How to Clean Suede Sneakers (Expert’s Guides)

how to clean suede sneakers

Talking about how to clean suede shoes, I know exactly how tricky this material is. Well, suede gives you a glimpse of a classy and sophisticated look. But, when it comes to cleaning, I assure you, you are not alone when caught up in the hassle.

Luckily, I got some of the most effective cleaning methods I’ve tried with myself. They are amazing and will set you free from the dirt, scuffs, and debris of your suede shoes.

So, without any more rambling, let’s have a look!

Cleaning Kits You’ll Need

Cleaning kit itemsFunction
Shoe cleanerA specially formulated soap for cleaning shoes. For suede shoes, it’s best to use suede shoe cleaner.
ApronTo keep your clothes clean while cleaning your shoes.
Premium brushMade from animal hair and used for cleaning the delicate upper.
Medium brushAlso known as the all-purpose brush, it is used to clean the midsole.
Standard brushThe sturdy and strong-bristled brush for cleaning the outsole.
Small brush or toothbrushTo reach the narrow and hard-to-reach area of the inner shoe.
Microfiber clothTo wipe the shoes clean from dirt and excess suds. 
Shoe treesUsed to keep the shoe’s shape and prevent creases. 
WashbowlFor water containers, which will be mixed with shoe cleaner later.
Shoe perfumeTo give a refreshing scent to your newly cleaned shoes.

Step by Step How to Clean Suede Sneakers

1. Remove the shoelaces

I’ll always start by taking the shoelaces off the shoes and soaking them in the cleaning mixture prepared before. This approach helps a lot in cleaning the shoes thoroughly.

2. Put a shoetree in each shoe

After that, I’ll remove the insoles by pulling them out carefully. I prefer to clean them separately to spot the stains easily.

Then, put the shoe trees inside to keep the shoe’s shape and minimize creases. I don’t recommend removing the insoles or the glue roughly since they will break and won’t stick like before.

3. Dry Cleaning

The next step is dry cleaning. It is necessary before you can use the cleaning mixture. Take your premium brush to dust the suede sneakers off of dirt and debris. I usually opt for a small brush or a toothbrush to do the job if I don’t have my premium one.

4. Clean the outsole and midsole

After dusting them off, let’s get into the real cleaning process. Dip a standard brush into the cleaning mixture and rub it on the outsole. For the midsole, use a medium brush and repeat the process thoroughly.

It takes time and patience to ensure no dirt or stains are left on the midsole. I generally repeat the process until I am satisfied with the results. Then, wipe the surface with a microfiber cloth to remove the suds and dirt.

5. Clean the upper

Now, it’s time for gentle care. Dip a premium brush just slightly into the cleaning solution and brush the upper shoe carefully. I strongly against using other types of brush because they’ll scratch the delicate suede.

Instead, I highly recommend you pay attention to how much the material is exposed to the liquid. Since suede is very sensitive, just use a little water and don’t drench the sneakers. Then, gently press the surface with a microfiber cloth to absorb the remaining moisture.

6. Clean the inner shoes

In this step, use a small brush or a toothbrush to reach and scrub the narrow inside of the shoes. I recommend using a premium brush, but don’t force it if it doesn’t fit. Clean them thoroughly, then wipe the suds with the microfiber cloth.

7. Detailing

Next, use a dampened microfiber cloth to clean the detailed area of the shoes, such as the eyelets. I think that wet wipes can be a great alternative, but in my case, microfiber does a better job since it’s highly absorbent, especially for moisture and dirt.

8. Drying

After ensuring that your suede sneakers are clean, put them by a fan, along with the shoelaces. I usually wait for about 1 to 2 hours until they dry entirely. But you can adjust the time based on your shoe’s sizes.

How to Clean Suede Sneakers with Household Items

Did you know that you can save more money by using the items in your house to clean delicate suede shoes? Here, I have a compilation of how to clean suede shoes with household items.

a. Toothbrush

how to clean suede shoes

The first item on this list comes in handy for regular cleaning. Toothbrushes have soft bristles, which are perfect for cleaning delicate suede sneakers.

One tip from me: brush in the direction of the grain as you remove dirt or small particles that get stuck in the suede.

b. Eraser

how to clean suede shoes

Yes, you heard it right! This is my go-to hack when it comes to quick cleaning.

Who knows that this stationery item can fade the ugly scuff marks and scratches on suede sneakers? Make sure you choose a non-colored and clean eraser so it doesn’t bring more stains to the shoes.

All you need to do is rub the eraser with moderate pressure on the scratched or scuffed area. Sweep the residual particles of the eraser away, and there you are!

c. White Vinegar & Paper Towel

how to clean suede shoes

Did you accidentally spill some liquid on your suede sneakers? White vinegar and paper towels come to the rescue (they are my favorites!). Pour some vinegar onto the paper towel and wipe the affected area lightly, and the stains will surely come off.

For bigger and more severe stains, I usually layer the vinegar-dampened paper towels onto the area and allow it to sit for a few hours.

d. Cornstarch Powder or Baking Soda

how to clean suede shoes
Source: Freepik

Removing grease or oil stains from suede sneakers will be easier with the help of these powdery ingredients from the kitchen counter. I’ve tried it myself, and it works awesome!

I start by sprinkling cornstarch powder or baking soda onto the stained area and letting them do the magic for a few hours. Then, I brush the surface lightly to reveal the disappearing stains and now your suede sneakers look fabulous again!

How to Clean Suede Shoes Without Suede Cleaner

how to clean suede sneakers

Now you’ve reached halfway through the article and may be wondering, what can I use for cleaning my suede shoes without suede cleaner?

As I mentioned before, there are many household products to try for cleaning suede shoes that yield a nearly similar result to using a suede cleaner.

I prefer using home ingredients like vinegar or rubbing alcohol to substitute suede cleaner.

It’s a big no to use soap with water for cleaning suede shoes because the material is not waterproof and can be damaged easily if exposed to excessive water.

Other Techniques for Specific Types of Stains

how to clean suede shoes

Different types of stains need special treatments to get the best result. Here are other techniques I have attempted to remove specific types of stains from my beloved suede sneakers.

a. Oil and Grease Stains

  • On the stained area, sprinkle some cornstarch powder.
  • Leave the powder to sit for a few hours.
  • Use a clean cloth to wipe the area off, or utilize a hand vacuum to remove the excess powder.

b. Gum or Wax

  • Place your suede shoes in a plastic bag.
  • Put the shoes inside a freezer for a few hours and make sure you don’t put them side by side with food.
  • When the gum or wax is hardened, peel them off by hand or scrape them with a plastic knife carefully so the suede won’t be damaged.

c. Blood Stains

  • Pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide into a small cotton ball or a clean towel.
  • Dab the affected area of the suede shoes gently until the stain is transferred to the cotton ball or towel.
  • Repeat the process if needed until the blood stain is gone.

d. Red Wine Stains

  • Blot the wine-stained area with a clean and dry cloth.
  • In a separate bowl, pour some white vinegar.
  • Dip a clean cloth into the cleaning mixture and apply it to the stained area.
  • Leave to dry for a few minutes and repeat until the stains completely disappear.

e. Dry Stains

  • Rub the suede eraser firmly into the stained area of your suede shoes.
  • Take a suede cleaning brush and remove the eraser’s minuscule particles.
  • Repeat the process to the other affected areas on your shoes until it’s all clean.

f. Ink Stains

  • Pour some rubbing alcohol into a clean microfiber cloth or use a cotton swab for smaller stains.
  • Rub the cloth or cotton swab into the stained area to transfer the ink stains.
  • Leave to dry and repeat the process until you get the desired result.

How to Clean Suede Trainers Nike

On its website, the swoosh brand explains that suede shoes will get dirty and stained over time.

To deal with the issue, I’m going to share an approved and easy tutorial on how to clean suede trainers Nike to get back to their original shape and form. 

  • To maintain your suede trainers’ shape, I stuff them with shoe trees or crumpled newspaper.
  • Gently brush any dirt or debris off the trainers with a toothbrush or suede brush. I brush in a side-to-side motion to lift the suede fibers and remove light scuff marks.
  • I opt for a suede eraser to remove more visible and stubborn scuffs (a stationery eraser can do the job as well.) Then, I rub the surface in a back-and-forth motion just enough the scuffs will fade without leaving more damage to your delicate suede trainers.
  • Next, I recommend utilizing a suede cleaner to break more persistent stains. If you don’t have one, white vinegar or rubbing alcohol works just fine. Slightly dampen a clean cloth with the liquid of your choice, and wipe the surface gently. Allow the liquid to dry and repeat the process if required.

Do’s and Don’ts 

Be gentle while cleaning the sensitive materials of the shoes since the suede upper can get damaged if it’s cleaned incorrectly.Don’t use too much water for cleaning suede since it can stain the material and alter the texture and color as well.
If you wear the shoes daily, clean the shoes once every month to prevent dirt and stains from stuck deeper into the suede grain, which is far more difficult to remove even after some cleaning process.Don’t dry suede sneakers under direct sunlight or the color will fade and cause your shoes to look unflattering.

Shoe Care Tips

how to clean suede shoes
  • Store the shoes in a dry and well-ventilated room. I don’t recommend you to put them in a humid room because mold and bacteria grow rapidly in such an environment.
  • I believe you are with me when saying storing a pair of wet shoes is a terrible idea. So, make sure you dry your shoes completely before putting them on a rack.
  • If you notice dirt or stains on the suede sneakers, I advise you to brush them with a soft-bristled brush immediately so they can be removed with ease. A premium brush or suede brush is a good example. 
  • Don’t expose suede to an extreme amount of water, and avoid wearing them during a flood or heavy rain.
  • Use shoe boxes to store your suede sneakers in the shoe rack to look neat. I also usually throw in some silica gel packs to absorb moisture and keep the shoes smelling fresh.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What will ruin suede shoes? (What should you not put on suede shoes?)

Water will ruin suede shoes, which is why I don’t recommend putting them on delicate materials. Unlike leather, which is more water resistant, suede is permeable. When suede shoes expose to excessive moisture they will be stiff and brittle, which leads to greater damage.

2. Is it OK if suede shoes get wet?

Suede shoes must NOT get wet because of several reasons. The material itself is not water resistant and has high water absorbance. Not only stiffen and brittle, but suede will also stretch after getting wet and make the shoes less comfortable to wear. Last but not least, the dye in suede shoes will fade and make the color looks patchy and ugly.

3. Can baking soda clean suede shoes?

Baking soda can clean suede shoes. It comes in handy to break down grime, salt, and grease stains, as well as remove them from delicate materials without leaving scratches or damage.

From my experience, all you have to do is just pour the home ingredients into the affected area and leave them for about 15 minutes. Brush the surface gently, and you’ll notice that the dirt and stains are no longer there.

4. How do you make suede shoes look good again?

There are many ways you can try to make suede shoes look good again. Besides cleaning them regularly, I advise you to spot-cleaning any dirt as soon as you notice them.

Pay attention to different types of stains that may caught in your shoes, because as mentioned before, they need different treatments. If you notice fading colors, opt for steaming or dyeing them, or ask for a professional cleaner’s help.

Summary or Conclusion

In short, owning a pair of suede sneakers comes with a big responsibility to care for them. Hence, it’s important to carefully maintain your suede sneakers in their prime to show them off proudly for a longer time. 

I personally love to use kitchen ingredients as my quick hack to clean suede shoes. However, I recommend following the entire step-by-step guide if you have time to pamper your shoes.