Suede is a much softer and more vulnerable material than ordinary leather. It can not only stain quicker and easier than leather, but it’s also much trickier to clean. Unlike leather, stains on the 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.
How to Clean Suede Boots
If you need to clean suede shoes or boots, it can also be so tempting to simply spot and clean the suede 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 suede cleaner without damaging the material:
Firstly, use a suede brush to get rid of any surface dirt from your boots or shoes. This will simply help you get the suede cleaner, before intensive treatments. Be sure to brush with the grain of the fabric, rather than against.
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.
Stubborn stains do need to be treated with water – but since spot cleaning can create watermarks, clean the entire boot so that any discoloration isn’t noticeable.
Use the suede brush to sprinkle 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.
If your boots have been left with salt marks from water, use a small amount of white vinegar as a 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 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:
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 the deep ground in stains.
To remove stains – particularly oily residues or sweat marks – apply a thin layer of corn starch to the garment and leave for a few hours – preferably overnight. The corn starch will absorb the stains and lift them out of the material. Then, use a suede brush to remove the flour.
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.
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.
Protecting and Cleaning Suede
The best way to keep your suede clothing and shoes clean is to not 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 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 that's 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.
- Do not attempt to spot clean suede items with water.
- Instead of clean the whole item with a suede brush, and a small amount of water to prevent discolouration.
- For tough stains use specially designed suede cleaner, or try a home remedy of white vinegar or corn starch.
- Always follow the instructions on the label if using a commercial cleaning product.