How to clean suede: shoes, jackets, and accessories

Knowing how to clean suede shoes, jackets and more is easy with a good guide to follow. Read on for our top tips and tricks for how to clean suede.

Updated 2 October 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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Suede jacket and boots laid out on the floor alongside trousers, belt, a handbag and an umbrella

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Suede is a much softer and more vulnerable material than ordinary leather. Not only can it stain quicker and easier but it’s also much trickier to clean. Unlike leather, suede stains can be made worse by normal cleaning materials; so knowing how to clean suede shoes, boots, jackets, or other accessories made from this delicate material is key. Read on to discover our simple guide for how to clean suede products with ease.

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  • How to clean suede boots and shoes

    A good quality suede brush is an essential tool for all suede garment owners, but when you need to clean suede shoes or boots more deeply, what do you do? It can be so tempting to try to simply spot clean them using water. However, this can cause additional water stains to appear, making your boots look old, scuffed, and discoloured.

    Don't worry though. Water is not completely out of the question when cleaning suede, you just need to know exactly how to clean suede shoes and boots using liquid, and that's what we're here to show you. Here’s the best way to use a suede shoe cleaner without damaging the material:

    1. 1

      Use a suede brush to get rid of any dirt.

      First, use a suede brush to get rid of any surface dirt from your boots or shoes. This is a great way to help get the suede cleaner before more intensive treatments. Always brush with the grain of the fabric, rather than against.

    2. 2

      Remove any scuffed edges with the suede brush.

      If your boots are quite scuffed at the edges, again, use the suede brush. However this time use a vigorous back-and-forth movement to remove any loose fibres. Try to stay as close to the scuffed area as possible, instead of scrubbing at undamaged suede.

    3. 3

      Treat stubborn stains with water.

      Stubborn stains do need to be treated with water – carefully! Since spot cleaning can create watermarks, always clean the entire boot so that any discolouration isn’t noticeable.

    4. 4

      If the shoe is wet, roll up paper inside and allow to dry naturally.

      Use the suede brush to apply a small amount of water to the whole shoe, scrubbing at the stained area. Insert a shoe tree, or some rolled up paper to keep the shape of the boot and allow it to dry naturally. Don’t use newspaper, as the ink could transfer to the fabric.

    5. 5

      Remove salt marks with white vinegar.

      If your boots have been left with salt marks from water, use a small amount of white vinegar as suede cleaner. The smell of the vinegar might be quite prominent the first few times you wear the boots, but it will fade over time.

  • How to wash a suede jackets and other accessories

    So, can you wash a suede jacket or accessories? You know that using water can leave water marks on suede but that doesn't mean you can't get your suede looking good as new with a little TLC.

    Cleaning suede jackets and accessories should be tackled in much the same way as cleaning suede boots and shoes, but there are some slight differences in the methods and the suede cleaners that should be used.

    1. 1

      Loosen the fibres with a suede brush.

      Again, start with a suede brush to loosen the fibres of the fabric. This will get rid of any surface dirt, and give greater access to deep, ground-in stains.

    2. 2

      Apply a thin layer of cornflour to remove stains and leave overnight.

      To remove stains – particularly oily residues or sweat marks – apply a thin layer of cornflour to the garment and leave for a few hours. For the best results, leave the cornflour to do its work overnight. The cornflour will absorb the stains and lift them out of the material. Then, use a suede brush to remove the flour.

    3. 3

      Use a steam cleaner if necessary.

      Steam cleaning also works well for removing stains from suede jackets, but be careful not to over-saturate the material. The best way to steam clean a suede garment is to hang it in a steamy bathroom, following a hot bath or shower.

    4. 4

      Use leather cleaners if necessary.

      Finally, if you need to use heavier duty suede cleaner, you could check out dedicated leather cleaners that are suitable for suede. As with water, however, you’ll want to use the solution all over the garment, rather than simply spot cleaning, to avoid any discolouration, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions found on the label.

  • Protecting and cleaning suede

    The best way to protect your suede clothing, shoes and accessories clean is to not to let them become overly dirty in the first place, however this is often easier said than done! Here are some tips on how to help you protect your suede garments.

    1. 1

      Use a suede protector.

      Suede protector products can be purchased from a variety of stores and shoe shops. They act as a barrier against dirt and water stains. It’s best to apply protector when you first get your suede boots or jackets home, and again after each clean.

      Keep in mind that although these products reduce dirt build-up, they don’t prevent it altogether.
    2. 2

      Keep it dry.

      Always check the weather forecast before heading out, and if it’s due to rain, choose a different material. Suede and rain do not mix well, so opt for more waterproof garments when the weather is bad.

    3. 3

      Store well.

      When you’re not wearing your suede garments, store them in a suitable way. Don’t put them anywhere prone to damp – such as attics, garages, or damp cupboards.

    4. 4

      Transport securely.

      If you’re packing up your suede to take on a trip, don’t try to transport it in plastic bags, or any other form of non-breathable material that will cause the suede to sweat. Instead, use a cotton tote bag, or even an old pillowcase.

Can you wash suede shoes?

We all want to keep our shoes clean, but suede is one of those fabrics that needs a little extra thought. So, can you wash suede shoes? The answer is, yes, you can wash suede shoes - but you can’t use water. If you make the mistake of using water, you can ruin the material and colouring, and your shoes may become stiff and unwearable. If your shoes are made of synthetic suede, they should wash well, and you can simply follow their instructions. If they are natural suede, however, they’ll be ruined by any water temperature.

Now you know how to clean suede you can hang on to your favourite suede garments and accessories for longer! Give it try and see for yourself.

Now that you have all the tips and tricks you need for how to clean suede shoes, boots, jackets, accessories and more why not check out our guide for how to clean leather or how to clean faux leather?

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