How To Clean Suede Properly, Without Damaging It

by Albert Varkki updated 07-27-2023

Table Of Contents

man cleaning suede shoes

Suede, created from the underparts of animal hides, is a popular material for shoes and boots because of its smooth touch, breathability, and warmth.

Yet suede can get dirty more easily than polished leather, especially in a wet environment.

This guide will walk you through all the steps to cleaning suede.

Suede vs Leather: Don’t Get It Wet

man walking in suede shoes in the rain

Suede shoes, bags, and garments are made from the underparts of animals like lambs, goats, and cows, and so aren’t as tough or durable as the outer layer of skin.

In comparison, leather products are made from the skin’s outer side, naturally able to resist dirt and moisture.

Since suede isn’t as porous as leather, it retains its luster and stays cleaner if it doesn’t get damp, but wearing suede shoes when the weather is wet can cause watermarks and mud stains, making them look shabby and old before their time.

Basic Suede Cleaning

brown suede loafers and brush

Aside from ensuring that boots and suede shoes remain dry, cleaning them often with a suede brush will guarantee that your shoes will look newer for longer.

A good suede brush removes most stains and restores the material’s nap if it’s no longer lustrous.

But how do you clean wet boots and suede shoes or those with stains that don’t rub off? The following guide will help:

Techniques to Clean Suede

Here's how to clean suede:

Suede Cleaning Materials

You’ll need a few or all of those listed below depending on what stain it is:

  • White vinegar
  • Brush for Suede
  • Pencil eraser
  • Degreaser for Suede
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Cloth towel
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Baking soda
  • Hairdryer

Steps to Take Before You Clean

man drying suede shoes

Irrespective of the types of suede stains you’re removing or how nasty your otherwise beautiful suede shoes look, ensure they’re dry before you begin.

As suede is generally deeper and loses its color when wet, it may be difficult to find all the stains and dirt, making proper cleaning challenging.

Here’s how to dry boots or suede shoes:

  1. Blot the suede with a cleaning towel to absorb excess water. Rubbing the suede can be damaging to the nap.
  2. Gently brush the moist leather with a brush specifically for suede and restore the nap while the shoe is drying.
  3. You can finish the process faster with a hairdryer on medium heat. You can continue to brush the suede while using the hairdryer.
  4. Stuff crumpled newspaper into your boots or suede shoes to absorb excess moisture.

Method 1: Cleaning Suede Using Alcohol

suede shoes next to alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a safe and effective cleaning and sanitizing solution to treat ink-stained clothes, filthy suede boots, and more.

Here’s how to use rubbing alcohol to remove stains from suede shoes:

  1. Apply rubbing alcohol to a small part of a clean, white cloth.
  2. Dab the dirty parts with a clean cloth and switch to a clean part as another part of the cloth becomes dirty.
  3. Don’t soak the suede or rub the nap with too much alcohol.
  4. Allow the suede to dry, and check the result.
  5. If necessary, repeat the treatment for difficult stains.
  6. Use a suede brush for the nap as the shoes dry, and vigorously brush it once everything is dry.

Method 2: Suede Cleaning with Vinegar

suede shoes next to vinegar

White distilled vinegar is excellent for cleaning your suede shoes – and everything else in your own four walls.

These common household items are gentle but excellent natural disinfectants and cleaners.

Here’s how to use vinegar to clean damaged suede shoes:

  1. Dab the stain or filthy area with clean, white cloth corner dipped in white vinegar.
  2. When one portion of your cloth becomes dirty, switch to another and do the same thing again.
  3. Avoid using copious amounts of vinegar so the suede doesn’t get too wet.
  4. Allow damp areas to air dry before checking the shoes for dirt and stains.
  5. If necessary, do it again to get rid of persistent stains.
  6. Brush the suede shoes’ nap several times with a suede brush as it dries, and give them a final brush once they are dry.

Method 3: Getting Rid of Grease Stains

Whether it’s butter or cooking oil, greasy substances can quickly seep into suede and embed in the fibers.

  1. Pour a good amount of baking soda onto the greasy stain so you cover it completely.
  2. Wait as the baking soda does a good job absorbing the grease for many hours.
  3. Brush the absorbed grease and the baking soda out with a brush for suede.
  4. Inspect the grease stain when the suede is dry and start over if necessary.
  5. Dry and clean the suede brush; give your suede a quick brushing one more time so you can restore the nap.

Method 4: Removing Salt Stains

Salt stains can ruin the suede look, but typically, you clean it quickly.

Here’s how to remove grease stains from suede shoes and boots:

  1. Apply enough baking soda to the greasy spot to completely cover it.
  2. Allow the baking soda to absorb the fat for a few hours.
  3. Using a suede brush, remove the baking soda and absorbed grease.
  4. After the suede has dried, check for grease stains, and repeat the process if necessary.
  5. Dry and wash the suede brush before brushing the shoes one more time.

Tidying Up Old Suede

As the suede fabric ages, the nap can become less lustrous and leave the cloth flat and ragged, especially after cleaning suede shoes and boots.

Even with cleaning suede shoes properly and giving them frequent brushing, they can still appear stringy or dull.

The solution? A shaving razor allows you to remove the torn cloth and restore the nap.

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We hope you enjoyed our article on how to clean suede.

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Author: Albert Varkki

Albert Varkki is the co-founder of Von Baer. He understands leather products as a consumer, supplier, and a manufacturer, helping you with the inside knowledge you need, to choose the perfect leather product for you.

We always aim to have the highest editorial standards, and only publish accurate information on our website.

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