Skip to content

How to Clean Suede Shoes

How to clean suede shoes

Suede may technically be a form of leather, but unlike regular grains, suede is produced in a manner that sacrifices many of the hard-wearing qualities traditionally associated with animal hide products for a softer, more luxurious feel.

As such, it can be a bit tougher to keep in pristine condition. Fear not, however, as we’ve put together this handy guide which aims to help you get your suede shoes looking good as new again!

Scuffs and general dirt

The fine, soft coating found on suede is a result of what’s called the nap, a layer of extremely short hairs. Unfortunately, while looking lovely, these hairs are prone to catching mud and can quickly look scruffy if forced in an unnatural direction.

For both scuffs and dirt, a similar course of action is advisable.

  1. Ensure the shoes are dry - due to the nap of suede, trying to rectify scuffs is much harder when the surface is wet.
  2. Taking a specialist brush (which can be bought here), gently brush any mud off the shoe. If it is dry, it should be relatively easy to dislodge from the nap. Ensure you only brush in the direction of the nap, not back and forth, as this has the potential to damage the material.
  3. Do the same on scuff marks, again ensuring to only brush in the direction of the nap. Many scuffs on suede are simply the nap being forced into the wrong direction and then become matted.
  4. If this doesn’t work, you can brush more vigorously in a back and forth motion to try and free the nap, before brushing it back down in the natural direction.
  5. If the nap has become too knotted or matted for this to work, you can try using a knife or emery board to gently try and prise the matting apart to make it easier to brush.

Water stains

Unfortunately, as with the ease with which suede can scuff, another downside of the production method means that leather’s normal innate resistance to water isn’t found in suede products. Not only do they not resist water effectively, but a prolonged damp patch on suede can cause a stain.

To clean water stains, follow these steps:

  1. Follow the above steps for cleaning off scuffs and dirt.
  2. Take your suede brush and dip it in some clean water. Apply a light coat of water to the stain and the surrounding area. While it might seem strange to try removing a stain with the same substance that caused the stain in the first place, done in the right conditions it can help remove it.
  3. Take a cloth and wick away any excess water, leaving the stained area slightly damp but not wet.
  4. Stuff some paper into the shoes. Do this as evenly as you can, as the paper will help absorb the water. Particularly with light-coloured suede, avoid using newspaper, as the ink can stain the suede.
  5. Leave the shoes to dry overnight. As with drying just about any shoes, leave them in a room away from sunlight and sources of artificial heat, as this can cause the suede to dry unevenly and cause further staining.
  6. Finally, go over the nap with the brush, brushing in the correct direction to restore the original look of the material.

Leave a comment