6 tips for keeping your suede shoes clean

how to clean suede shoes
How to clean suede shoesEvgeniia Khmelnitskaia - Getty Images

If you love suede shoes but are less keen on the effort involved in keeping them looking their best, you're in the right place. The wetter autumn and winter months can wreak havoc on suede footwear, but with the right know-how under your belt you can keep your favourite shoes and boots looking their best and make them last longer. Here's how to clean suede shoes and boots with the minimum of fuss – along with the tips you need to stop dirt and stains from coming back!

1. Allow muddy shoes to dry out

Normally, when you're dealing with stains, it's best to act quickly. However, when it comes to cleaning wet, muddy suede boots and shoes, it's best to let them dry naturally first (never near a radiator!). If they're really wet, stuff them with scrunched-up newspaper to help absorb the moisture.

If your suede shoes or boots are stained with something more liquid such as coffee or red wine, remove as much of the stain as you can while it's still wet by blotting with white kitchen towel or a clean white cloth. Then leave to dry.

2. Use a suede brush

Once the suede shoes or boots are completely dry, brush off excess mud using a suede brush, brushing in the direction of the natural grain of the suede to help keep its smooth appearance.

Some suede brushes have two sides: one for erasing marks and stains and one for gently raising the nap of the suede. If yours does, use the eraser to gently work on any marks that are left when you've finished brushing.

3. Sponge the whole shoe

Using water on suede can cause it to become watermarked, so it's best to treat the whole surface of the shoe, rather than working on just the stained area. Use a clean sponge or cloth soaked in clean water then wrung out well to avoid over-wetting. Try to dab, rather than scrub, at the delicate surface of the suede.

how to clean suede shoes
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4. Treat with a suede cleaner

For really stubborn stains or dirt, you may need to use a specialist suede cleaner, such as Kiwi Suede and Nubuck Quick Dry Cleaner, again, working on the whole surface of the shoe or boot. Test it on a small, less conspicuous area of the suede first to check for colourfastness. Most suede cleaning products have a brush built into the cap, which you can use to gently work the product into the suede. Once you've completed this step, follow the instructions on the cleaner itself, as these vary. You'll need to blot some with a clean, white cloth, but you'll need to leave others to work before brushing the pile of the suede while it's still damp.

5. Spray with suede protector

Once your newly clean shoes or boots are completely dry, brush them with a suede brush, then treat with a suede protector such as Kiwi Rain & Stain Protector or Liquiproof Premium Protector. This will protect your suede footwear from water damage and staining in the future. It's a good idea to treat new suede shoes with this before wearing them for the first time, too.

Apply the spray in a well-ventilated part of your home, or outdoors, and remember to reapply every six months or so (always read the label to check).

how to clean suede shoes
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6. Touch up with a renovator

To keep a favourite pair of suede shoes or boots looking good for longer, use a renovator spray to spruce them up once the colour starts to fade or if they start looking tired. These products have a pigment in them to restore the colour of suede boots and shoes, so need to be matched to the original colour of your footwear. Timpson has a range of renovators in popular colours such as black, navy and brown.

Read the small print

As a natural material, all suede differs slightly. It can be made from goats’ skin, sheep’s skin, deer’s skin and calves’ skin so make sure you check how to treat it. There are also synthetic suedes that will behave differently to natural materials. Make sure you read the manufacturer’s care information before cleaning.

If you want to make your suede shoes and boots last as long as possible, try to avoid wearing them on days when rain is forecast as wet weather and suede aren't the best of friends. Obviously, though, this is easier said than done.

If your suede shoes or boots are looking very sorry for themselves, take them to a dry cleaner for reviving as a last resort. It might be worth the expense if you paid a lot for them in the first place.

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