How To Clean Suede Shoes In 4 Steps

Including what not to do.
PHOTO: istockphoto

As impractical as suede shoes may be, we can't help having a strong affinity for them. They're versatile, classy, and, more often than not, super comfortable. What we don't like, however, is when they (inevitably) get dirty and need cleaning. But how do you clean something that can't even get wet?

Problem solved! Here are four easy steps for quickly and effectively cleaning suede trainers, heels, and sandals.


  • A suede brush/nail brush/toothbrush
  • White vinegar
  • A flannel or face cloth
  • Eraser/rubber


    1. Start by using a brush to remove any excess dirt and grit from the surface of the shoe.

      If you don't have a suede brush, a clean nail brush or toothbrush will work just fine. Begin by using light strokes to brush the surface of the shoe to remove loose particles and grit. When brushing, remember to brush with the grain (AKA, in the same direction the suede naturally sits).

      For more stubborn marks, like scuff marks, apply more pressure and move the brush in a swift back-and-forth direction to help raise flattened suede fibers, to further aid with cleaning.

      If the dirt is still wet, wipe off the excess and leave to dry before removing the particles with a brush. If you try cleaning the stain why it's still damp, it can often work the particles deeper into the suede, making it harder to remove in the long run.

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    2. Next, use an eraser to try and shift the remaining marks.

      If you have a suede eraser, that's even better, but your regular pencil-case version will still work well, providing it free of any pre-existing stains first. Think of this as a slightly more rigorous approach for clearing scuff marks, by using constant, back-and-forth pressure to help dislodge any surplus particles.

    3. If the stain still won't budge, try white vinegar.

      While applying a liquid like white vinegar might seem counterintuitive, its acidic composition means it's brilliant at breaking down particles clumpswhich is exactly what you want for cleaning.

      Dip the corner of a clean cloth into a small bowl of vinegar (be careful not to drench the whole thing) before applying it to the stain and rubbing in a back-and-forth motion.

      Keep working at the mark and reapplying vinegar where necessary to effectively remove the station. The key with this step is repetition and patience.

      Note: The vinegar will temporarily dampen the suede, altering the color of the fabric, before evaporating and returning the fabric to its original color. To determine if the stain has been properly removed, you might need to use multiple applications of vinegar and drying.

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    4. Finish with a protecting spray.

      The age-old saying "prevention is better than a cure" certainly rings true with suede shoes. But not all suede protectors (aka waterproof and stainproof sprays) are made equal.

      Reviews often cite permanent color changes when using particular products so, if you intend on using a protector, the best approach is to base your selection off customer ratings and reviews to avoid any unwanted results. You can find suede protecting products at special sneaker stores or sports retail shops.


    This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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