How to clean suede shoes

Find out how to clean suede shoes the right way, without damaging the delicate material

how to clean suede shoes
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Knowing how to clean suede shoes can be tricky. Suede is quite a bit more delicate than leather: it really doesn't like water, even if it's just a bit, and if you get too enthusiastic about trying to rub off a stain, you can damage the delicate fibres, ending up with a discoloured spot. 

Fortunately, there are some very good products out there created especially for cleaning suede, and they can easily be bought from shops. We generally advise against using homemade remedies to clean suede, with a couple of noteworthy exceptions we explore below.

Got more stuff to clean? Visit our cleaning hub page for more useful advice. 

How to clean suede shoes: mud and dirt

If your suede shoes have mud on them, you're in luck: it's the easiest substance to get off them. You will need to wait until the dirt is completely dry before using a suede cleaning brush. Begin by gently scraping off larger chunks of dirt with the sharp edge of the cleaning brush. Then, when only a little dirt is left, start brushing it off with the bristle side of the brush, always brushing in the natural direction of the nap of the suede.

How to clean suede shoes: stains

If the stain has formed from just rainwater, you can usually get rid of it by gently brushing the suede after spraying it with a bit of dedicated suede cleaner. Again, be careful not to overdo it: the idea is to gently raise the nap without distressing it.

If the stain is oily, organic, or has a colour to it, you have two courses of action. The first is attempting a dry removal with a suede stain eraser. These look much like regular erasers and will work by mechanically removing the organic matter. The second option is to apply the suede cleaner and then start gently wiping off with a cotton round. Some people find makeup removers very effective at lifting stains from suede shoes. You don't need an expensive product, just something formulated for the skin that is either liquid, lotion-like, or foaming. 

How to use vinegar to clean suede shoes

You've probably heard that vinegar can be used to clean suede, and it's true: vinegar won't leave stains on suede, unlike water. There's a right way to use it, though: apply the vinegar to a cloth or cotton round first, never directly onto the shoe. Then, start gently blotting and rubbing to lift off any stains. 

How to fix discolouration on suede shoes

You may have scuffed them while walking around, or perhaps you overdid it while cleaning them, but suede shoes are prone to areas of discolouration that look a bit like bald patches. There is a solution: a suede colour spray. These sprays need to be applied to the whole shoe for best results. 

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.