how to clean suede leather

How to Clean Suede Leather Boots & Shoes

Suede is an amazingly stylish material, but keeping it clean? Learn how to clean suede boots and shoes with these surefire DIY techniques.

Suede is a stylish, comfortable leather material, but it’s prone to scuffs, stains, and water marks. If you’ve damaged your suede, fear not! Cleaning suede shoes is simple. We’re here to walk you through the best way to clean suede shoes and fix scuffed leather boots.

Learn how to care for suede shoes, plus pro tips for how to remove stains from suede shoes and boots. Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to clean suede shoes and boots.

Supply list:

  • For most suede shoes and boots:
    • A soft bristle brush or suede cleaning brush (a toothbrush will work)
    • A clean cloth or bath towel
    • Newspaper or something else to stuff the boot
    • Water (for water stains)
  • For tough stains and scuffs:
    • A pencil eraser (for tough scuffs)
    • White vinegar (for tough stains)
  • To prevent future stains:
    • Suede protector
    • Waterproofer if you live in an area with snow

How to Clean Suede Shoes at Home

  1. Dry the suede: To clean suede shoes or boots, make sure they are dry. If they’re wet, stuff them with newspaper, a towel or a T-shirt to maintain the shape. Then leave your footwear in a dry place, but not in direct sunlight. If the boots are saturated, remove the insole and place an absorbent towel (paper towels work great) inside. If you’re impatient, you can use a hair dryer on low heat, but be careful not to burn the leather.
  2. Remove dirt and debris: A soft-bristled brush is the safest and best way to clean suede shoes and boots. Gently brush against dried dirt and scuff marks. Brush in the same direction unless you come across tough scuffs, where you may need to brush back and forth to loosen the grain. Finish by brushing with the grain to leave consistent brush marks.
  3. Wipe down with a dry, clean cloth:  After brushing, wipe the surface with a dry, clean cloth to remove any remaining dust or small particles. Wipe in the same direction for a consistent grain pattern. This may be your last step if you only had light dirt or scuff marks.

Proceed to step 7 if your boots are looking good. For severe scuffs, stains and other surface damage, continue to step 4.

  1. Remove scuff marks with a pencil eraser: A pencil eraser is the key for how to get scuff marks off suede shoes that can’t be brushed out. Rub the eraser vigorously back and forth on the stain. Finish off by using your brush again and brushing down the grain.
  2. Remove water stains by wetting and drying: If water has discolored your suede, dab a wet brush or towel on the exterior of the boot around the stain. Once wet, remove excess water with a clean towel and dry overnight. If you have a suede boot cleaner on hand, you can use it in place of water — but be sure to test it on a small patch of material first.
  3. Remove tough stains and salt marks with white vinegar: If your suede boots and shoes have salt stains or other severe marks, wet a towel or cloth with white vinegar and apply to the stained area. Let the boot dry (stuffed, of course) and then use your brush to remove the marks and revive the grain.
  4. Apply suede protector (and waterproofer, if you live in an area with snow): You’ve put in the work and learned how to clean suede boots. Now, make sure you know how to take care of suede shoes and boots so they’re properly protected from future damage.

How to Protect Suede Shoes

Applying suede protector is a critical step after you’ve learned how to clean suede shoes and boots. There are a number of suede protector products available such as Ariat Water and Stain Protectant or Kiwi® Suede Protector, which are usually applied with a spray bottle. (Always test the product first on an inconspicuous spot like the inner part of the shoe or boot). Make sure your boots are clean and dry, and then apply suede protector to all exterior areas of the boot.

If you live in an area where it snows, protect your shoes or boots with a waterproofer to prevent salt stains and keep them from drying out. Waterproofers can darken suede when applied, but don’t worry: they will lighten back up over time. Keep in mind that waterproofers only help repel water and need to be reapplied over time.

It's also a good care practice to keep suede boots stuffed with newspaper or in a boot tree when not being worn so they continue to hold their shape over time.

Just like with cowboy boot care, the more preventative care measures you take, the longer your boots will last. When you’re in need of a refresher, browse our extensive collections of men’s boot and shoes and women’s boots and shoes to find something new to love.