How do I clean suede shoes?
27th January 2021

SUEDE is a very delicate type of leather, made from the underside of animal skin so it has a soft napped surface.

However this makes it very susceptible to dirt and stains, which can be difficult to remove – but not impossible.

What do I need to clean suede shoes?

Depending on the level of cleaning required and what dirt or stains you need to remove, you may need any of the following:

  • Suede protector – you need this to keep your shoes looking good and prevent further staining.
  • Scrunched balls of paper, or shoe trees – shape is important in shoes, and these will hold the form of your suede shoes while you brush, pat, and wipe them clean.
  • A suede brush – you can use an emery board instead, but a properly designed suede brush is highly recommended.

  • A couple of soft cloths – suede shoes would rather stay dry, but you may need to use a damp cloth.
  • A small soft towel – some are true believers in the value of this for fluffing your suede shoes after cleaning.
  • Access to warm water – You might not need this, or only a little, but it’ll be good to know it’s there.
  • A small nail brush – Suede shoe cleaning is generally very gentle, but you might need something like this for stubborn dirt.

  • A suede eraser, pencil eraser, or piece of shoe-soul rubber called crepe rubber – this is handy for tough marks on your suede shoes.
  • Corn starch – Suede shoes with fat stains might benefit from a little of this in the cleaning process.
  • White vinegar – not often employed in cleaning your suede shoes, but it’s another item you might want to hand.

  • Rubbing alcohol – again, this is rarely needed but may be necessary.
  • Peroxide and surgical gloves – You may need this if you need to clean blood stains off suede shoes.
  • Sandpaper – this will help in the specific event of cleaning ink off your suede shoes.
  • A spray bottle, steam iron or kettle – some people prefer to use the steam from kettles or irons if they need to dampen suede shoes rather than wipe with a cloth.
  • A freezer large enough for your shoes – this is necessary to take wax or chewing gum off when cleaning suede shoes.

How do I clean suede shoes?

The method chosen to clean your suede shoes depends mainly on how dirty they are, and what is causing any marks or spots.

Before cleaning your suede shoes pack them gently with balled plain paper or shoe trees to protect their shape.

You may wish to remove laces before you start cleaning them, and definitely do this if the laces will be in your way.

How to clean suede shoes of blotches:

  1. Suede has a distinct grain, like stroking short fur, so use your suede brush to brush in the direction of the little fibres of the grain.
  2. If this hasn't worked, try using a special suede eraser, a pencil rubber or a piece of shoe-soul rubber (crepe rubber). Rub this back and forth over the mark.

How to clean suede shoes of scuffs:

  1. Brush strongly back and forth with and against the grain of the suede, because scuffing flattens the grain and you need to perk it up again.
  2. If this doesn’t work, try using a small nail brush instead.
  3. For a particularly stubborn scuff you can gently run the edge of the blade of a knife sideways against the grain to try and lift the suede fibres.

How to clean your suede shoes of water stains:

  1. First brush water lightly and completely over the shoe using your suede brush.
  2. Pat with a dry cloth or sponge until the suede looks the same amount wet all over.
  3. If you haven’t already, put dry plain paper or shoe trees inside the shoes to hold their shape while they dry.
  4. Leave the suede shoes in a dry place with good ventilation until they are completely dry.
  5. Brush the shoes gently with your suede brush to settle the grain of the suede to how it was before.

How to remove oil stains from suede shoes:

Sadly stains like oil may never come out of suede shoes, but it’s worth a shot if you follow these steps:

  1. Brush back and forth with a suede brush, like when you are cleaning a scuff.
  2. If this doesn’t work, try it with a nail brush and maybe add a small amount of warm water.
  3. If the grease is wet, sprinkle corn starch over it and leave for a few hours to dry before brushing off and spraying on a tiny amount of water. Repeat the steps above if necessary.

How to remove mud from your suede shoes:

  1. Always let mud dry before cleaning.
  2. Crumble off any large lumps then brush gently in the direction of the grain of the suede.
  3. Gently wipe with a warm damp cloth if any mud remains.

How to cleaning wax and chewing gum from suede shoes:

  1. Freeze your shoes for a few hours until the chewing gum or wax is very hard.
  2. Tap it off then smooth your shoes with a suede brush in the direction of the grain.

How to remove a blood stain from suede shoes:

  1. Put on surgical gloves.
  2. Gently pat at the stain with a soft cloth soaked in peroxide.
  3. When dry, smooth the suede with a brush in the direction of the grain.

How to clean ink from suede shoes:

  1. Blot the stain with a towel.
  2. Then use sandpaper to scratch off any remaining ink.
  3. If that fails try a soft cloth soaked with rubbing alcohol.

If desperate measures are called for when cleaning your suede shoes, try steel wool on dry stubborn stains.

Although this might work, your suede shoes will likely never be the same again.

You will probably need to rough up your entire shoes for a consistent, if different, look.

Some recommend finishing your clean by gently fluffing your suede shoes with a soft clean, very dry, cloth or towel.


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