How To Clean Suede Shoes

How to clean suede shoes
How to clean suede shoes

Table of Contents

You might have heard that it is tough to clean suede shoes. That’s true to some extent. However, there is no rocket science behind the process. You just have to be careful and there will be nothing to worry about.

One thing that you should know is that you can’t wash them. So, if you have an instant urge to wash & rinse anything that’s dirty, curb it right here.

By reading this article, you will know exactly how to clean suede shoes. Let’s see:

Things That You Should Do Before Cleaning Suede Shoes

1. Prepare a shoe cleaning solution

Take some warm water (preferably 200 ml). Add 1 teaspoon of regular detergent or dish soap (mild). You can use this solution to clean the laces, soles, and trims or logo on the shoe. If you want you can purchase a shoe cleaner as well.

2. Clean the removable parts

Remove the laces, and inner soles (if they are removable). Dip the laces in the solution of dish wash and water. Soak them for 5-10 minutes. Take them out and brush them off with a medium bristled brush. Rinse the laces in clean water, squeeze out the excess water and hang them to air-dry

For cleaning inner soles, dip the medium bristled brush in the solution and rub it in back and forth motion on the sole with slight pressure. Take a clean cloth and wipe away the residue.

If you are going to use the same brush to clean suede shoes, make sure you clean and leave it to dry. 

Check out: How To Clean Canvas Shoes

3. Fill the shoe with paper wands or shoe tree

You will have to assert pressure while buffing and rubbing. The shoe should be able to stay stable while you will assert pressure while buffing and rubbing. You can either put a shoe tree inside the shoe or fill it with paper wands completely. This helps the shoe to maintain a stern shape while cleaning. Some people might advise you to fill newspaper or magazine papers inside the shoe. However, that is not ideal as sometimes the ink on such printed papers transfers to the shoe.

4. Gather everything you need

Check out the list below and make sure you have these things in one place to clean suede shoes.

  • 2-3 Microfiber cloths
  • Suede brush
  • Medium-bristled brush
  • Stiff bristled brush
  • Pencil eraser or Suede shoe eraser
  • Shoe cleaning solution

You can find all of the brushes mentioned above online or at your nearest retail stores. You can also buy a suede shoe cleaning kit. It generally consists of all these brushes and a shoe cleaning solution as well.

How well you clean suede shoes depends on the brushes you will use. So, make sure you don’t miss any of these. Here are the reasons why you need different suede cleaning brushes:

Brushes To Clean Suede Shoes
Brushes To Clean Suede Shoes
  • Suede brush: Specific suede brushes have small bristles that can easily penetrate even the finest nap of the suede. Apart from removing dust, it helps in re-fluff the suede if the grains are wet. This is the brush you will use to remove the eraser residue. The main purpose of suede brushes is to open the pores of the suede and make cleaning easier. 
Suede grains or suede naps
Suede grains or naps
  • Medium-bristled brush: The bristles of these brushes are not too loose or too stiff. Hence, it is ideal to get rid of dirt and debris from the uppers. It is also best to clean the midsole to get rid of the dirt and dust that is not deeply settled.
  • Stiff-bristled brush: As the name says, the bristles of these brushes are hard or stiff. They make it ideal to use on deep-rooted dirt, stains or dust on the midsoles and outsole.

Don’t have these things at home? No worries.

Steps To Clean Suede Shoes

Step 1: Wipe off the dirt from the uppers

Take a medium-bristled brush. Rub it all over the upper portion of the shoe. You have to brush off in the direction of the suede grains. Do not change the direction or brush back & forth if there are no stains as it will make the suede grain scattered. This does not look good.

What is suede grain?

Leather grain refers to the composition and appearance of the hide. It is similar to wood grain, which refers to the texture and appearance of wood fibres. 

Click here to know more

Step 2: Get rid of the stains

The process of removing stains depends on the type of stains. Here is what you can do:

  • If there are scuff marks, dirt or dust spots:
Dirt on suede shoes
Dirt on suede shoes

Pro-tip: If there is too much mud on the shoe, wipe away the excess mud using any stick, nail filer, etc. Leave the shoe as it is, once the mud gets hard, it will be easier to break it by hands only. 

Use a suede brush and rub the stain in the direction of suede grains gently. If the stain goes away, then wipe it off with a clean cloth. If the stain still persists, use an eraser to rub the stain gently. Once the stain is gone, use a suede brush to wipe away eraser residue.

  • If there are water stains on the shoe:
Water stains on suede shoes
Water stains on suede shoes

The remedy that you will read here might seem absurd but hold on and follow the steps exactly as described.

Take a clean cloth or microfiber towel. Wrap it around your finger and dip it in clean water. Then compress the cloth o the water stain. Be sure that you do not oversoak the shoe in the water.

If this does not work, then you can try the second method.

Use a medium-bristled brush. Dip it in water and apply the thinnest possible coat of water on the whole uppers. Then, take a sponge or a clean dry cloth to soak up the excess water. Dab the sponge or cloth gently all over the uppers until the suede is evenly wet and you can’t see any water stains. Let the clean suede shoe air-dry overnight. Once it dries out completely rub the whole upper part with a suede brush to get the grains back to their original look.

Check out: How To Clean Leather Shoes

Caution: Be extremely gentle while applying water. And make sure you do not put excessive water on the shoe.

  • If there are tough stains like ink, blood, etc. on the shoe:
Oil stain on suede shoe
Oil stain on suede shoe
  • Oily stains: These stains generally come from grease, mascara, Food rich in oil, Tea, etc. can be too tough to remove from suede. You can still sprinkle cornstarch on an oily stain and leave it overnight. Use a suede brush to rub off the starch the next day. 
  • Wax & Chewing gum stains: You don’t really have to use a stain remover for these stains. Just put your shoes in the freezer for 2-3 hours. The gum and wax will get hard you can simply chip it away in large chunks using your fingers or a butter knife. Then you can give your shoe a finishing touch using a suede brush. 
  • Blood stains: Add 2 ml of hydrogen peroxide to 5ml of water. Dip a cotton ball in it and dab the ball on the stain gently. 
  • Ink stains: Ball-point and felt-tip pens contain oil-based ink, hence, you might not be able to remove it at home. For gel-pen, and fountain-pen inks you can blot the stain using a microfiber towel (if it is fresh). Then dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol can blot gently until the stain goes away.

These stains can affect clothes badly too, just in case your clothes have these stains, you can refer to stain removal guide for oil stains, blood stains and ink stains

Don’t have enough time to remove stains from suede?

Caution: We do not recommend using steel wool on dry stains. You can use something blunt like a butter knife to scrape off dry stains. Steel wool is often sharp and it may cause marks on the shoe even with the slightest pressure. 

Step 3: Clean the midsole & undersole

Clean soles of suede shoes
Under-sole or insole of suede shoe

Take the medium-bristled brush. Dip it in the shoe cleaning solution and rub vigorously on the midsole. Don’t splash water on the uppers. If the midsole still has some dirt marks, then take the stiff-bristled brush. Dip it in the solution and rub it all over the midsole. Sometimes a thin layer between the midsole which is directly connected to the suede remains dirty as the bristles of the brush can’t reach it. You can take a microfiber towel, dip it in the cleaning solution and buff the area with gentile pressure with your fingers.

Caution: Be careful while rubbing the midsole. You must avoid the watery solution to get to the suede. As it may further create water or soapy stain on the shoe. The key is to do it all slowly and maintain control.

The process of cleaning undersole is the same as cleaning the midsole. You just have to use a stiff-bristled brush on the outsole.

Step 4: Use a suede protector

Once you clean suede shoes it is time to protect them from further dirt, dust & stains. A suede shoe protector is the best thing to use for this purpose. It is a waterproof spray which can be easily found online or at your nearest retail stores. A shoe protector acts as a barrier against puddle splashes, rain, mud, and dust. Hence, it will prevent stains and keep your shoes clean for a long time.

In general, you have to spray it slightly all over the upper portion of the shoes. However, the exact way of use differs from product to product. Hence, you should refer to the label of the products.

What To Do If Suede Shoe Gets Wet

Wet suede shoe
Wet suede shoe

You may already know that water is the biggest enemy of suede. If your shoes have got wet, you should waste no time treating them.

Soak up the water

Try to soak up as much water as possible immediately after your shoes get wet. Take a clean towel or microfiber cloth and blot the uppers.

Brush the suede nap

Use a soft-bristled brush and gently brush the uppers gently in a back and forth motion. You can use a toothbrush for this purpose as well. 

Use a hairdryer

You can use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. Do not use a hairdryer on dry real suede leather as it will dry out the leather grain. And it may get stiff and eventually crack.

Ask someone to hold the dryer and start it on a medium or high heat setting over the suede while you are brushing it. You can do this for 2-3 minutes in a row, then relax for a few minutes if you want. And repeat the process 4-5 times.

If you need to dry the suede shoes quickly, then you might send them to shoe dry cleaners as well. They have high-end machines to process shoes. Hence, you can expect clean and dry suede shoes from them.

If suede shoes have been wet for a long time, you might not be able reverse the damage on your own.

In A Nutshell

You just cannot wash and rinse a suede shoe, remember this whenever your shoe gets dirty. Gather everything that is needed to clean suede shoes, especially the three different brushes mentioned above. Remove and clean the laces and inner soles separately. Then you should clean one part of the shoe at a time. For cleaning the uppers you should use a medium-bristled brush to get rid of any dirt & debris. To remove stains you should go for the different stain removal methods and stain removers explained above in the article. Then, dip a medium-bristled brush in the shoe cleaning liquid and rub the midsole until it gets clean. Do the same on the outsoles, but using a stiff-bristled brush. Wipe away the residue with a clean cloth. And spray some suede protectors. That’s what you have to do in a nutshell.

To read more such articles, keep visiting as we post a lot on laundry and dry cleaning related topics.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not necessarily purport to reflect the values or views of Tumbledry.

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