How to clean suede

Want to learn how to clean suede? Read our guide on how to keep your suede accessories and soft furnishings looking as good as new

how to clean suede
(Image credit: Getty/ sigridgombert)

Wondering how to clean suede? We all love the velvety, textured feel of suede with its subtle, matt look, but we often pass it over for something that is more practical when it comes to cleaning and stain prevention. However, it’s likely that you have everything you need inside your kitchen cupboard to keep your suede clean and looking as good as new. 

For example, distilled white vinegar is a great natural suede cleaner because of its pH level, and the vinegar’s acidic properties will help to break down substance, while baking soda is a great cleaner if you don’t want to get your suede wet. Just remember that the quicker you act when suede is stained, the better chance you have of rectifying it. Before trying any of our tips, always test them on an inconspicuous area of your suede item first.

Need more tips? We have a dedicated cleaning hub where we offer advice on cleaning all kinds of materials.

How to remove stains from suede

Rub the surface of the suede with a clean towel to bring up the nap and prepare it for cleaning, then move a clean, white pencil eraser over the dry stain in a gentle rubbing motion. Use a suede brush to clear away any loosened dirt from the area. If the pencil eraser doesn’t achieve the desired effect, try carefully rubbing a nail file or some very fine grade sandpaper over the stain.   

How to remove water marks from suede shoes

Any suede items that you have at home should be treated with a water repellent spray. You can nip water stains in the bud by blotting them immediately, as soon as they happen, with clean kitchen roll or a towel. Don’t apply too much pressure when you do this because it will force the water deeper into the suede. If the water has dried, making the stain a different colour to the rest of the suede, try spraying the entire item with a light mist of water and allowing it to dry. This will help the mark to blend in. Never put too much water on suede, as this can cause it to lose shape and dimple.

How to get rid of greasy finger prints on a sofa or suede cushions

Use baking soda or cornflour to remove greasy marks by gently blotting the excess oily residue before sprinkling the area with a liberal coating of baking powder or cornflour. Leave it for a few hours and then brush away gently with a suede brush.  

We have more baking soda cleaning tips for all over the house. 

How to remove stubborn grease marks from suede accessories

If you have already tried removing greasy marks with baking soda or cornflour and it hasn’t worked, reach for the white vinegar. Unlike water, white vinegar and white spirits won’t stain suede if used carefully. Dampen a clean, soft cloth with white vinegar or surgical spirits and rub it gently onto the stain. Allow it to dry and then use a suede brush to fluff the fabric back up and brush away the loosened dirt.

Check out lots more ways to use vinegar to clean your home.

How to loosen wax or chewing gum from suede accessories

You can remove wax or chewing gum from smaller suede items such as shoes, purses, handbags or cushion covers by putting them in the freezer until the residue has hardened sufficiently to be broken off in chunks. Smaller pieces can be brushed away. For larger items that won’t fit in the freezer, try placing some ice cubes inside a soft, waterproof container, such a travel wash bag, and holding it against the chewing gum or wax until it hardens enough to be broken away. 

How to clean blood stains from suede 

Pour a few drops of hydrogen peroxide onto a cotton wool ball or clean kitchen roll and then dab lightly at the stain until it comes out. For tougher blood stains, pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide directly onto the stain, taking care not to use too much, and let it sit for a few minutes before blotting with kitchen roll and allowing to dry.

How to remove ink stains from suede sofas, cushions, coats or handbags

If the ink is fresh, absorb any excess by blotting with a paper towel and then dab a clean towel dampened with surgical spirits onto the stain to try and lift it.

How to get rid of mud from suede shoes and jackets

Allow to dry thoroughly before gently breaking it away from the surface of the suede with your hands. You can use a suede brush to get rid of smaller pieces and then continue treat the suede with a light brushing, or a clean white pencil eraser to remove any marks that might have been left underneath the mud.

How to keep your suede looking good

A suede brush is always a worthwhile item to have at home. There are plenty available – such as Suede & Nubuck Cleaning Kit by Care Guys (£9.99) which has a rubber crepe ribbon mounted on a beechwood handle and comes with a cleaning eraser too.  

TopShine Professional Suede/Nubuck kit (£19.99) includes a brush as well as a cleaning spray and a protector spray.  When you use a brush, avoid moving it in a back and forth motion. 

Always brush your suede when it is dry and move the brush along in the direction of the fibres. You can use your suede brush to restore texture to matted down areas and shiny spots. If older suede items are starting to look stringy, use a simple shaving razor to gently shave off the stringy, bobbly bits and brush them away with your brush. Try to treat suede items to a gentle brush once a week, or at least once a month.    

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Lesley Hannaford Hill is a homes, property and interiors writer of some repute. She started writing on Best magazine back in the 1990s and has since worked for many women's and interiors magazines, writing about everything from property prices to home improvement. She is know for her witty style and broad knowledge. On a personal level, she has renovated flats and houses and has built her own home on the plot where her parents' self-build once stood.