How to Clean Stains from Suede Shoes

How to Clean Stains from Suede Shoes

Wondering how to restore suede shoes at home? Whether faux or genuine leather, these home remedies for cleaning suede provide everything you need!

Anyone who has suede shoes knows that it's a notoriously difficult fabric to keep clean. If you're struggling with a pair, our expert cleaning tips will help you restore suede shoes at home – naturally.

How to Clean Suede Shoes Without Suede Cleaner

What You’ll Need:


  1. Take a clean microfiber towel and rub the suede against the grain to expose any hidden dirt or grime. You can also use a vacuum’s upholstery attachment to suck up any loose dirt.
  2. Get rid of surface-level stains by gently rubbing them with a pencil eraser.
  3. For deeper stains, pour white vinegar or rubbing alcohol onto a clean microfiber cloth. Gently blot the stain, being careful to just dampen (not soak) the surface. Let it air dry.
  4. Once it is dry, use a dry microfiber cloth to retexture the suede. Maintain the shoe’s shape by stuffing it with acid-free tissue paper. Avoid using direct heat, such as a hair dryer, as this can set any stains deeper into the fibers.

Pro tip: Using a dedicated suede cleaner can be an easy way to handle this fabric, but some may use harsh chemicals that can inevitably stain suede. Going with natural cleaners, such as white vinegar, is your best bet for ensuring your safety while also protecting your shoes.

Can You Clean Suede with Soap & Water?

Honestly, soap isn't really the way to go because of potential staining. Even worse, suede tends to stain with water. We always recommend using a brush and cleaning kit, but water could work if you need to tackle surface marks (like a hand sanitizer stain on suede).

The key is a light hand, consistent motion, and never applying water directly to the suede. Use a slightly damp suede brush or microfiber towel and gently rub over the entire shoe to ensure that there aren't uneven spots. Let your shoes dry completely before wearing them.

How to Clean Suede Shoes With Suede Cleaner

What You’ll Need:


  1. Use a microfiber towel to gently brush away grit or dirt from the shoe's surface, using a side-to-side motion.
  2. Gently apply a pencil eraser to surface-level scuffs or stains.
  3. Apply the suede cleaner to a clean microfiber cloth and gently massage the stain until it is no longer visible.
  4. Once dry, apply a suede protector to the outer layer of shoes to prevent future stains.

Stain Removal for Suede Shoes

Follow this guide to remove different types of stains from suede shoes.

How to Remove Grease and Oil Stains

Anyone who's battled oil stains on clothes knows how hard it can be. Instead, sprinkle cornstarch directly on the stain to soak up the grease or oil. Let sit for 10 minutes (more if particularly large) and shake it off.

Pro tip: For white stains on black suede, target spots using white vinegar or rubbing alcohol and consider using a suede protection spray to avoid future stains.

How to Remove Mud Stains

Wait for the mud to completely dry before cleaning. Gently rub at the dirt using a suede brush, and be sure to brush in only one direction. 

How to Remove Gum Stains

Put the suede in the freezer. Take an ice cube and wrap it in a plastic bag. Press the ice directly onto the stain to freeze the gum. Then use a dull knife or spoon to gently scrape the gum off.

How to Remove Wax Stains

Scuffs and marks happen, so try to restore your suede shoes' texture with a plain razor. Make sure that it comes without a moisturizing strip and that it hasn't been used (or you might be dealing with soap stains). Gently run the razor with the grain to create a smoother texture.

How to Remove Ink Stains

Gently rub sandpaper back and forth over the stain, using very light pressure and small circular motions. If the stain remains, apply white vinegar or rubbing alcohol using a suede brush.

How to Remove Salt Stains

Brush away any dirt or grime using a soft-bristled toothbrush or suede brush. Dampen a microfiber cloth using 1 cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of water. Gently blot the suede using small circular motions. Once dry, use a clean toothbrush or suede brush to retexture the suede.

How to Remove Water Stains

Brush away any dirt or grime using a soft-bristled toothbrush or suede brush. Dampen a microfiber cloth using 1 cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of water. Gently blot the suede using small circular motions. Once dry, use a clean toothbrush or suede brush to retexture the suede.

How to Disinfect Suede Shoes

Grab a simple carton of baking soda, sprinkle the inside, let it sit overnight, and shake them out in the morning. Dampen a microfiber cloth with rubbing alcohol and go over stained areas. Let the shoes air dry in the sun. As mentioned above, avoid all water-based cleaners, as well as bleach and hydrogen peroxide, which can stain or discolor suede.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to wash suede shoes?

Washing machines can damage suede further, so instead, use our method above for cleaning suede without suede cleaner. When it comes to suede and its ability to absorb water, putting them in the washing machine can just set stains even deeper into the fabric.

How do I restore suede shoes without a suede cleaning kit?

Use a soft cloth to remove dry stains. Bring water in a pot to a boil and then hold the suede above the steam for up to one minute. You can use a commercial suede dye to touch up any faded areas, as well as suede conditioner to protect any cracks. Lastly, use a suede protector for resistance to rain and snow, and store the shoes in a cloth bag or pillowcase.

How do I clean faux suede shoes?

Also known as "alcantara", faux suede is more stain-resistant and durable than genuine leather. But the good news is that cleaning fake suede shoes requires pretty much the same products and techniques. Basically, treat your faux suede like real suede and it should last for years. You can treat stains with clear alcohol, such as rubbing alcohol and vodka.

What should I not use when cleaning suede shoes?

As mentioned above, avoid using dish soap and water, as well as Goo Gone, laundry stain remover, WD-40, and wet wipes.

Important Tips for Cleaning Suede Shoes

Before wearing your suede shoes outside, apply a suede waterproofing spray. Once a year is probably fine (though this depends on how often you wear them). If you're waterproofing already-worn shoes, check out our cleaning tips:

  • Always spot treat shoes in an inconspicuous location.
  • Completely treat both shoes: Spot cleaning and suede are not friends.
  • Consistently brush suede to dislodge dirt and foreign fibers.
  • Tricky stains may require taking shoes into a cobbler or a leather specialist.