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How to clean your suede shoes

How to clean your suede shoes
Posted at 8:30 AM, Feb 10, 2024

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Suede shoes add a level of sophistication to every outfit. Their unique, velvety texture gives off an air of refinement that can’t be achieved with traditional canvas fabric. Crafted from the innermost side of an animal hide, suede exhibits a rougher, more fibrous feel than your standard smooth leather.

While suede is soft to the touch, when not properly cared for, it can quickly become dirty, scuffed and damaged. While maintaining suede is a similar process to traditional leather care, there are a few helpful tips to know to keep suede shoes looking top-notch. In this step-by-step guide, we show you how to care for and clean your suede shoes to make them last for years.

Suede Shoe Cleaning Supplies

How Often Should You Clean Suede Shoes?

If you wear your suede shoes fairly frequently, cleaning them once a month is a great way to keep them looking their best. If you only wear them occasionally, then you can clean them on an as-needed basis.

protectant spray for suede shoes

A Step-By-Step Guide To Cleaning Suede Shoes

The less water you use, the better. Since suede absorbs water, it can end up being its worst enemy. Water can stain the fabric and strip its natural oils, making it weaker. To clean a pair of suede shoes, you wouldn’t want to plop them in the washing machine like you might with a pair of all-white canvas sneakers.

First, brush away the grime. Lightly using a firm bristle brush removes a good amount of dirt and minor scuff marks. In some cases, brushing will be all you need for a quick spruce up.

Suede 4-sided brush

$7 (was $10) at Amazon

Gently treat spots. If you notice a stain, use a small dab of suede cleaner on a lint-free cloth. Gently rub the mark. Using too much gusto while cleaning suede may cause damage, so tread lightly! The cleaning solution may temporarily darken the area, but it should return to normal once the spot has air-dried.

Let them air-dry. If you want to speed up the drying process, place the shoes in front of a fan and stuff them with newspapers to absorb the moisture. Don’t throw them in a dryer; doing so will damage the shoes.

Examine the shoes. If you’ve spot-treated areas, check them after they’ve dried. If the spots are still there, you can try another method. Two surprisingly useful tools you can use to buff out stubborn marks are a pencil eraser and a nail file. Make sure the eraser is clean before you gently rub it against the stain. Try not to rub too hard. A nail file works similarly, lifting dirt and grime from the fibrous surface.

How To Clean Muddy Suede Shoes

Sometimes, even when we’re careful, our shoes still get muddy. If you find this is the case with your pair, let them air out so the mud can dry before you attempt to clean them.

Then, brush off the excess dirt with a stiff bristle brush. Rub them with a mildly damp, lint-free cloth, such as a microfiber rag, in a back-and-forth direction. Rubbing in circles can quickly wear down the material; brisk up-and-down or side-to-side brushing is best. Just be sure to rotate the shoe as you brush.

Pink Miracle Suede cleaner

$17 at Amazon

How To Make Suede Soft Again

To revive flat spots on suede’s fuzzy texture, buff the area with a brush or dry microfiber cloth. Roughing up the fibers will make the texture soft again.

Can Suede Shoes Be Waterproofed?

Since suede shoes are made from animal hide, they are incredibly durable. Malleable through time and wear, suede is often thinner than a typical swath of traditional leather. However, suede isn’t naturally water-resistant or waterproof.

When it’s wet, rainy or snowy outside, it’s wise to choose a different pair of shoes. That is, unless you’ve protected your suede shoes with a special fabric spray. Certain finishes can be applied to make suede more water-resistant — and even waterproof — but these coatings can also alter the texture of the suede’s raised-fiber finish. Note that these sprays work best when applied before you start wearing the shoes or immediately after each cleaning.

The protective coating does wear off, so it’s best to reapply it whenever possible. When purchasing, look for labels that specifically mention suede, and test the product in an inconspicuous spot first, to make sure it doesn’t change the color of the fabric.

suede waterproofing spray

$12 at Amazon

A handy trick is to spray the shoes and then leave them to dry overnight. If possible, let them air-dry on a covered porch or inside the garage. We still wouldn’t recommend jumping in puddles after spraying a protectant, but a little rain or snow shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

To help keep your clean pair of suede shoes looking new, store them away from direct sunlight, which can fade the fabric.

Now all that’s left is to step outside with your freshly cleaned kicks and let the compliments roll in!

MORE: How to clean white shoes made of any material

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