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How To Clean Suede Shoes in 5 Easy Steps

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Suede shoes are expensive and perfect to wear on any occasion since they make us look so much trendier than we actually are. So the fact that they are kind of high maintenance makes sense.

You can’t even use water to clean suede!

Water will damage the shoes and make them look worse. So, how can you clean suede shoes? Actually, it’s not as hard as you think. We have covered every aspect of cleaning suedes 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.

How to Clean Suede Shoes: 5 Easy Steps

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

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

If there is too much dirt, wait for it to dry, and then scrape off what you can with your hands.

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. An emery board will also work just as well on the dirt or scuff marks, but be a bit gentle with it and avoid scraping the shoe into oblivion.

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. You can use a suede eraser or even any ordinary eraser on the affected area with back and forth movements.

If even the eraser trick doesn’t work, sandpaper or Mr. Clean Magic eraser can also come to the rescue in such extreme cases. Make sure to stuff newspapers into your shoes before rubbing these things on them.

Step 3: Treating with Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol

This trick is more commonly used with light-colored 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 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.

This is a superb tip to prevent stains or liquid spots on the shoes in the first place. It will also easily remove the majority of the stains from your shoes.

But there are certain types of stains that are much more difficult to get out compared to the previously mentioned ones. Continue reading! We won’t leave you hanging like the ending of Inception did!

Tips for Removing Stains from Suede Shoes 

1. Grease and Oil Stains

These are the toughest stains to remove from suede shoes. 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 that look like they belong underwater? 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.

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Caution: Do not use heat to dry the shoes. 

3. Ink Stains

Many people end up spending an excessive amount of money to clean ink stains professionally when it can be simply done at home.

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 being 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!

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

Things To Avoid While Cleaning Suede Shoes

  1. Avoid cleaning suede 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.

We can’t just store those beauties in a closet and not expose their worth to the world! Mostly because that would be a waste of money, and who wants that? So here are a few ways to prevent 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 them from drying out or fading.
  • 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: Suede shoes 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. Remember, they are like divas, so treat them well. Like a person’s feelings, they are very delicate. They must be preserved and maintained, like a Louis Vuitton bag or an autograph of BTS. I’ll stop with the comparisons for now, but you get it, right?

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