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How to Clean Suede Shoes

Posted by Andres Jimenez on
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If you've a pair of suede shoes that have been in your collection for more than a few years, or has gotten a lot of use, then it is likely that they’re overdue for a cleaning.  But, it is also likely that you’ve been delaying the inevitable.  Why?  Because you know that suede is notoriously prone to damage by most standard cleaning methods.  After all, just getting suede wet can cause them to become damaged beyond repair.

Still, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.  And, in fact, cleaning your suede shoes doesn’t have to be a tedious, time-consuming process

How to Clean Your Suede Shoes the Right Way

Just follow these easy steps below and you will be good to go, with a pair of shoes that look as good as new.

Step #1: It's best to see if the manufacturer has some kind of cleaning instructions. There may be a label on the inside of your shoes that tells you the recommended cleaning method.  If not, don’t worry – ultimately, the method is basically the same for all pairs of shoes made out of suede.

Step #2: Purchase a suede brush, or even better, a suede cleaning kit. Suede is a very unique type of fiber that requires a specific type of brush that won’t mess up the grain or be so abrasive that the material wears down.  Trust us – you don’t want to use the wrong brush when cleaning your suede shoes, or else you may do irreparable harm.

Step #3: Gently brush your suede shoes, using long, soft strokes in one direction. Trying to use a more abrasive, circular scrubbing motion will just mess up the grain of your shoes, causing them to look dirty and uneven in a way that can’t be undone.

Step #4: If you've got scuffs on your shoes, use a slightly more aggressive back-and-forth motion, just on the scuff itself.  This should, in most cases, take care of the scuff completely.  If the scuff is matted, use a butter knife to gently break it up.

*Step #5: If necessary, use a pencil eraser on scuffs that aren’t budging. This can effectively get rid of tough scuff marks while being gentle enough to protect the suede.

Step #6: Now, give your suede shoes a layer of protection with a suede spray, which is a waterproof spray that coats the suede.

What to Do About Water Marks

Water will stain suede, but the good news is that you can get rid of water marks and stains effectively.

  1. Use your suede brush to gently brush a light layer of water all over your shoes. Again, the key is a thin, even layer of water that doesn’t soak the shoe, but makes it completely damp all around.
  2. Use a dry cloth to gently wipe the entire shoe down, using long strokes all over so that the shoe dries at an even rate. Keep brushing the shoe with your cloth until the water stains are gone.  Now, if there are some little fuzzies from the cloth on the shoes, you can use one laundry dryer sheet.  Make sure though to go very gently when using a dry sheet.
  3. While letting the shoes dry, stick bunches of paper inside to make sure that they keep their shape. Otherwise, they can warp.

What to Do About Oil Marks and Salt Stains

If you’ve spilled oil on your suede shoes, chances are, the stain is permanent.  But, if it’s a fresh stain, try sprinkling some cornstarch, which may soak up the oil before it sets.  Then, lightly brush the cornstarch off about 20 minutes later. 

If you have salt stains on your shoes, you may consider dabbing the stain with an extremely light amount of distilled white vinegar.  Again, dabbing is the key, because you don’t want to end up with a water stain.

Take Care of Your Suede Shoes

Ultimately, suede shoes can be cleaned, and the process doesn’t need to be as difficult as some people make it out to be.  Just keep in mind that at the end of the day, there is always the risk of staining your suede beyond repair, especially when it comes to grease stains, as well as blood stains.  So, even though you can clean suede shoes, that doesn’t mean you should simply be careless when wearing them.

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