How To Clean Suede Shoes: A Step By Step Guide

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If you're trying to figure out how to clean suede shoes, you've come to the right place.

Since suede is notoriously difficult to clean, we've compiled this step-by-step guide to help lead you through the process.

We've also highlighted a few things to avoid when cleaning suede in order to stop yourself from causing any permanent damage to your sneakers.

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So, whether you're cleaning the suede on your best golf shoes, or removing stains from the "USA" Jordan 1's suede overlays, we've got you covered right here.

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How To Clean Suede Shoes

The following is what we believe to be the most effective method for cleaning suede sneakers.

Although there are dedicated suede cleaning products that you can buy, we've also highlighted a few household items you can use if you don't own some of the items featured throughout.

What You'll Need:

  • Suede Brush
  • Suede Eraser
  • Microfibre Cloth
  • White Vinegar
  • Suede Protector Spray
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Step 1: Begin by using a suede brush to remove any loose dirt or particles. We'd recommend working with the grain as much as possible for the best results.

Image of a soft brush used to clean brown suede New Balance sneakers.
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Credit: Nick Unruh

Top Tip: An old toothbrush can also do the trick, particularly for smaller areas, but suede brushes are relatively inexpensive, like this Shacke 4-Way Suede Brush, if you feel you need one.

Step 2: Use a suede eraser to rub away any tough stains and smaller marks. Gently rub the eraser back and forth over the mark, but avoid pressing too hard as this may damage the material.

Top Tip: A normal, clean eraser can also work here. Again though, suede rubbers, like this Kiwi Suede Eraser kit, are relatively inexpensive if you want to pick one up.

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Kiwi product image of a suede and nubuck stain eraser set.
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Credit: Kiwi

Step 3: If you can't remove a particularly tough stain with your eraser, dip a microfibre cloth into white vinegar and carefully rub the stain out. Avoid soaking the surface by pressing too hard though.

Step 4: This step is optional, but may help minimise how often you need to clean your suede sneakers. Apply a dedicated suede protector spray as per the manufacturer's instructions to your shoes and leave to dry accordingly.

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What About Different Types Of Stains?

Although the aforementioned method should work with most stains, some may require a few extra steps in order to remove them completely.

Salt

Salt stains can appear whilst wearing your suede shoes in snow or ice.

Image of a black suede New Balance shoes with salt stains.
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Credit: Life At Cloverhill

In general, the method remains the same, with one additional step involving blotting the stain with a clean cloth dampened using cold water and dish soap.

Repeat this process until the stain is gone and let them dry completely before wearing them again.

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Oil

Removing oil or grease stains is a little more tricky, but not impossible.

Add cornstarch to the stained area and allow it to soak up the excess oil for a few hours.

Once removed, gently brush away the cornstarch. If you find the stain is still there, just repeat the process until it's gone.

Water

Lightly spray the suede with water and brush the surface in order to remove water stains.

Blot away any excess water with a cloth before letting them dry out completely.

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Things To Avoid When Cleaning Suede Shoes

There are several dos and don'ts to keep in mind when cleaning suede sneakers, so it's important to know what you shouldn't do to avoid irreversible damage.

For example, even if you've just come back from a round of golf wearing a particularly muddy pair of adidas Adicross V's, as seen on our list of the best golf shoes under 100, do not wash these suede shoes in the washing machine.

adidas product image of a single brown and white shoe with a green sole.
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Credit: adidas

This may cause permanent damage in the same way as soaking suede in water can. Consequently, we'd also recommend not wearing your suede sneakers in heavy rain.

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Also, never use any shoe polish or leather cream on your shoes as this can disrupt the fibres on the surface, thus causing irreversible damage.

Moreover, never use any products containing bleach as this can also damage your shoes long-term, and even stain them in some cases.

Finally, avoid using wire brushes to clean suede because this can cause you to scratch the surfaces, thus leaving permanent marks.

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