How to Clean Suede Sneakers (Expert’s Guides)

Can you wash suede shoes?

how to clean suede sneakers

No, you can’t wash suede shoes. As the experts say, I don’t recommend you wash suede shoes, especially with a washing machine. The main reason is that suede material is easy to absorb water and easy to get stain. Water has calcium and magnesium, leaving white marks on the suede shoes and making them less flattering. Now you might be wondering and a big question popped into your head after reading the explanation, how to clean suede sneakers properly?

You might know the struggle if you own a pair of suede shoes. The velvety surface of the shoes is like a magnet that attracts dirt and various types of stains, which will make the shoes look grime over time. Furthermore, taking care of soft suede shoes can’t be done hurry-scurry, or you’ll ruin them. Be at ease! In this article, we have compiled some easy-to-follow guides on how to clean suede sneakers without causing more damage. Let’s jump on the list!

How do you clean suede shoes without ruining them? 

A. Cleaning kits you’ll need

A specially formulated soap for cleaning shoes. For suede shoes, it’s best to use suede shoe cleaner.

  • Apron

A piece of clothing worn at the front part of your body to keep your clothes clean while cleaning the shoes.

  • Premium brush

A soft-bristled brush made from animal hair is used for cleaning the delicate upper.

  • Medium brush

Also known as the all-purpose brush, use this brush to clean the midsole.

  • Standard brush

The sturdy and strong-bristled brush for cleaning the outsole.

  • Small brush or toothbrush

To reach the narrow and hard-to-reach area of the inner shoe.

  • Microfiber cloth

A highly durable and absorbent piece of cloth to wipe the shoes clean from dirt and excess suds. 

  • Shoe trees

A pair of devices similar to human feet in shape. These are used to keep the shoe’s shape and prevent creases

  • Washbowl

For water container which will be mixed with shoe cleaner later.

  • Shoe perfume

To give a refreshing scent to your newly cleaned shoes.

B. Using the right cleaning kits for each shoe part

  • Upper shoe

Located at the top of the shoe sole, the upper covers the entire part of your foot, sometimes reaching about the ankle. You can clean the upper with a premium brush gently so you don’t scratch or damage the delicate suede.

  • Midsole

The following component is located in the space between the insole and outsole. The midsole is visible from the side of the shoes. It’s best to use a medium brush to scrub stubborn dirt and stains off, as well as fade visible scuff marks caused by wear and tear.

  • Outsole

Located at the bottom part of the shoes, the outsole has direct contact with the ground and often catches dirt, mud, or other small particles on it. You should use a stiff-bristled standard brush to remove the dirt and make the outsole clean again.

  • Insole

The final part is the insole, which provides cushioning and comfort to your feet while wearing the shoes. Some of the insoles are removable, thus I suggest removing them for easier cleaning. If the insoles are permanently glued, don’t force remove them otherwise they can’t be returned as before. To remove grime from the insole, I recommend you to use a premium brush to prevent tearing. A small brush or a toothbrush also comes in handy to reach the narrow area of the insole, especially when they’re not removable from the shoe.

C. Step by step how to clean suede sneakers

To begin with, get your suede shoes ready for cleaning. You can knock the soles off to remove mud or dirt clumps. 

  • Prepare the cleaning kits

Moving to the next step, prepare all of the cleaning kits required. Wear the apron, then mix the shoe cleaner with water until all is incorporated. 

  • Remove the shoelaces

Take the shoelaces off the shoes and soak them into the cleaning mixture prepared before.

  • Put shoetrees in each shoe

Remove the insoles by pulling them out carefully. Then, put the shoe trees inside to keep the shoe’s shape and minimize creases. Don’t force remove the insoles or the glue will break and won’t stick like before.

  • Dry cleaning

The next step is necessary before you can use the cleaning mixture. Use a premium brush to dust the suede sneakers off from dirt and debris. You can also use a small brush or a toothbrush to do the job.

  • 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. Wipe the surface with a microfiber cloth to remove the suds and dirt, and repeat the process until you get the desired result.

  • 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. Don’t use other types of brush because they’ll scratch the delicate suede. 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. Pat the surface with a microfiber cloth with gentle pressure to absorb the remaining moisture.

Use a small brush, or a toothbrush to reach and scrub the narrow inside of the shoes. You can utilize a premium brush, but don’t force it if the brush doesn’t fit. Clean them thoroughly, then wipe the suds with the microfiber cloth.

  • Detailing

Use a dampened microfiber cloth to clean the detailed area of the shoes, such as the eyelets. 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.

  • Drying

After ensuring that your suede sneakers are clean, put them by a fan, along with the shoelaces, and wait for about 1 to 2 hours until they dry entirely. 

  • Finishing and reassembling

Now that your shoes are clean and dry, remove the shoe trees and put the shoelaces back. You can also spray some of the shoe perfume to add a nice scent to the footwear. Voila! Now you can head out and show the freshly-cleaned suede sneakers to everyone.

How to clean suede sneakers with household items

how to clean suede sneakers

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.

  • Toothbrush

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.

  • Eraser

Yes, you heard it! This stationery item can fade the ugly scuff mark 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 just rub the eraser with moderate pressure on the scratched or scuffed area. Sweep the residual particles of the eraser away, and there you are!

  • White vinegar and paper towel

Did you accidentally spill some liquid on your suede sneakers? White vinegar and paper towels come to the rescue! 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, layer the vinegar-dampened paper towels onto the area and allow it to sit for a few hours.

  • Cornstarch powder or baking soda

Removing grease or oil stains from suede sneakers will be easier with the help of these powdery ingredients from the kitchen counter. Sprinkle some cornstarch powder or baking soda onto the stained area and let them do the magic for a few hours. Brush the surface lightly to reveal the disappearing stains and now your suede sneakers look fabulous again!

Cleaning suede shoes with vinegar

how to clean suede sneakers

This home ingredient is considered a versatile cleaner since vinegar basically can turn anything grimy and filthy to look like new. As I see it, vinegar has acid that helps break down clumps of dirt, as well as stains without causing the suede to deteriorate. Follow this way to clean suede shoes with vinegar.

  • Pour the vinegar into a small bowl.
  • Dip a white clean microfiber cloth into the vinegar.
  • Gently apply the liquid on the cloth in a back-and-forth motion without soaking the shoes wet.
  • Leave the shoes to dry completely and repeat the process until the stains are gone.

Other techniques for specific types of stains

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Best suede cleaner

how to clean suede sneakers

Whether you’re leaning on using a suede cleaner or a fan of home ingredients, both do a perfect job in making your suede shoes shine and look fabulous like new. Now you may ask me, what’s the best suede cleaner? As for me, using specially formulated suede cleaner is the best option, because they won’t damage the delicate material. Alternatively, you can use white vinegar or baking soda available on your kitchen counter. Rubbing alcohol also cleans your suede shoes just like the others mentioned before. As long as you know the proper cleaning method, it doesn’t matter what cleaner you use for the suede shoes.

How to restore suede shoes

how to clean suede sneakers

Over time of wear and tear, you’ll notice that your suede shoes’ color is fading and look unassuming. Here are some methods I’ve proven to restore suede shoes to get their charms back.


  • Clean your suede shoes with a soft brush before the steaming process.
  • Put a pot of water on the stove and turn the heat on until the water is boiled. For safer options, you can use a cloth steamer.
  • Hold the suede shoes over and let them be steamed for less than a minute. 
  • Brush the fuzzy naps softly in one direction and ensure that all parts of the suede shoes are completely restored.

Dyeing (only for 100% pure suede shoes)

  • Get a specially formulated dye for suede and read the instruction carefully before using. You don’t have to dilute or mix the dye with anything except stated on the instruction box.
  • Brush the shoes’ surfaces to remove debris or dirt.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from mess and apply the dye with the brush that comes with the package.
  • Spread the dye just enough to the suede and don’t oversaturate the material to prevent dark spots in the future.
  • Massage carefully with a circular motion and don’t rush.
  • Leave the dye to get soaked into the suede for about 24 hours. Repeat the process for darker colors, but don’t layer them too much because the material will get dry and cracked.
  • Apply a waterproof spray to create a protective coat.

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 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 itself is not waterproof and can be damaged easily if it’s exposed to excessive water.

How to remove stains from suede shoes

As mentioned in the previous point, there are many ways you can try to remove stains from suede shoes. To treat common stains on your shoes, here is the method I’ve tried several times, and always works every time.

  • Take a suede brush and dust the shoes’ surfaces off in the same direction as the grain. Brush in a back-and-forth motion to remove the tougher marks.
  • Use a suede eraser to rub the remaining imperfections. Apply the eraser with just enough pressure and don’t go too hard because you can wear the fuzzy suede down. You can’t reverse it after you done it.
  • For removing other stubborn stains or dirt, pour some rubbing alcohol or white vinegar into a clean and soft cloth. Rub the cloth in a circular motion and make sure you don’t drench the suede shoes.
  • Let the stained area dry properly for a few hours to the whole day.
  • Apply a protection spray once the shoes are dry to prevent more dirt and make the cleaning process much easier.

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, stuff them with shoe trees or crumpled newspaper.
  • Gently brush any dirt or debris off the trainers with a toothbrush or suede brush. Brush in a side-to-side motion to lift the suede fibers and remove light scuff marks.
  • Use a suede eraser to remove more visible and stubborn scuffs (a stationery eraser can do the job as well.) Rub the surface in a back-and-forth motion just enough so you can remove the scuffs without leaving more damage to your delicate suede trainers.
  • Utilize 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 



  • Don’t use too much water for cleaning suede since it can stain the material and alter the texture and color as well.
  • Don’t dry suede sneakers under direct sunlight or the color will fade and cause your shoes to look unflattering.

Shoe care tips

  • Store the shoes in a dry and well-ventilated room. Don’t put them in a humid room because mold and bacteria grow rapidly in such an environment.
  • Storing a pair of wet shoes is a terrible idea. Make sure you dry your shoes completely before putting them on a rack.
  • If you notice dirt or stains on the suede sneakers, 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. Throw in some silica gel packs to absorb moisture and keep them smelling fresh.


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.

Is it OK if suede shoes get wet?

No, 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.

Can baking soda clean suede shoes?

Yes, 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.

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. It’s important carefully maintain your suede sneakers in their prime to show them off proudly for a longer time.