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How To Clean Suede Shoes: 5 Easy Steps

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For those of us who love our suede boots, we know that they can be quite difficult to keep clean. Suede is a very soft and sensitive material, so it’s important to be careful when cleaning it.

If you’re the proud owner of a pair of suede shoes, you’ll want to keep them looking their best. Now, Cleaning suede boots can be a daunting task since you cannot use water to clean suede.

Water will damage the suede shoes and make them look worse. So, how can you clean suede shoes?

There are many ways to do it, but some methods are more effective than others.

In this article, we will explore several methods for cleaning suede shoes, and we will also discuss which methods work best for different types of stains.

If you want to keep your expensive suedes in tip-top shape, having a suede cleaning kit is really useful. A suede cleaning kit typically only costs a few dollars and comes with a suede cleaning brush and a special eraser!

How to Clean Suede Shoes: 5 Easy Steps

We have covered every aspect of cleaning suede shoes in this step-by-step suede cleaning guide. Now, you might not need to do all the five steps as it depends on how dirty your shoes actually are.

Step 1: Use a Suede Brush to Clean Dirt and Scuff Marks

A suede brush can be used to clean the dirt and scuff marks on the shoes, usually for light stains. The trick is to brush in only one direction, generally the direction of the fiber.

If there is too much dirt, first scrape off what you can with your hands and then use a suede brush to clean.

But don’t get too excited and start over brushing, or you’ll end up with a rather spotty-looking shoe!

If you don’t own a suede brush, it’s fine. A soft-bristled toothbrush or a clean terrycloth towel will work just as fine.

Step 2: Use an Eraser for Stubborn Marks

This is where the big guns come in, to get rid of the stubborn, OMG-I’m-gonna-rip-my-hair-out-because-this-stain-isn’t-coming-off marks. Use a suede eraser on the affected area with back and forth movements.

If a suede eraser doesn’t work, Mr. Clean Magic eraser can also come to the rescue in such extreme cases. Make sure to stuff newspapers into your shoes before rubbing a magic eraser on them.

Step 3: Treating with Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol

This trick is more commonly used with light-colored shoes like blue suede shoes that we so dearly cherish. Apply the vinegar or rubbing alcohol to the affected area and press a folded paper towel over the spot.

Wait for a couple of minutes, count 1-2-3s under your breath to pass the time, and remove the towel.

Assess the look of the shoe, before deciding if you need to add more vinegar or alcohol. Your judgment is the best verdict, trust it.

The best aspect of using alcohol or vinegar to clean suede shoes is that it quickly evaporates, so don’t worry about how wet the shoe may become!

Step 4: Shave to Restore a Smooth Texture

If you notice that your shoe has an uneven texture, it’s time to groom it back to perfection! A simple plastic razor or a specialized shaving tool will help restore the shoes back to their glory.

If the hair of the fiber is too long, gently brush the fibers first by hand, then use the razor on the longer fibers.

Or, brush the fibers up and carefully shave the area as needed, because brushing too hard will ruin the shoe.

The goal is to make the shoe smooth again, be careful not to gouge the shoe, and make it look like a hairless cat.

Step 5: Apply Suede Protectant Spray

Invest in a waterproof suede protectant spray to apply on the shoes before wearing them, which protects the shoe from any liquids permeating it. This is especially effective if the shoes are dry and even better if the shoes are new.

How to Remove Stains from Suede Shoes

Here are some tips on how to remove stains from suede shoes:

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1. Grease and Oil Stains

Oil or grease stains are the toughest stains to remove. Kind of like removing dried plaster from a wall. Cover the stain with cornstarch and ignore the whole “a little goes a long way” concept.

You can never have too much cornstarch, so use a generous amount. If you don’t have cornstarch, talcum powder, or baking soda will also do the job.

Leave it on for about 30 minutes, and if possible overnight. Then, brush off the cornstarch with a cloth.

2. Water Stains

Did you accidentally step in a puddle and end up with shoes covered with water stains? Don’t panic! Let the shoes completely dry first.

Examine the condition after a few hours. If it’s still wet, blot the wet area dry with paper towels, constantly moving the towels to sop up as much liquid as possible until it’s dry.

When the shoes are completely dry, brush them with a suede brush or toothbrush to restore the texture.

Caution: Do not use heat to dry the shoes. 

3. Ink Stains

Use an emery board to rub away the ink, but make sure you do a test run before completely using an emery board.

Pick an inconspicuous spot and test it, and assess the shoe before using the board on the whole shoe. If the stain is still a stubborn mule, the next step is to use vinegar or rubbing alcohol.

Don’t overdo it, because too much of it will fade the shoe into oblivion and you won’t be able to show them off at a party.

4. Wax or Gum

Removing the wax or gum from shoes is difficult in general.

But just like how Everest has been climbed before, gum and wax can be successfully removed from suede. Not all methods work, but here are a few that will.

Put the shoes in a plastic bag, then place them in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Or, put ice cubes on the gum if you are unable to put the shoes in the freezer. Then use a blunt knife or spatula to carefully pry off the annoyingly sticky gum.

Windex or white vinegar is also quite helpful if the gum is extremely stubborn and refuses to scoot from its parking spot. Always remember to dab the liquid, don’t rub!

5. Blood

If you have blood stains on your suede shoes, don’t panic! With a little care and the right tools, you can remove them quickly and easily.

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First, start by blotting up as much of the stain as possible with a clean, dry cloth. If the stain is fresh, you can also try using cold water to flush it out.

Next, make a paste out of equal parts water and cornstarch. Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, use a soft brush to remove the paste and any remaining stains. Finally, clean the area with a suede cleaner or white vinegar to restore the nap of the suede.

With these simple tips, you can keep your suede shoes looking stain-free and new!

Now that you have an encyclopedia on cleaning your shoes, please follow these tips while cleaning to avoid a cleaning disaster.

Things To Avoid While Cleaning Suede Shoes

  1. Avoid cleaning your shoes with water.
  2. Never use artificial heat to dry the shoes.
  3. Don’t forget to put rolled newspaper inside the shoe, so it can keep its shape.
  4. Try not to rub too hard while using an eraser or emery board.
  5. While using vinegar or alcohol, dab the liquid, don’t scrub!

Preventing Future Stains On Suede Shoes?

We all know the phrase “Prevention is better than cure”, but let’s be real. We’re all clumsy now and then, no matter how “careful” we try to be.

So here are a few ways to prevent future stains:

  • Take regular care of the shoes, using an eraser or suede brush at least every other day.
  • Store the shoes in a cool area to avoid any artificial heat to prevent fading of shoes.
  • Pat the shoes dry with paper towels or a terry cloth towel daily, after wearing them.

Tips to Make Suede Shoes Last Longer

By following these simple things you can make your suede shoes last longer:

1. Resoling/Recrafting: Suedes can be recrafted or resoled if the outsole joined to the shoe allows for easy replacement.

2. Although it may sound repetitive, daily care extends their lifetime!

3. Use a brush, eraser, or emery board for better results to keep the shoes in tip-top shape.

4. Utilize a shoe horn while wearing the suede shoe, to avoid a crushed heel counter.

5. Make use of a shoe tree, which is placed in the shoe while it is not worn so that the shape can be retained.

Although suede shoes do have a reputation of being rather difficult to maintain, you needn’t worry now that you’re armed with all the knowledge you need to keep them clean.

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