How to clean your grubby suede shoes in 4 easy steps

·4-min read

How to clean suede shoes: it's the age-old question. As impractical as they may be, we can't help having a strong sartorial affinity for them. They're versatile, classy and, more often than not, super comfortable - just ask Elvis Presley.

What we don't like, however, is when they (inevitably) get dirty and need cleaning. You'd be forgiven for thinking your dirty suedes are a lost cause. After all, how do you clean something that you can't even get wet? But have no fear, as there is a way to clean your suede shoes, and it's possible to salvage them from all kinds of dirt.

Even better, the trick for cleaning your suede shoes is actually pretty simple, and it uses everyday household items meaning you won't have to fork out for some fancy equipment (though a suede brush and some suede protector can be good investments to make).

All you'll need is: a rubber or eraser, some white vinegar, a flannel or face cloth, a suede brush or nail brush, and some suede protector if you have it.

So, as long as you have the right bits and bobs lying around your house, you'll be all set to get your suede shoes looking as good as new. And, believe us: it actually works.

Here are four easy steps for quickly and effectively cleaning suede boots, trainers, heels and sandals:

  1. Start by using a suede brush to remove any excess dirt and grit from the surface of the shoe

  2. Next, use a rubber/eraser to try and shift the remaining marks

  3. If a stain still won't budge, try white vinegar

  4. Finish with a suede protector

Scroll down for the full instructions, including materials and in depth guides for each step

What you'll need:

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images
  • A suede brush/nail brush

  • White vinegar

  • A flannel or face cloth

  • Eraser/rubber

Instructions:

1. Start by using the suede brush to remove any excess dirt and grit from the surface of the shoe

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

If you don't have a suede brush, a clean nail brush or tooth brush will work just fine. Begin by using light strokes to brush the surface of the shoe to remove loose particles and grit. When brushing, remember to brush with the grain (AKA, in the same direction the suede naturally sits).

For more stubborn marks, like scuff marks, apply more pressure and move the brush in a swift back and forth direction to help raise flattened suede fibres, to further aid with cleaning.

If the dirt is still wet, wipe off the excess and leave to dry before removing the particles with a brush. If you try cleaning the stain why it's still damp, it can often work the particles deeper into the suede, making it harder to remove in the long run.

2. Next, use the rubber to try and shift the remaining marks

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

If you have a suede rubber, that's even better, but your regular pencil-case version will still work well, providing the rubber has been buffed free of any pre-existing stains first. Think of this as a slightly more rigorous approach for clearing scuff marks, by using constant, back and forth pressure to help dislodge any surplus particles. If, after a while, you decide it's still not working, don't force it - you don't want to go too hard on the suede and risk damaging the shoe.

3. If the stain still won't budge, try white vinegar or rubbing alcohol

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

While applying liquids such as white vinegar and rubbing alcohol might seem counter-intuitive, their acidic compositions mean they're actually brilliant at breaking down particles clumps - which is exactly what you want for cleaning.

Dip the corner of your flannel/face washer into a small bowl of vinegar or rubbing alcohol (be careful not to drench the entire cloth) before applying to the stain and massing it into the suede in a back and forth motion. The aim here is to dampen the suede, not soak it.

Keep working at the mark and reapplying vinegar/alcohol where necessary to effectively remove the stain. The key with this step is repetition and patience. While both liquids have their own smells, this will fade over time.

Note: Vinegar and alcohol will temporarily dampen the suede, altering the colour of the fabric, before evaporating and returning the fabric to its original colour. To determine if the stain has been properly removed, you might need to use multiple applications.

4. Finish with a suede protector

The age-old saying 'prevention is better than cure' certainly rings true with suede shoes. But not all suede protectors are made equal.

Reviews often cite permanent colour changes when using particular products so, if you intend on using a protector, the best approach is to base your selection on customer ratings and reviews to avoid any unwanted results.

Shop the top customer-rated suede cleaning products on Amazon:

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