Stylish, comfortable, and warm – suede shoes are a timeless wardrobe statement. Their unisex appeal makes them a great choice for both men and women. But suede shoes can be a pain to clean.
Their fuzzy texture means they are highly susceptive to stains, moisture and dirt. And because you can’t just soak them in soapy water to get rid of the stains, dirty suede shoes are often assumed a lost cause.
Luckily, with the right tools and techniques, looking after your suede shoes doesn’t have to be difficult. Read on to discover how to clean suede shoes and keep your favourite footwear looking their best for longer.
What’s on this page:
- What is Suede?
- 6 Simple Steps to Clean Your Suede Shoes
- How to Clean Suede Trainers
- Top Tips for Keeping Your Suede Shoes Clean and Protected
What is Suede?
Suede is a type of leather, known for its fuzzy, velvet-like texture. The material is crafted from the underside of an animal’s skin, meaning it is softer and lighter than standard leather. This makes it perfect for clothing, handbags and jackets – not to mention Elvis’ blue suede shoes, of course.
While the material’s soft and velvety texture is appealing, it’s open-pored surface can be a challenge to clean. After regular wear, suede shoes and boots collect dirt, scuffs and water spots, especially if you wear them during the colder and damper months. As suede absorbs liquids quickly, this can often cause permanent staining and discoloration without proper care. That’s why it’s important to know how to clean suede shoes the right way.
6 Simple Steps to Clean Your Suede Shoes
The trick to clean suede shoes is actually pretty simple. So long as you have the right cleaning products and tools lying around your house, your suede shoes will be looking as good as new in no time. You can find a variety of suede care and cleaning products at most footwear and retail shops, but everyday household items can also do the trick.
All you need is:
- A rubber or eraser
- White vinegar
- A flannel or microfibre cloth
- A suede brush or nail brush
- Suede protector
Step 1: Leave your muddy shoes to dry out
When it comes to stains, it’s usually best to act quickly. However, when it comes to cleaning suede shoes, it’s best to let them dry naturally first. Trying to remove dirt and grime while your shoes are still damp can actually work stains deeper into the material, making them harder to remove.
Use paper towels or a lightweight cloth to soak up as much moisture as you can, before leaving your shoes to dry out naturally overnight. Never use a hairdryer or a radiator to speed up the drying process as this can cause the material to harden.
Step 2: Brush away unwanted particles
Once the material is completely dry, grab a suede brush and gently buff away any excess mud. If you don’t have a suede brush, a toothbrush or nail brush will do just fine.
Begin using light scores to brush the surface of the shoe and remember to go with the grain – in the same direction the suede naturally sits. Apply more pressure in a back-and-forth motion to help raise tough stains and stubborn marks.
Step 3: Remove light stains with an eraser
Grab a suede rubber if you have one, if not a regular rubber will work just as well (just make sure it’s clean first). Apply faint pressure and rub the eraser in circular motions until the stain has completely disappeared.
If this method doesn’t appear to be working, move on to the next step as you don’t want to damage the material by rubbing too hard.
Step 4: Treat tough stains with white vinegar
Water can make matters worse when it comes to cleaning suede. Instead, take a soft microfiber cloth or flannel and dip the corner of the flannel into a bowl of white vinegar. The acidic nature of vinegar makes it a natural and powerful solution for dissolving dirt and grime.
Apply the cloth to the stain and gently massage the area in a back-and-forth motion. The trick is to dampen the suede slightly, not soak it. Don’t panic if the colour of the suede changes. This is a natural phenomenon that happens when the material gets wet, as it dries the suede will return to back to its original colour.
Before moving on to the next step, allow the shoe to completely dry. If the stain still hasn’t budged, you may need to use multiple applications.
Step 5: Brush the surface of the shoe again
Once clean and dry, take out a suede brush and gently brush the surface again to restore the natural appearance of the suede.
Step 6: Spray with suede protector
Last but by no means least, take out a protector spray that’s specifically designed for suede and apply it to your shoes. This will help keep your suede footwear protected for longer.
How to Clean Suede Trainers
Trainers are perfect for every day, casual wear. And a pair of suede trainers are a particularly stylish option which can elevate any look. But wandering the city in a pair of suede trainers can quickly cause them to become dirty.
To clean your suede trainers, start by removing the laces and insert a shoe tree into the shoe to help hold its shape. Next, use a suede brush to brush away excess particles, then follow the steps above to treat any stains. Once clean, allow your trainers to dry before using a waterproof spray to protect your suede shoes from the elements.
Top tips for keeping suede shoes clean and protected
Suede has a unique and delicate texture which can make it difficult to maintain. Unlike leather, it can easily be scuffed, scratched and damaged by water.
Here are some useful tips on how you can care for your suede shoes to help keep them in prime condition for longer.
Brush them regularly
Because of the soft grain of suede, brushing suede shoes regularly is the best way to keep them in top notch condition. This can also help minimise any signs of wear and tear, such as scratches and water spots.
Store in a cool place
As well as regularly cleaning your shoes, how you store them is also important. Suede should be kept out of direct sunlight and away from radiators. It’s best to store them somewhere cool and dry, as the material can become mouldy in humid conditions.
Avoid wet weather
Although suede has a seasonal aesthetic and works wonders with autumn and winter attire, the best way to protect them is is to avoid wearing them out during wet weather.
Looking for more shoe care tips and tricks? Explore our cleaning guides and style advice on the Shoe Zone blog.