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How To Clean Suede Shoes

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Suede shoes are perfect to wear on any occasion since it makes us look so much trendier than we actually are. Whether you have one pair of or enough to fill a closet, are you now horrified to find a stain on your perfect shoes? Is it giving you a hard time that you can’t even wear your precious shoes anymore? Guess you’ll have to throw them away then…just kidding!

Would you like to clean your shoes, hassle-free? Or as my friends, Timon and Pumba say, “the Hakuna Matata way?” Here are a few tips to save time and your sanity!

A Few Tips And Ways To Clean Suede Shoes

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 shoe, usually for lighter stains. The trick in using the brush, however, 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.

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 newspaper into your shoes before rubbing them raw.

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, using the A-B-C’s under your breath to pass the time, and remove the towel.

Asses the look of the shoe, before deciding if you need to add more or less. 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!

4. Shave To Restore A Smooth Texture

If you notice an uneven nap in your shoes, 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 hairs.

Or, brush the nap 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.

5. Apply Suede Protectant Spray

Invest in a waterproofing suede protectant spray which you can apply onto 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.

Don’t worry, we’re not done yet! We know you’re dying to know how to get rid of the other special stains like grease and oil, blood, salt, water, ink, wax, and gum. These are the type 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!

6. Removing 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. Brush the cornstarch off with a cloth, and rinse the suede with a bit of lukewarm water. But don’t drown it! Let the shoe air dry, but keep it away from heaters and vents. Any artificial heat could permanently damage the shoes, like excessive straightening of the hair.

7. Removing 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.

Moisten the shoe very gently and lightly using the heat from a clothing iron or kettle, making sure that droplets don’t fall into the shoe. Brush the nap once the shoe is dry since you should never forget that the shoe must be pampered to the max after getting rid of the stain. Remember, suede shoes are like divas, so treat them well.

8. Removing 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. How else will you be able to show it off at another party?

9. Removing Wax Or Gum

Like a person’s feelings, suede shoes are very delicate. They must be treated with care, like a Louis Vuitton bag or an autograph of BTS. Removing the wax or gum from shoes is difficult in general, but it is climbing-Everest-level difficult to remove such things from suede shoes. 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 it 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 pry off the annoyingly sticky gum. Using Sharp Objects 101: Always position the sharp object away from your body while using it to avoid injuries! If this doesn’t work, whack at the gum like you would a mosquito to break it apart while frozen.

You could also use a toothbrush, sandpaper or a suede brush but this is more effective only after removing some of the 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 how to clean your suede shoes, please follow these tips while cleaning to avoid a suede disaster.

What 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!

How to Prevent Future Stains On Suede Shoes?

We all know the phrase, “Prevention is better than cure”, but let’s be real. We’re all clumsy at one point of time no matter how “careful” we try to be. Then again, suede shoes are very delicate compared to other shoes which means we’re even more careful with them, contrastingly causing more accidents involving these shoes!

We can’t just store those beauties in a shelf and not expose their worth to the world! Mostly because that would be a waste of money, and who wants that? 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 (if you’re not too busy re-watching The Avengers: Endgame or Game of Thrones).
  • Store the shoes in a cool area to avoid any artificial heat to prevent drying out or fading of the shoes.
  • Pat the shoes dry with paper towels or a terry cloth towel daily, after wearing them.

Finally, we come to the question of extending the lifetime of these shoes. Although they do have a reputation of being rather difficult to maintain, this may not be true for many people.

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How to Extend Life Of Suede Shoes?

This is because by using the simple techniques described above, which literally takes up to 20 minutes a day, the shoes will remain pristine. That’s why the following can be done to extend the lifetime of the suede shoes:

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

2. Although it may sound repetitive, daily care extends the 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.

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