How to Clean Suede Shoes (and Save Them from Future Stains)

Suede shoes are stylish and comfortable, but also require some extra care. Suede is a delicate material that can easily become stained. With the proper cleaning techniques, you can keep your suede shoes looking fresh. We will provide tips on how to clean suede shoes and prevent future stains.

What is Suede?

Suede is made from the underside of animal hides, usually lamb, goat, calf or deer. The skin is brushed and buffed to produce a soft nap. This gives suede its signature velvety texture.

The delicate nap of suede makes it prone to dirt, stains and scuff marks. With proper maintenance, suede can look great for a long time.

Benefits of suede:

  • Soft and flexible
  • Warm and comfortable
  • Stylish look and feel

Drawbacks of suede:

  • Prone to stains and dirty marks
  • Can show signs of wear more readily
  • Requires more care than smooth leathers

Follow our tips to keep your suede shoes looking their best while avoiding stains.

Supplies Needed for Suede Care

Having the right supplies makes cleaning and protecting suede much easier. Here are the essentials:

  • Suede brush: Helps revive the nap and remove dust and dirt. Avoid using wire bristles which can damage suede.
  • Suede eraser: Designed to gently rub out stains and raise the nap. Can be block or bar shaped.
  • Suede cleaner: Spray-on cleaners help lift dirt and stains. Check they are suitable for your suede item.
  • Suede protector spray: Creates an invisible barrier to repel water, oil and dirt. Reapply after cleaning suede.
  • Old toothbrush: For scrubbing stubborn dirt in crevices. Softer than wire brushes.
  • Vinegar: Helpful for removing salt stains. Dilute with water first.
  • Paper towels: Absorb excess cleaner and allow suede to dry. Lint-free microfiber cloths also work well.
  • Newspaper: Stuff inside shoes to retain shape as they dry.
  • Masking tape: For delicate suede, taping edges avoids over-cleaning.

Having these supplies on hand will make home suede care much simpler.

How to Clean Suede Shoes

Follow these steps to clean dusty, stained or soiled suede shoes:

1. Remove loose dirt and debris

First, brush the entire surface with a suede brush to lift dirt, dust and surface debris. Brush in different directions to revive the nap.

Pay extra attention to collars, tongue, seams and tread areas where grime collects.

2. Spot clean stained areas

Use a suede eraser, gently rubbing in circles, to lift stains. Start from the outer edge of marks and work inwards to avoid spreading the stain.

For stubborn oily or sticky stains, use a suede cleaner sprayed onto a cloth then dab onto the mark. Avoid over-wetting suede.

For white salt stains, dip the corner of a paper towel in vinegar and gently blot onto the spots.

3. Clean the entire shoe

Once stains are removed, lightly spray suede cleaner all over shoes and brush it in different directions with the suede brush.

Use an old toothbrush to scrub the seams, crevices and tread.

Wipe away excess cleaner with a paper towel or lint-free cloth. Stuff with newspaper to retain the shape as shoes dry.

4. Allow to fully dry

Let suede shoes dry completely before wearing, at least 24 hours. Drying too quickly or unevenly can damage suede.

Keep away from direct heat which can cause cracks. Stuff with newspaper as shoes dry to prevent creasing.

5. Apply suede protector spray

Once fully dry, spray shoes with a suede protector and allow that to dry also. This seals the material to prevent future stains and marks.

Reapply protector spray after each thorough clean to keep suede water and stain-resistant.

Tips for Preventing Suede Shoe Stains

Being mindful of how you wear and care for suede shoes helps avoid unsightly stains:

  • Avoid wearing suede in the rain or snow. Water can leave permanent water marks.
  • Spray suede shoes with protector before wearing to repel moisture and oil. Reapply after each clean.
  • Wipe shoes with a paper towel after wear to remove dirt before it’s ground in.
  • Stuff shoes with paper to absorb moisture and retain shape when storing.
  • Rotate suede shoes between wears to allow them to fully dry.
  • Handle suede gently and brush regularly to avoid surface abrasion.
  • Store suede shoes on cedar blocks to prevent musty smells.
  • Keep suede away from oil, grease and chemicals which can permanently discolor.
  • Use suede cleaning tools only. Wire brushes and hard erasers damage the delicate nap.
  • Spot clean stains immediately for the best chance of removal. Don’t leave wet stains to dry in.

With preventative care, your suede shoes can look pristine for many seasons.

Home Remedies for Stubborn Suede Stains

For tough stains that don’t budge, try these homemade remedies:

Cooking oil – Gently dab a drop of vegetable oil on grease stains then brush in gently. Wipe away any excess.

Talcum powder – Sprinkle on new oil stains and leave overnight. Brush off in the morning and clean as normal.

Cornstarch – Mix with vinegar into a paste and dab on old grease marks. Let dry completely then vacuum off.

White chalk – Rub into ink or dye stains. The chalk should draw out the color so you can brush off.

Rough sandpaper – Lightly rub back and forth across scuff marks and abrasions to buff them out.

Salt – Make a paste with lemon juice and salt and apply to red wine spills for 10 minutes before cleaning as usual.

Always test home remedies on a small hidden area first to ensure no adverse effects on your suede shoes.

When to Seek Professional Help

While many stains and marks on suede can be managed at home, it’s sometimes best to seek a professional:

  • If stains have set in and won’t brush away after multiple attempts.
  • If suede has gotten excessively wet at any time. Heat from quick drying can cause lasting damage.
  • If suede has signs of extensive wear, scuffing or abrasion.
  • For expensive or sentimental suede items where DIY cleaning risks making the problem worse.

Reputable shoe repair shops and leather cleaners offer specialized suede services such as stain treatments and re-dyeing. They have commercial machines to evenly dry wet suede.

Professionals can also replace or repair worn suede patches – something not possible at home.

Storing Suede Shoes

Storing suede correctly between wears will keep them looking pristine for longer:

  • Always stuff shoes with paper to absorb moisture and retain the shape. Change paper regularly.
  • Keep suede shoes in a breathable dust cover, cloth bag or box. Never seal them in plastic.
  • Store suede shoes on cedar shoe trees or shoe forms to wick away moisture.
  • Allow suede shoes a day to fully dry out before storing after wear. Rotate between a few pairs.
  • Keep suede shoes out of direct light which can cause fading.
  • Store in a cool, dry spot. Heat and humidity can damage suede.
  • Keep shoes away from anything greasy or chemical-based which could transfer to the suede.
  • Consider placing a sachet of silica gel in the storage box to prevent musty smells.

With some basic care, your quality suede shoes can maintain their beautiful look for many years.

Frequently Asked Questions about Suede Shoes

How do you stretch tight suede shoes?

Start by stuffing tight shoes with socks to gently stretch them. Wear the stretched shoes for short periods, removing when uncomfortable. The suede will gradually loosen and mould to your feet. Avoid excessive moisture or heat which could damage the suede. See a shoe repairer for help stretching specific tight spots.

Can you wear suede shoes in rain or snow?

Wearing suede in wet weather is tricky. The moisture can leave permanent water stains and misshape shoes. Light rain or snow should be okay if shoes are pre-treated with suede protector spray. But extended heavy rain or snow will likely damage suede. Best to change into smooth leather or rubber boots.

How do you soften hard suede shoes?

Mix one part vinegar with two parts water in a spray bottle. Lightly mist over the stiff suede then vigorously brush the nap in all directions. The vinegar solution helps soften the fibers. Also use shoe trees to stretch tight suede. Alternate wears with several pairs to rest the suede. See a professional for deep conditioning treatments.

What happens if suede gets wet?

If suede gets soaked, immediately pad it dry with paper towels or cloths. Avoid heat sources which can bake in water marks. Stuff plentifully with fresh paper towels or newspaper then allow shoes to fully dry for at least 24-48 hours. The paper helps shoes retain their shape. Once dry, brush the nap and treat with suede protector before wearing again.

Can suede shoes go in the washing machine?

Never put suede shoes in the washing machine or dryer. The heat and agitation will ruin the nap of the delicate suede. Handwashing with a gentle suede cleaner is best. Make sure shoes are fully dried before wearing again. For stubborn dirt, a professional wet or dry cleaning service is safest.

How do you clean white suede shoes?

Clean white suede shoes regularly to prevent stains setting in. Gently brush away loose dirt then use a suede eraser or lightly damp cloth to spot clean marks. Clean the whole shoe with a suede-safe foaming cleaner then brush the nap smooth. Avoid over-wetting white suede which can cause water marks. Let shoes fully dry before wearing again.

In Summary

With the proper care, those luxe suede shoes can stay looking fabulous. Remember these key tips:

  • Protect suede from rain, oil and harsh chemicals which easily stain.
  • Brush often with a soft suede brush to revive nap and lift dust.
  • Spot clean marks as soon as possible using a suede cleaner and eraser.
  • Use suede protector spray to create a repellent barrier against moisture and oil.
  • Allow wet suede shoes to fully dry before wearing to prevent lasting damage.
  • Store suede shoes with paper stuffing to absorb moisture and retain shape.
  • Seek professional help for badly stained, wet or worn suede that requires special care.

With a little TLC, your suede shoes will become a timeless part of your wardrobe.