

Gum or Wax

Sticky situation? Here’s your solution:

The Freezing Method

Place your shoe in a plastic bag, making sure the gum or wax doesn’t touch the bag. Pop it in the freezer for a few hours. Once frozen, the gum or wax should peel off easily. Finish off with a gentle brush to restore the suede’s texture.

Phew! With these techniques, even the toughest stains don’t stand a chance. Just remember: the sooner you tackle a stain, the better your chances of total removal. Now, armed with this “How to Clean Suede Shoes” knowledge, you’re a true suede-saving hero!

Reviving and Maintaining the Nap

Alright, folks, we’re nearing the finish line in our “How to Clean Suede Shoes” marathon. Now, let’s talk about the hero of the suede show: the nap. That soft, velvety texture is what sets suede apart. Over time, though, this texture can get flattened or uneven. So, how do we revive and maintain it? Let’s dive in.

Techniques for Lifting Flattened Nap

The nap is basically the raised fibers on the surface of the suede. Sometimes, it just needs a little pick-me-up.

Steam Method

Hold your shoes over a pot of boiling water, allowing the steam to rise onto the suede (without letting the shoes get wet). The steam helps lift flattened fibers. After steaming, gently brush the suede while it’s still warm to reinvigorate the nap.

Suede Brushing

A good ol’ suede brush is your best friend. Use it regularly, always brushing in one direction, to keep the nap looking its best. If certain areas are stubbornly flat, try brushing them in a circular motion.

Importance of Regular Brushing and Care

Just like how we comb our hair to keep it tangle-free, suede shoes love a good brushing.

Routine Maintenance

A quick brush after each wear can do wonders. It removes surface dirt and ensures the fibers remain lifted and plush.

Deep Cleaning

Every so often, especially if your shoes have been through some adventures, give them a deeper clean and brush. This ensures any hidden grime is removed, and the nap stays in top condition.

In the end, maintaining suede is a bit like taking care of a pet: it requires regular love and attention. By dedicating a few moments to their care after each wear and understanding the importance of maintenance, you ensure they’ll serve you well for years to come.

So, there you have it. With the insights from “How to Clean Suede Shoes,” you’re not just a shoe lover—you’re a shoe expert. Happy brushing!

Drying Suede Shoes Properly

As we venture deeper into our “How to Clean Suede Shoes” journey, we’ve now come to a critical pit-stop: drying. Suede and water have a complicated relationship. If suede doesn’t dry correctly, it can lead to issues like discoloration, stiffening, or even mold. But fear not! With the right techniques, drying suede shoes can be a breeze. Let’s explore how to do it the right way.

Keeping the Shape with Crumpled Paper or Shoe Forms

It’s not just about drying the suede; it’s also about maintaining the shoe’s shape during the process.

Why Shape Matters

When suede gets wet, it becomes more flexible. Without support, your shoes might dry in a distorted shape. Not a good look!

Crumpled Paper Technique

Grab some old newspaper or any non-inked paper. Crumple it gently and stuff it inside the shoe. This helps absorb moisture from the inside while maintaining the shoe’s shape.

Shoe Forms or Shoe Trees

If you’ve invested in shoe trees, now’s their time to shine. These forms not only keep the shape of the shoe but also aid in moisture absorption. Simply insert them into your shoes while they dry.

Avoiding Direct Heat Sources

Heat might seem like a quick fix to the wet shoe problem, but it’s a suede shoe’s worst nightmare. Here’s why:

The Danger of Direct Heat

Placing wet suede shoes near heaters, radiators, or using hairdryers can dry out the natural oils in suede. This can lead to the suede becoming stiff, brittle, or even shrinking.

Natural Drying is Best

Patience is key. Place your suede shoes in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Let nature do its thing. Depending on how wet they are, this could take anywhere from a few hours to a day.

In our “How to Clean Suede Shoes” saga, drying them properly is like the grand finale. It’s ensuring all your hard work pays off, leaving you with shoes that aren’t just clean, but also in perfect shape and texture. So next time those suede beauties get caught in a drizzle, you’ll know just what to do!

Professional Cleaning

So, you’ve tried the DIY methods, brushed and pampered your suede shoes, but they still aren’t back to their former glory? Or perhaps, you’ve got a stain that feels way out of your league? Enter: the professionals. As we wrap up our “How to Clean Suede Shoes” guide, let’s discuss when it’s time to bring in the experts and why it might be worth every penny.

When to Consider Getting Your Shoes Professionally Cleaned

While there are plenty of at-home remedies, sometimes, a situation calls for expert hands. Here are some instances when professional intervention is the way to go:

Chronic Stains

If you’ve tried the tricks in our guide but some stubborn stains refuse to budge, it might be time for a pro.

Valuable or Sentimental Shoes

For those special shoes—maybe a designer pair or ones with sentimental value—it’s often safer to trust a professional from the get-go.

Unfamiliar Stains

If you’re unsure about the origin of a stain or how to treat it, a professional can correctly diagnose and treat the issue without risking further damage.

Benefits of Professional Treatment

Opting for a professional cleaning isn’t just about tackling the tough stuff; it comes with other perks too:

Expertise and Experience

Professionals have seen it all. They possess the know-how and tools to address a wide range of issues, ensuring your shoes get the best possible care.

Preservation of Shoe Integrity

Expert hands can ensure that the structure, color, and texture of your suede shoes are preserved or even restored to near-original conditions.


Let’s be real: cleaning suede can be a meticulous task. Handing them over to a professional can save time and ensure you’re getting top-notch results without the elbow grease.

In the grand adventure that is “How to Clean Suede Shoes,” think of professional cleaners as the secret weapon in your arsenal. Whether it’s for that pair of stubbornly stained shoes or ones you just wouldn’t risk experimenting on, professionals can breathe new life into your suede treasures. So, when in doubt, remember that sometimes, it’s okay to call in the cavalry!


And there we have it—a comprehensive guide on “How to Clean Suede Shoes.” From everyday care techniques to tackling the trickiest of stains and even considering the aid of professional experts, we’ve traversed through it all. Suede, with its velvety charm, can be a tad demanding, but with the right knowledge and a sprinkle of patience, maintaining its allure is wholly achievable. Remember, every shoe tells a story, and with proper care, yours will whisper tales of adventures and elegance for years to come. So, armed with your newfound wisdom, may every step you take in those suede beauties be as confident as it is stylish. Safe travels on all your foot-forward adventures!


It’s best to avoid regular soaps as they can be too harsh and may alter the suede’s color or texture. Instead, opt for specialized suede cleaners or natural methods like white vinegar.

No. Machine washing can damage the structure, color, and texture of suede. Always hand clean suede shoes to preserve their quality.

Ideally, after every wear. A quick brush helps remove surface dirt and keeps the nap looking fresh and plush.

While suede and water aren’t best friends, small amounts of water can be managed. The key is to dry suede properly and treat any water stains promptly.

Avoid using direct heat sources like hairdryers. They can dry out the suede, making it brittle or causing it to shrink. Always let suede shoes air dry in a well-ventilated area.

Not always. Many stains and maintenance tasks can be tackled at home. However, for chronic stains, valuable shoes, or if you’re unsure about treatment, it’s wise to consult a professional.

While a few raindrops won’t ruin your suede shoes, prolonged exposure to water can cause damage. It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and wear appropriate footwear for wet conditions. Using a suede protector spray can also help shield your shoes from water.

Absolutely! A regular brush or techniques like steaming can help lift and even out the nap, restoring the suede’s velvety texture.