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How to Clean Suede Shoes: Tips From An Expert

August 09, 2019

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Tips From An Expert

With a few items you already have at home, you can easily clean suede shoes and make them look like the first day you bought them.

As Elvis once sang to his fans on stage, you can now sing to any stains that dare to get on your suede shoes: “Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes. You can do anything, but stay off of my blue suede shoes.”

A notoriously tricky fabric, suede isn’t quite as hard to keep clean as you may think. However, when you’re dealing with suede shoes or suede boots, you’ll want to work hard to keep them clean and treat stains as they come before they’re set in. With these DIY methods and natural remedies, your suede shoes and boots will get clean and stay clean enough to make Elvis proud.

How to Clean Suede Shoes

Since suede shoes and boots can be tricky to keep clean, there are actual suede cleaning kits and brushes that you can purchase online to make your job as easy and efficient as possible. Here are some of our favorite products to use for cleaning suede:

In addition to using good, high-quality products to clean your suede, you should always be mindful of these techniques for cleaning suede shoes:

  • Spot cleaning and suede are not friends. Always treat the entire shoe.
  • Consistently keep up with brushing your suede to dislodge dirt and any foreign fibers.
  • If you are dealing with a tricky stain, it may be better to take your suede to a cobbler or a specialist -- it’s worth it!

How to clean suede shoes without a brush

While we definitely recommend that you invest in a suede cleaning kit with a suede brush for your shoes, sometimes you just don’t have one. There are a couple of great ways to clean and refresh your suede shoes and boots without the help of a brush -- you just have to know how to do it.

  • Use sandpaper for deep stains: If you’re dealing with a yucky stain on your suede shoes, the best remedy is catching it while it’s still fresh. Gently blot the stain, and then gently buff it out with a fine sandpaper (we recommend using 100-grit sandpaper or higher).
  • Stick them in the freezer: Sometimes your shoes meet grime that is hard to simply wipe off, like chewing gum, candle wax, or even really sludgy mud. If you stick your suede shoes in the freezer overnight, then the frozen grime can sometimes be much simpler to scrape off.
  • Use a razor to restore texture: When your suede shoes are walking the city streets, bumps and bruises will occur on your shoes. If you just grab the same kind of razor you use to shave your legs -- however, be careful that you’re not using a razor with a shaving cream bar or moisturizing strip on it -- a gentle runover of the razor can restore texture and smoothness to your suede shoes.

Can you clean suede shoes with water?

A pretty common question is whether or not you can clean suede shoes with water. The answer? Yes, but use very sparingly. Suede actually happens to stain with water -- if you step in a particularly deep puddle, then you may end up with a water wicking stain on your suede shoes or boots. We always recommend using a suede brush and cleaning kit instead, but sometimes you have to clean with water.

The key to cleaning with water is to use it very, very lightly and very, very consistently. Water can be useful for removing surface stains, but it needs to be used sparingly over the entire shoe and left to dry completely, so that it doesn’t leave uneven spots on the suede. Use a suede brush or a microfiber towel for this process, and make sure to get the towel or brush wet first, not the suede.

How to clean faux suede shoes

Faux suede, also known as alcantara, is most commonly used in vehicles. Cleaning faux suede should happen the same way as cleaning real suede. While faux suede is more stain-resistant and durable, it still needs to be cleaned using the same products and techniques. We highly recommend using a suede cleaner and suede brush, or trying out a home remedy for your faux suede shoes. Basically, treat your faux suede like real suede and it should last for many years.

Home remedies for dirty suede shoes

While you always want to be careful (always remember to spot test!) with any fabric or material, especially suede, there are several DIY methods and home remedies that can work like magic on dirty suede shoes. Although we always recommend using the specially formulated suede cleaning products we mentioned above, if you’re in a pinch and you need to make due without them, then these DIY solutions should do the trick.

  • Vinegar for cleaning suede: Suede can get particularly gunky, especially on your shoes. You may have stepped in a dirty puddle or found your shoe to be the unlucky partner to a sticky piece of gum on the ground. Using white vinegar (we always recommend spot testing first), dip a microfiber towel or a suede brush into the vinegar, and scrub your stain or spot gently to remove it.
  • Apply baking soda for smells: Just like any shoes, suede shoes can get quite stinky. Since suede can be such a temperamental fabric, put aside the smell removers from the grocery store and grab a simple carton of baking soda. Sprinkle inside the shoes, let it sit overnight, and then shake out when the morning comes. Any bad smell and scent will be absorbed by the baking soda, and your shoes will be fresh in the time it takes to come back from dreamland.
  • Let hydrogen peroxide remove blood stains: When you wear your shoes heavily, blisters can happen -- and, in turn, blood. If you’re dealing with a blood stain on your suede shoes, then hydrogen peroxide can do the trick. Blot the blood stain, pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide directly on it, and then blot carefully away.
  • Use cornstarch to fight grease: If you are struggling with a grease stain on your suede shoes, then sprinkle cornstarch directly on the stain to soak up the grease or oil. Let sit for 10 minutes -- more if particularly large -- and then shake it off.

At Puracy, we understand how important it is to find natural, non-toxic remedies that work hard to get your home, body, babies (and shoes!) clean. When you’re dealing with a tricky fabric like suede on your favorite pair of shoes, follow the tips and techniques above to keep your precious belongings in good shape, naturally.