How to Clean Suede Shoes and Take Good Care of Them!

how to clean suede shoes

Suede shoes. Well, what more can I say about them other than magnificent? Suede shoes are definitely the embodiment of what premium shoes should be. There are a lot of things to like from suede shoes, but the most important thing to highlight is the beauty in their design. Some suede shoes will also feel comfortable to wear. Of course, you might want to use these shoes for a more formal event, rather than casual ones (although they still look great!). 

Suede shoes are like leather shoes, which are quite hard to take care of. As a matter of fact, you will need to be extra careful and patient when you’re cleaning them. It needs extra caution to clean suede shoes, and having the knowledge to maintain their quality after cleaning them is also a huge plus for suede shoes lovers.

Being a lover of suede shoes and a person with an expertise in the shoe industry, I will share a complete guideline on how to clean suede shoes while keeping them fresh for a long time. Whatever color you have, whether its black, brown, or white, you need to have a look at my article below, which is based on my experience as an expert in the field of shoe cleaning. So, let’s star scrolling and make your suede shoes clean!

I. Cleaning Kits and Their Functions

Before we go to the step-by-step cleaning guide, let’s find out the kits and tools that you need to prepare to clean your suede shoes.

Shoe CleanerA special shoe detergent needed to clean your favorite and precious suede shoes.
ApronNot an obligatory item, but it will come in handy when we’re talking about keeping your shirt clean while washing your suede shoes.
Premium BrushUsed to clean the upper part of your suede shoes which are going to be made from suede. 
Medium BrushClean your suede shoe’s midsole section. 
Standard BrushClean your suede shoe’s outsole section.
Small Brush or ToothbrushClean the inner part of your suede shoes that is usually hard to reach.
Microfiber ClothUsed to wipe suede shoes and remove stains from your shoe. 
Shoe TreeEssential item to keep your suede shoe’s basic structure intact. 
Container or BowlUsed to store water that will be mixed with Shoe Perfume in order to generate a certain odor for your suede shoes.

II. Cleaning Suede Shoes Guidance

The goal of cleaning a pair of shoes is to make them look fresh and clean once more. However, some people tend to go through the process in a hurry, resulting in a damaged shoe.

Being familiar with the shoe industry for many years, I have conducted careful research to gather the most effective and efficient methods for cleaning suede shoes. So, if you want to wash suede shoes correctly, then you to have a look at my complete guideline below.

Step 1: Remove the laces from your suede shoes

It’s essential to remove the laces from your suede shoes before starting the cleaning process. Laces need to be cleaned separately. You can do this by soaking them inside a bucket of water that has been mixed with the shoe cleaner detergent.  

Step 2: Insert the shoe tree in your suede shoes:

This is an essential step, as a Shoetree will be important to maintain the shape of your suede shoes when they’re being washed. However, make sure to remove the insole before inserting a shoe tree. Don’t force it if the insole can’t be removed, though. 

Step 3: Dry Clean Your Suede Shoes

Before proceeding to clean your suede shoes with water, you really need to dry clean your shoes first. To do this, you can use a Premium Brush or small brush to get rid of loose dust or dirt. I love to do this step before cleaning my shoes with water, as it can help reduce the dirt before deep-cleaning them.  

Step 4: Wash the Outsole and Midsole of Your Suede Shoes

During this cleaning stage, you can use a Standard Brush. Make sure to use all your strength when cleaning the outsole, as it’s naturally the dirtiest part of a shoe.

As soon as you have finished cleaning the outsole, you can proceed by cleaning the midsole with a Medium Brush. This time, patience and diligence are needed, as there will be a lot of dirty spots that are hard to clean. Never resist from repeating the cleaning process if your suede shoes are still dirty.

Step 5: Wash the Upper Part of Your Suede Shoes

Use the Premium Brush to clean the upper part of your suede shoes in order to prevent any scratches or damages. Suede is highly sensitive, so make sure not to use too much water when cleaning the shoes. For me, Premium Brush is the perfect item that can clean the upper part without damaging them. After rubbing the shoes, you can dry the upper part by gently tapping the surface with a microfiber cloth. I don’t think that I should say this, but you should never use a standard brush when cleaning the upper part of your suede shoes.  

Step 6: Wash the Inner Part of Your Suede Shoes

Sometimes, washing the inner part of your shoes might be a little bit tricky, as your large hands might get in the way. Therefore, you can use a small brush to help reach the narrow space inside. 

Naturally, the best item to clean the inner part of your shoes is the Premium Brush. However, you shouldn’t force it if you can’t use them!

Step 7: Detailing

Use a microfiber cloth to clean the details on your shoes that are still dirty. As an alternative, wet tissue can also be used. However, I personally love to use a cloth better than a tissue, as it’s more effective to absorb dirt and water. 

Step 8: Drying Process

Leave your shoes in front of a fan and leave them for around 1-2 hours. 

III. 7 Best Alternative Ways to Clean Suede Shoes

Suede is a delicate fabric, thus you can’t use any shoe cleaner you see to clean suede, otherwise you might damage the surface of your dearest suede shoes. However, there are several ways and items to use, and most of them are actually common household items.

For your reference, I have selected 7 of the alternative ways to clean suede shoes. Each method is based on a comprehensive research to find the best practices and techniques for suede shoes cleaning.

1. Suede Eraser

Of course, the best way to clean suede shoes is by using a suede eraser. Made specifically for shoes made of suede, nubuck, or velvet, a suede eraser is a must have cleaner for everyone who have suede shoes. It works by removing superficial, dry stains from suede shoes to restore the original finish and texture.

Here is the step-by-step guide on how to use suede eraser to clean your suede shoes, and bring their excellent glow back.

  • Start by identifying the dry stains on your shoes that you are trying to remove, then take the eraser and rub it into the stains using moderate to firm pressure.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush or horsehair brush to complete the process of removing the dry stain and fluff the pile.
  • For stubborn stains, you might need to use a special suede shampoo or oil stain remover.

2. White Pencil Eraser

White pencil eraser works just like a suede eraser. It’s a great alternative if you are running out of suede eraser at home. Make sure the eraser is all cleaned-up before you use it to brush the suede shoes to make sure it does not leave any stain behind.

  • Grab a colorless pencil eraser and brush the stained area lightly using a toothbrush to remove loose dirt on the shoes.
  • Gently rub the stains with the pencil eraser to get rid or dirt and discoloration.
  • If the pencil eraser doesn’t work for certain stubborn stains, you can gently rub a nail file over them.

3. Rubbing Alcohol or Acetone

Based on my studies, rubbing alcohol or acetone are some of the most effective cleaning solutions to treat ink-stained suede shoes. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Apply a rubbing alcohol or acetone to a small part of a clean microfiber cloth.
  • Dab the stained area with the cloth and switch to a clean part as another part of the cloth becomes dirty.
  • Don’t soak the suede or rub the nap with too much alcohol.
  • Allow the shoes to dry, and check the result to make sure all stains are gone.
  • Use a suede brush for the nap as the shoes dry, and lightly brush it once you are sure that the shoes are completely dry.

4. Cornstarch or Talcum Powder

Sometimes there are moments when our dear suede shoes get dirty with grease stains. I know we all hate it when it happens, and yes it is time to let cornstarch or talcum powder do the job.

  • Apply cornstarch or talcum powder to the stained area and allow it to soak up the excess grease for a few hours.
  • gently scrape off the cornstarch with a oft-bristled brush.
  • Repeat the steps as needed until the spot is completely gone fron the shoes.
  • For grease stains that have dried, clean the area with a small amount of dish soap, because cornstarch might not be strong enough to remove them.

5. Steam

For tougher stains on suede shoes, some solutions might not work as expected. But based on a study that I have done on how to remove tough stains and water stains on suede shoes, I discovered that steam cleaning is the best method to choose.

  • Hold your dirty suede shoes over the steam from a kettle or a handheld clothing steamer.
  • Make sure to be very careful not to get too close to avoid saturating the sueded.
  • Once the suede is slightly damp, use a suede brush to restore it’s texture.

6. Suede Cleaner

Suede cleaner is also a recommended solution to clean your suede shoes. In terms of how to do it, the method is very simple and similar to the methods of cleaning suede shoes using rubbing alcohol or vinegar. But in terms of solution, a specific suede solution features gentle approach since the ingredients is very friendly for suede fabric.

  • Wet a corner of a dry microfiber cloth with a small amount of suede cleaner.
  • Be sure not to drench the shoe in liquid because it can damage the shoes. Just slightly dampen the suede.
  • Massage the shoe with a rapid side-to-side motion until the stains are totally removed.
  • Allow the shoes to dry.

7. Towel

For light stains, do bear in mind that sometimes all you need is a damped towel to remove those stains from your suede shoes. You can use a microfiber towel and water for this method.

  • Dampen a microfiber towel with water. Be sure to wring it out well so that it is only slightly damp.
  • Gently rub the damp towel over the surface of the shoes, right on the stained area.
  • Make sure to be very careful and don’t apply to much pressure.

IV. Other Techniques for Specific Types Of Stains

how to clean suede shoes

To be perfectly candid, any method that I have suggested before can be used to remove stains from your suede shoes. Still, there are certain techniques, or methods, that you can use for specific types of stains that might be a little bit trickier. Different stains required different cleaning solutions and methods. Since suede is a delicate fabric just like nubuck or velvet, I need to emphasize the importance of cleaning different stains using specific cleaning methods.

Here are some of the most common stains that you might find in your suede shoes, plus the cleaning steps that I have developed based on my deep understanding of the different types of stains and the best methods to cleaning them.

1. Water Stains

I know it might sounds weird or counterintuitive, but actually adding water can help remove water stains on suede shoes. Curious how it can be done? Well it doesn’t need rocket science to know that water is the best cleaner solution, even to clean water!

  • Use a spray bottle to lightly spritz water across the surface of your suede shoes that have water stains.
  • Gently brush the surface using a suede brush or toothbrush.
  • Blot up any excess water with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Let the shoes to air dry completely.

2. Mud and Dirt Stains

How to Get Cat Pee Out of Shoes

For mud and dirt stains, vinegar is the best solution to remove them completely from your beloved suede shoes. Vinegar is recommended solution that has been thoroughly tested and confirmed to be effective in removing mud stains from suede shoes, and other shoes as well.

  • Apply a modest amount of white vinegar to a clean, soft microfiber cloth.
  • Dab the vinegar on the stain and ensure the whole stained area is treated with the vinegar.
  • Grab a suede brush and use it to brush the stain again.
  • And you’re done. By now you will see that the stain is removed from your suede shoes.

3. Oil Stains

how to clean nike shoes with mesh

We all hate oils stains on our shoes. Oil stain is hard to remove and even though we have cleaned out shoes carefully, sometimes some of the stains are still there, which forces us to repeat the cleaning steps again, which might damage the surface or our dearest shoes. The best way to remove oils stains is by using cornstarch, and here is the step-by-step guide to follow.

  • Cover the stain with a large amount of cornstarch for at least 1 hour.
  • Spread through the cornstarch to hide the stain from view. You can’t use too much of it, so there is no need to hold back.
  • If you are running out of cornstarch, you can also use baking soda or talcum powder.
  • Remove the cornstarch from the stained area with a damped microfiber cloth.
  • Scrub the stain with a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush to remove any of the oil left behind after you removed the powder.

4. Ink Stains

how to clean nike shoes with mesh

Ink is another stain that is pretty challenging to remove from your suede shoes, or any other shoes you know, that is. But it’s not impossible to be done as long as you have rubbing alcohol or acetone to do the cleaning job for you.

  • Use rubbing alcohol or acetone on a white microfiber cloth.
  • Gently rub the ink stain and be sure to spot tests a small area first to ensure the solvent does not discolor or damage your suede shoes.
  • Once you are sure the alcohol does not damage the shoes, then continue by gently rubbing the stained area until the stain is completely gone.

5. Sweat or Salt Stains

How to Clean Satin Shoes

Salt can be pretty damaging to your delicate suede shoes. So, once you know that there are sweat or salt stains them, make sure you clean them immediately before they damage the suede fabric on the shoes. This method requires white vinegar, a rag, and a suede brush with the following cleaning steps:

  • Create a mixture of vinegar and water inside a clean bowl. arm water is ideal since it will help the water and vinegar mix a bit more easily.
  • Grab a clean rag or paper towel and dip in into the solution and gently wipe the shoes with the wet rag by focusing on the salt stains.
  • If the stain still remains, grab a suede brush and gently brush the stain until it is removed completely from your shoes.
  • When you’re done with the brushing, it’s time to leave the shoes to air dry.
  • Last step, I recommend you to use suede protectant spray that offers a degree of waterproofing that helps keep your sued e shoes from getting dirty again.

V. Cleaning Tips

how to clean suede shoes

Wait up for a sec! Don’t leave this page yet, as I still have some more wisdom and knowledge to pass on. As a matter of fact, this next part is quite important to you. I’m going to mention some tips and tricks that you might want to know in order to protect and take better care of your suede shoes. 

  • Use your suede shoes only during certain occasions that you deemed important. The less you use them, the higher chance that you can keep their mint condition intact
  • Never use them during the rainy season. It might not rain, but there’s a higher chance that your shoes will come into contact with water, thus ruining them
  • Use a soft brush, or even better, use a suede brush to clean your suede shoes
  • To keep them fresh, put a silica gel when storing them inside a shoe box 

VII. Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the easiest way to clean suede shoes?

how to clean suede shoes

If you have managed to read every section of my article up until this very “checkpoint”, then you’ll notice that there are a lot of methods and techniques that you can try on when you’re going to clean your suede shoes. But out of all those tricks, which one will I declare as the easiest way? I’d probably go with a Magic Eraser! 

Cleaning a pair of suede shoes with a Magic Eraser won’t take too much of your time. However, I have mentioned to you before that Magic Eraser might not always clean your suede shoes effectively. For a more proper way of cleaning, you can use detergent or vinegar! Remember, easy doesn’t always mean effective!

2. What item cleans suede the best?

how to clean suede shoes

The term “best” can sometimes be a subjective matter, and this is certainly the case for the best item that cleans suede shoes. It can depend on a lot of things, such as the dirtiness level of your shoes, what kind of stains are visible, how old or sensitive your suede shoes are, and many more. But generally, I’d like to say that shoe cleaner detergent or vinegar might be the best way to clean any suede shoes!

3. How often should you clean suede shoes?

how to clean suede shoes

Cleaning suede shoes isn’t a one-off thing! If you want to preserve the condition of your suede shoes, you have to clean them regularly. Most people rarely use their suede shoes. I do use them for special occasions, such as parties. Therefore, I’ll clean them after each usage in order to keep their mint condition. 

Cleaning them after each usage won’t be viable if you use them regularly/almost everyday. In this case, it’s better for you to clean them once every two weeks or once a month. However, if you run into a mud or something wet, you’d better clean them directly. You can clean suede shoes with household products or suede cleaner as well!

4. Can suede shoes be washed?


No, you should not wash your suede shoes. As a matter of fact, I have said a hundred times before that suede shoes can’t stand too much contact with water. You better try to think of other ways to clean your suede shoes. Please refer to some methods that I have written out here in the article. 

5. Does WD 40 clean suede?


WD-40 is a cleaning product that can act as a lubricant, rust preventive, penetrant, and moisture displacer. While WD-40 can be used to clean some types of shoes and sneakers, it shouldn’t be used to clean suede shoes. WD-40 is known to have some strong ingredients that can damage the surface of your suede shoes. I’d recommend using other methods to safely clean your suede shoes, like with vinegar, with baking soda, and many more. 

6. What type of detergent is good for suede?

Naturally, you can use almost all types of detergent to clean suede shoes. However, some detergents are known to be better at cleaning suede shoes than others. After some experimenting, I learned that the best and safest way to clean any kind of suede shoes is to use mild detergent. You should also use dye free detergent in order to prevent new colors emerging on your suede shoes!

Latest post:

VIII. Summary

Suede shoes are beautiful, but they are also sensitive. Therefore, you should really learn how to take good care of them. There are a lot of things to avoid when you’re attempting to clean it, so make sure to read my article carefully before proceeding to clean your precious shoes.