How To Clean Suede Shoes and Other Suede Accessories

Suede shoes
Photo: Getty/Joseph Gareri.

Suede is an incredibly beautiful material, but because many people don't know how to clean suede shoes and other suede accessories, it seems trickier to care for than it is.   Suede has a surface that can scuff easily and can get dirty quickly making maintenance important. Here are some tips on how to prevent your suede shoes and other suede accessories from getting stained as well as how to clean these items made of this precious material if they do get damaged.

Preventing suede from getting stained

To prevent potential stains, purchase suede protection spray and understand that one coat will not be enough.  Instead, plan on giving your suede multiple coats.  For example, start spraying your shoes around 7pm and continue spraying every hour until you go to bed around 11pm.  To avoid toxic fumes, keep your suede products outside your living area.  After several hour intervals of sprays, allow your suede to completely dry overnight.  Doing this will guarantee better protection. 

What to do if your suede gets  wet

Don't panic if you get caught outdoors wearing suede.  Remember, suede comes from animal skin and animals are outdoors all day long.  Contrary to popular belief, suede is not ruined if it gets wet.  Often, what ruins suede is the lengths people go through to get it dry after it has been soaked.  If your suede gets wet, you should blot the excess water with a clean cloth towel and then just allow it to dry naturally.  Do not not apply heat, rub the fabric down too coarsely or try any other extreme measures to save your suede.  You'll just ruin the material.   Stuff wet suede shoes with paper so that they can hold their shape. 

How to clean major suede stains

Depending on the degree of the stain you'll probably just want to take it the product to a reputable dry cleaner.  For minor jobs, you can clean your suede items at home.  Here's how and what you'll need.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Use a clean towel to rub the surface of the garment and bring up the nap.
  2. Blot up any small, wet stains using a paper towel.
  3. Remove any small, dry stains using a clean pencil eraser. Rub gently, being carefully not to damage the nap.
  4. Use a fingernail file or a clean, dry toothbrush to gently remove any clumps of dirt or scuff marks that still remain.
  5. Remove any oily stains with a degreaser suede cleaner.
  6. Brush the garment gently with a suede brush to restore the nap.

What You Need:

  • Clean towel
  • Paper towels
  • Pencil eraser
  • Fingernail file or toothbrush
  • Degreaser suede cleaner
  • Suede brush

Suede Maintenance

To keep your suede in good shape it is important to remember to care for it regularly, not just when a major catastrophe happens.  Use your suede brush regularly to keep the nap of the fabric in good shape.  Just like your leather shoes need a shoe shine to stay in good shape, so does your suede.  Keep suede products out of very dry places or too close to heaters to ensure the skin doesn't dry out and store your suede in breathable garment or shoes bags and not in plastic.  Natural fibers need to breathe to stay in good shape.