How to Clean Suede Shoes: The Ultimate Guide to Flawless Maintenance

You just snagged yourself a pair of snazzy suede shoes, huh? They look killer, no doubt! But wait, as you strut around, you start to wonder: what if they get ruined by a stain? Relax; you’re in good company. We’ve all had that mini-panic moment.

The suede can instantly class up any outfit. But man, is it a diva when it comes to cleaning? You can’t just wipe it down like you would with regular leather or synthetic shoes. Nope, suede needs special treatment to keep its good looks. Get it wrong, and you might be stuck with stains that won’t budge.

Whether you’re a suede pro or this is your first suede rodeo, this guide has got you covered. We’re going to walk you through all you need to know about keeping those new kicks in tip-top shape. You’ll get the low-down on the basic tools you need, plus how to deal with both the random dry smudge and the dreaded wet stain. And hey, we’ll even toss in some pro tips for those extra-stubborn marks and long-term care. Ready to make sure those stylish new shoes last? Let’s get into it!

Section 1: Understanding Suede

What exactly is suede? So, suede is this super-soft leather that’s made from the underside of animal hides like cow, goat, or deer. It doesn’t have that tough outer layer you find in regular leather, and that’s why it’s got that plush, velvety feel. You’ll find suede rocking everything from shoes to bags to even some swanky furniture.

How is suede different from other leathers? If you put suede next to regular leather, the first thing you’ll notice is how they feel. Standard leather is all about that sleek, shiny look. Suede? It’s like the cozy, fuzzy sweater of the leather world. It’s more flexible and way less fond of water than other leathers, all thanks to missing that hard outer layer.

Why Suede Needs Some Extra Love: Now, the thing that makes suede so great is also what makes it high-maintenance. That soft, inviting surface is like a magnet for water stains, oil marks, or really anything that could ruin its day. Once it gets stained, good luck trying to hide it. So, keeping it clean isn’t just a good idea, it’s a must. You’ve got to know the right tools and techniques to make sure you don’t mess it up permanently.

Section 2: The Essentials for Suede Shoes Care

Before you start cleaning your suede shoes, make sure you’ve got all your gear in one place. Seriously, there’s nothing worse than finding a stain and not having what you need to tackle it. Here’s your checklist:

Suede Brush (must-have): This isn’t your ordinary brush; it’s designed specifically for suede. Its soft bristles lift dirt without damaging the texture. You’ll use it for everyday care as well as for more intense cleaning sessions.

Suede Eraser: It might look like a standard eraser, but it’s tailored for suede care. This is your go-to for handling dry stains and getting rid of small scuffs.

White Vinegar or Specialized Suede Cleaner: Either works for wet stains, like water spots or oil marks. Always do a quick spot test first to make sure it doesn’t affect the color.

Microfiber Cloth: This is the cloth you’ll use after applying liquid cleaner. It’s gentle, so it won’t harm the suede while it helps to absorb moisture.

Soft Towel: Wrap a towel around your shoes to air dry. It will help keep their shape and soak up any extra moisture.

Waterproofing Spray (optional): If you want to add an extra layer of protection to your suede shoes, a waterproofing spray can be a great addition. It makes future cleaning easier by repelling water and stains.

Now that you’re equipped, let’s get your suede looking spiffy again!

Section 3: The Preliminary Steps

Before diving in to clean those eye-catching suede shoes, let’s talk about some basic but crucial prep work.

Kick off the Dust: As simple as it sounds, sweeping away any surface dirt with your suede brush is step one. It gets your shoes ready for a deeper clean and avoids grinding any dirt further into the fabric.

Test Before You Tackle: Nobody wants to end their cleaning spree with a discolored disaster. So before you go all-in with any liquid cleaners like vinegar or specialty suede cleansers, do a quick color check. Test a small, hidden spot, let it dry, and make sure the color stays put.

Don’t Skip the Fine Print: You know those care guidelines that came with your shoes? Yeah, those are gold. They’re customized for your particular pair and will tell you what to do—and what to avoid. Ignoring these could not only void any warranties but also possibly mess up your shoes big time.

Section 4: Suede Shoes Quick-Clean Method

If you’re looking for a hassle-free way to keep your suede shoes looking spiffy on a day-to-day basis or you’re dealing with some stubborn dry stains and scuffs, this routine is for you. Here’s how to get it done:

Suede shoes Cleaning Tips Infographic

Step 1: The Suede Brush Strikes First

How-To: Grab that suede brush of yours and gently go over the shoe’s surface. Use short, controlled movements, always following the direction of the suede’s natural grain—think of it like petting a cat, always go with the fur, not against it.
Why: This will kick up any loose dirt and fluff up the suede’s texture.

Step 2: Time for the Suede Eraser Magic

How-To: Got a stain that’s playing hard to get? Take your suede eraser and gently rub it over the stubborn areas. Put in a little effort but remember, suede is sensitive, so no need to go Hulk-mode on it.
Why: This specialized eraser helps to lift those irritating stains and marks that the brush couldn’t get.

Step 3: The Final Brush-Off

How-To: After eraser action, you’ll see some crumb-like residue. Don’t freak out; that’s supposed to happen. Just give your shoe a little shake or use your brush to sweep those remnants away.
Why: This makes sure you’re not leaving any loosened dirt or stain particles behind.

Pro Tip: Make it a Habit

Think about incorporating this routine into your regular shoe-care practices. The more love you show your suede, the better and longer they’ll look awesome.

Section 5: Dealing with Wet Stains

Wet stains are the nemesis of suede lovers everywhere. Whether it’s an unexpected rain shower, a spilled glass of wine, or an unfortunate encounter with oil, wet stains require immediate and specific care. Let’s break it down by stain type and tackle them step-by-step.

Types of Wet Stains:

  1. Water Stains: Perhaps the most common, yet also the easiest to handle if treated quickly.
  2. Oil Stains: Tricky and stubborn, these require prompt attention.
  3. Wine Stains: A party foul that could ruin your night and your shoes if not addressed immediately.

Step 1: Blot the Stain

  • Procedure: As soon as you notice a wet stain, grab a clean cloth or paper towel and gently blot the affected area. Try not to rub, as this can spread the stain further into the suede.
  • Purpose: This absorbs excess liquid, reducing the size and severity of the stain.

Step 2: Apply Vinegar or Special Cleaner

  • Procedure: For water and wine stains, a bit of white vinegar on a cloth can work wonders. For oil stains, you may need a specialized suede cleaner. Dab gently onto the stain, avoiding excess liquid.
  • Purpose: This targets the stain at a chemical level, breaking it down for easier removal.

Step 3: Dry the Area

  • Procedure: After treating the stain, let the area air dry naturally. Avoid direct heat sources like hair dryers, as they can damage the suede. If the stain is still visible after drying, you may need to repeat the previous steps.
  • Purpose: Proper drying ensures that the cleaning agents have done their job and restores the suede to its natural texture.

Quick Tip: Act Fast

  • The quicker you address a wet stain, the better your chances of removing it completely. Time is of the essence.

Section 6: Stubborn Stains and Special Cases

Sometimes you encounter stains that are particularly stubborn or unusual—think chewing gum or wax. These can be especially challenging, but don’t despair; we have methods to tackle even these tricky situations.

Chewing Gum:


  1. Place your shoe in a plastic bag, ensuring that the gum doesn’t stick to the bag.
  2. Put the shoe in the freezer for a couple of hours until the gum hardens.
  3. Use a blunt knife or your fingernail to gently pry the gum off.


  • Freezing the gum makes it easier to remove without spreading or getting further embedded in the suede.



  1. Lay a clean paper towel or cloth over the wax.
  2. Gently press a warm iron over the cloth, setting the iron to a low heat setting.
  3. As the wax melts, it should adhere to the cloth, allowing you to lift it away from the suede.


  • The heat melts the wax, allowing it to be absorbed by the cloth, effectively lifting it off the suede.

In-Depth Cleaning Methods:

  • For stains that just won’t budge or in cases of extensive soiling, consider seeking professional help. Some specialty stores offer deep-cleaning services that could save your precious suede items.

Section 7: Post-Cleanup & Drying Routines

So, you’ve battled those pesky stains and emerged a winner. But before you flaunt your newly cleaned suede beauties, there are a couple of things left to do to keep them in top-notch condition.

Getting the Drying Right:

What to Do: Skip the blow dryer; let your shoes air out naturally. Put them somewhere with good airflow but out of the harsh sun. Feel free to stuff some newspaper inside to keep their shape intact as they dry. Why It Matters: The right drying technique is vital. Too much heat can change the suede’s color and make it hard, ruining all your cleaning efforts.

The Finishing Touch—Conditioning:

What to Do: When they’re nice and dry, bring back their plush feel with a suede conditioner. Dab a bit on a clean cloth and gently work it into the surface. Why It Matters: Conditioning revives the soft, luxurious texture of your suede, making them look and feel brand new.

Don’t Forget to Waterproof:

What to Do: Now that they’re spick-and-span, a layer of waterproofing spray could be your new best friend. Hold the can about a foot away, and mist it over the surface. Why It Matters: A waterproof layer means you’ll have to clean less often, and it guards against new stains.

Heads Up: Double-check that any products you’re using are safe for suede. The wrong stuff can do more harm than good.

Section 8: Suede Shoes Upkeep 101

Taking care of your suede shoes is more of a marathon than a sprint. Regular attention to detail can help these beauties last for many seasons to come. So here’s how to make your ongoing care routine less of a chore:

The Habit of Brushing:

What to Do: Make it a point to gently brush your shoes with a suede brush after you’ve worn them, or at the very least, give them a good once-over weekly. Why Do It: Consistent brushing maintains that nice, napped texture and stops dirt from embedding itself into the suede, which makes your next cleaning session a breeze.

Smart Storage Solutions:

What to Do: Keep your suede shoes in a spot that’s cool and dry, steering clear of direct sunlight. You can use shoe trees or crumple up some tissue paper to put inside them for shape retention. Why Do It: Storing them the right way keeps humidity and color fade at bay, both of which are enemies to suede.

Know When to Call the Pros:

The Rule: Faced with a super-stubborn stain or, heaven forbid, your shoes got soaked in a flood? It’s high time to bring in the suede cleaning experts. Why Do It: Certain crises are best left to the pros. They have the know-how and special treatments to salvage your shoes, sparing you from a DIY disaster.

Final Thoughts:

Look, we get it—keeping those suede shoes pristine might seem like a tall order at first. But trust us, once you’re in the groove, it’s a piece of cake. Whether you’re dealing with a quick scuff or a dreaded oil stain, a dash of regular TLC can keep your shoes looking like you just pulled them off the shelf. And bonus—taking good care of them means they’ll be around for a lot more walks, dances, and whatever else you get up to!

Seriously, we want to hear from you! If you’ve tried our guide, let us know how it went. Your stories and tips can be a real lifesaver for someone still trying to figure out this whole suede-care game.

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Stan is an adventure enthusiast with a love for the outdoors and American heritage brands like Red Wing and Filson. With a background in environmental science, Stan combines his outdoor experiences with a commitment to sustainability. His reviews go beyond functionality, exploring the brand ethos and craftsmanship. Stan inspires readers to choose gear that's durable, environmentally responsible, and true to American craftsmanship, making his advice indispensable for outdoor aficionados.

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