Sep 24, 2023

How to Clean Suede Shoes and Keep Them Looking Fresh

Home Home & Living Cleaning & Organizing Cleaning Tips

Once you invest in a stylish pair of suede shoes, the next step is keeping them looking their best! Suede shoes have a bad rap for being high maintenance, easily scratched and impossible to wear in wet weather. But with the right care and maintenance, you can rock a pair of suede boots without stressing about every tiny rain puddle.

Here's how to clean suede shoes so they always look new and how to protect them from permanent staining.

On a flat surface, lay down an old towel and set up all the shoe-cleaning supplies. Stuff the shoes with crumbled-up newspaper to retain the shape of the shoes while you clean and make them easier to handle. If your shoes are damp, leave them out to air dry. The suede should be completely dry before moving on to the next step.

The next step is removing any surface dirt or debris from the shoes. Use a soft suede brush and move the brush in a straight back and forth motion along the entire surface of each shoe. This helps brush the dirt away rather than pushing it further into the suede fibers.

Check for noticeable stains, then spot clean with an eraser. You can use a regular, clean pencil eraser to gently rub away the stain. Or if you prefer, a specialized suede eraser made of natural rubber works great. This kit comes with both a suede brush and an eraser.

Another spot-cleaning technique involves baking soda. Sprinkle a little baking soda on the stain, then gently brush the stain and baking soda with the suede brush to work the stain out.

To treat more stubborn stains, or give the entire shoe a refresh, dampen the corner of a lint-free cloth with white vinegar and gently massage the shoe. Allow the shoe to dry, then repeat as needed. Be careful not to saturate the suede.

Once your shoes are clean, you need to protect them. A waterproofing spray (like the highly-rated Crep Protect Shoe Protector Spray) will help repel water and dirt, keeping your shoes cleaner longer. Before applying, shake the can well. Then, evenly spray the shoes from about 8 to 10 inches away. Let the shoes dry, then spray them again—two coats will give you the best results.

No, just be sure to use a suede brush, usually made of horse hair, or a soft toothbrush. Brushing the suede gets rid of dirt, can buff out scratches and helps fluff the suede to restore its soft texture.

We don't recommend using soap and water to clean suede shoes (and never put them in the washer). If you want to wash your shoes more thoroughly than dry brushing and spot cleaning, you can use a special suede foam cleaner.

No, do not clean suede shoes with Dawn dish soap. Dawn is a powerful grease-cutting soap, and the formula is too harsh for suede. It can leave behind stains or residue. Only a drop of Dawn diluted in water might be effective on spot treating your shoes, but it's safer to stick to suede soap or suede shampoo.