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How to clean suede shoes

Suede is a delicate material that needs to be protected. Read on to find out some simple yet effective tips for cleaning suede.


how to clean suede

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

Dry stains on suede can sometimes be removed with a simple pencil eraser: just rub gently at the affected spot to lift off the offending mark.

How to Clean Suede Shoes and 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 shoes and boots – you just need to know exactly how to clean them properly using liquid. Additionally, a good quality suede brush is essential tool for all suede garment owners. Here’s the best way to use a 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 get the suede clean before more intensive treatments. Be sure to brush with the grain of the fabric, rather than against.

  • If your boots or shoes 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 suede shoes can create water marks, clean the entire shoe, so that any discolouration isn’t noticeable.

  • 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 maintain 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, you can use a small amount of white vinegar as suede cleaner. The smell of the vinegar might be quite noticeable 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 shoes and boots, but there are some slight differences in the methods and cleaners that should be used:

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Steam cleaning suede also works well when removing stains from 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 product to clean suede, you could investigate dedicated leather cleaners that are suitable for this particular material. As with water, however, you’ll want to use the solution all over the garment, rather than simply spot cleaning, to avoid any discolouration. Follow the instructions on your chosen suede cleaning product for the best results.

Protecting & 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 protecting 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 a protector when you first take 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 an old cotton tote bag, or even an old pillowcase.

cleaning suede

Originally published