cleaning suede shoes

Suede is soft to the touch, breathable, and warm, so it’s no wonder it’s such a popular choice for boots and shoes. But unlike finished leather, suede can be more susceptible to becoming dirty and stained, especially in wet conditions. Suede shoes are made with the underside of animal hides from lambs, cows, goats, and other animals. To contrast, leather shoes and boots are made from the outer layer of skin, which is naturally more resistant to moisture and dirt.

Because suede is more porous than leather, it’s worth noting that suede will keep its luster longer and stay cleaner if it doesn’t get wet. From watermarks to mud stains, wearing suede shoes in wet weather can make them look old and dingy before their time. So unless you can predict the weather, it’s a good idea to learn how to clean suede shoes and boots to keep them looking fresh and stylish.

Other than keeping suede shoes and boots dry, using a suede brush to give them a quick cleaning once in a while will keep your shoes looking newer longer. A quality suede brush will remove most dirt and restore the nap of the material when it has lost its luster. But what’s the best way to clean suede shoes and boots when they’ve gotten wet or have dirty stains? Read on to learn how to clean suede shoes and get rid of all kinds of stains.

How to Clean Stained Suede Shoes

Some of the most common reasons for cleaning suede shoes are scuff marks, spills, watermarks, dirt, and other staining that makes them look old and worn. While some suede shoes and boots are water-resistant, it’s nearly impossible to make the material waterproof, so water stains are always a danger.
A water-resistant coating will probably keep your suede shoes dry in typical weather but doesn’t provide much protection from dirt, grease, and grime. Like most stain treatments, taking care of a stain on suede is much easier when you address it quickly. That’s because the longer a stain remains on suede, the deeper into the porous material the stain penetrates.

Depending on the type of stain, you’ll need some or all of the following:

  • Suede brush
  • Pencil eraser
  • White vinegar
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Baking soda
  • Suede degreaser
  • Paper towels
  • Cloth towel
  • Hairdryer
  • Newspaper

Regardless of what suede stains you’re treating or how dirty your suede shoes are, ensure your footwear is completely dry before getting down to work. Because suede is naturally darker and discolored when it’s wet, it can be hard to see all the dirt and stains well enough to clean them properly.

Here’s how to get your suede shoes or boots dry:

  • Use an absorbent cleaning cloth to blot the suede and soak up excess water.
  • Don’t rub the suede because rubbing could damage the nap.
  • Brush the damp suede gently with a suede brush to restore the nap as the shoe dries.
  • Speed up the process if necessary using a hairdryer on medium heat while continuing to brush the suede.
  • Put balled-up newspaper inside your suede shoes or boots to soak up excess moisture inside the footwear.

How to Clean Suede Shoes With Vinegar

You don’t have to worry about damaging suede shoes and boots when you clean them with quickly evaporating cleaning solutions. Since you’ve had to dry your suede shoes before cleaning them, you might have guessed by now that cleaning suede with water is a no-go.

Instead, use a safe and eco-friendly non-water-based cleaner you likely have on hand. Distilled white vinegar is ideal for cleaning suede shoes and just about anything else in your home. These everyday household products are mild but effective cleaners and natural disinfectants.

Here’s how to clean stained suede shoes using vinegar:

  • Dip the corner of a clean, white cleaning cloth into white vinegar and dab the stain or dirty area.
  • Move to another part of your cleaning cloth when it gets dirty and repeat the process.
  • Avoid using too much vinegar, so you don’t get the suede too wet.
  • Let damp areas air dry and check that stains and dirt are gone.
  • Repeat the process for stubborn stains if needed.
  • Brush the nap with a suede brush a couple of times during the drying process and give your suede shoes a final brushing once they are dry.

White vinegar will get your suede shoes nice and clean, but if you can’t stand the unique aroma, we have another eco-friendly suede cleaner that will work just as well.

How to Clean Suede Shoes With Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a safe and effective cleaning and sanitizing solution that can tackle everything from ink-stained shirts to dirty suede boots. You can also use rubbing alcohol to clean scuff marks on the sides of shoe soles and get them looking new again.

Here’s how to clean suede shoes with rubbing alcohol:

  • Dampen a small section of a clean, white cleaning cloth with rubbing alcohol.
  • Dab stained and dirty areas, switching to a clean part of the cloth when one part gets dirty.
  • Don’t overdo it with the alcohol and soak the suede or rub the nap.
  • Allow the suede to dry and evaluate your handy work.
  • Repeat the process for tough stains if necessary.
  • Use a suede brush to keep the nap fluffed as the shoes dry, and finish up with a vigorous brushing once everything is dry.

Rubbing alcohol is particularly good for cleaning suede shoes and boots that have traditionally stubborn stains like ink or paint. Removing tough stains like these may take more work and patience, but when you follow the instructions above, you can get even the dirtiest suede clean again.

How to Get Grease Out Of Suede

Whether it’s a dollop of butter or a spatter of cooking oil, greasy substances will soak into suede very quickly and imbed themselves into the fibers. As with most stains, treating stains on suede while they’re fresh is recommended to avoid further damage.

Here’s how to get grease stains out of suede shoes and boots:

  • Pour enough baking soda onto the greasy stain to cover it completely.
    Let the baking soda absorb the grease for several hours.
  • Brush the baking soda and the absorbed grease out with a suede brush.
  • Check the grease stain once the suede has dried and repeat the process if needed.
  • Clean and dry your suede brush and give the suede a brisk brushing to restore the nap.

You can use cornstarch instead of baking soda if you’re out, and it’s okay to use a paper towel to blot, not rub, the grease stain. Finally, consider using a commercial suede degreaser if your efforts fall short or you didn’t catch the grease stain before it dried. These products are specifically formulated to break down grease without damaging suede shoes.

How to Clean Salt Off Suede Boots
You may wonder how your suede boots can end up with salt lines and stains, especially during the winter. The first reason you may find salt stains on suede could be due to the tanning process. Salt is often used to preserve leather and suede before the tanning process and can rise to the surface when suede boots get wet. Other reasons for salt stains could be the salt used on roads in winter weather and the perspiration from your feet. Salt lines and stains can make suede look like it’s ruined, but it can usually be cleaned up pretty quick.
Here’s how to clean salt off suede boots and shoes:

  • Mix a solution of half water and half white vinegar in a bowl.
  • Dip a corner of a clean, white towel into the vinegar and water.
  • Rub the salt stains until the suede is damp and the salt stains are no longer visible.
  • Restore the nap with a suede brush while the suede is wet.
  • Wash and dry your suede brush and give your shoes one last brushing.

As the fabric ages, particularly after cleaning suede shoes and boots, the nap can lose its luster and leave the fabric flat and frayed. Even if you’re cleaning your suede shoes the right way and brushing them often, the suede may still look dull and stringy. All you need is a shaving razor to remove the frayed fabric and help restore the nap. And when you’re ready to tackle more of your shoe inventory, check out our guide for cleaning white shoes to get sneakers, heels, and more looking new.

Whether you do it yourself using our housekeeping how-tos or let The Maids handle the dirty work with our preferred house cleaning services, we want your home to be a great place to be. You can enjoy a clean home as often as you like for less than you might expect—get your free online estimate and find out.


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