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How to clean suede: shoes, jackets, and accessories

Suede jackets, shoes and other items need special care, but don't worry - with this article on how to clean suede, it's a breeze! Read on to find out more.


By Cleanipedia Team

Suede outfit laid out on the floor

Suede is a much softer and more vulnerable material than ordinary leather. Not only can it stain quicker and easier than leather but it’s also much trickier to clean. Unlike leather, stains on suede can actually be made worse by normal cleaning materials, such as using soap and water, so knowing how to clean suede is hugely important if you own boots, shoes, jackets, or other accessories made from this delicate material.

Unlike leather, stains on suede can actually be made worse by normal cleaning materials, such as using soap and water.

You will need:

  • Suede brush
  • Water
  • Paper
  • White vinegar

How to clean suede boots

If you need to clean suede shoes or boots, it can be so tempting to try to simply spot clean them using water, but this can cause additional water stains to appear, making your boots look old, scuffed, and discoloured. That’s not to say water is completely out of the question when cleaning suede – you just need to know exactly how to clean suede boots using liquid. Additionally, a good quality suede brush is an essential tool for all suede garment owners. Here’s the best way to use a suede cleaner without damaging the material:

  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 will simply help get the suede cleaner before more intensive treatments. Be sure to brush with the grain of the fabric, rather than against.

  2. Remove any scuffed edges with the suede brush

    If your boots are quite scuffed at the edges, again, use the suede brush, but 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. Treat stubborn stains with water

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

  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. 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 clean suede jackets and accessories

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. 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. 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 – preferably overnight. The cornflour will absorb the stains and lift them out of the material. Then, use a suede brush to remove the flour.

  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. 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.

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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. 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.

Protecting and cleaning suede

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

  • Use a suede protector. Suede protector products can be purchased from stores and most 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, however, that although these products reduce dirt build-up, they don’t prevent it altogether.

  • 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’s bad.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

Originally published