How To Clean Suede Shoes: A Step-By-Step Guide
Suede shoes are a classic yet unique addition to any simple men’s outfit. Coming in a variety of colors ranging from brown to grey to black, when done correctly, suede shoes can add a real element of class to an otherwise basic getup. Though they look great, they can be quite the pain to keep clean given their delicate and unique texture.
Whether it be from rain, dirt, or typical scuffing, shoes undoubtedly get dirty over time, no matter how hard you try to care for them. That being said, it’s important to know how to best clean each specific material considering different textures call for different protocols.
When it comes to suede, there are some very particular steps that are needed to be followed in order to ensure that you do not further damage the shoes while attempting to salvage them. In order to give you a helping hand, here is our step-by-step guide on how to clean suede shoes.
What Is Suede?
Suede most often comes from the underside hides that are taken from cows, deer, pigs, and lamb. Suede is best described as the softer, more permeable material taken from the layers of the skin located deeper inside the animal’s body, while leather is made from the animal’s outer layer of the skin. Suede can also be distinguished by its fuzzy finish, while leather tends to be very smooth and polished. Though both suede and leather are known for being rather durable and long-lasting, suede is definitely a bit more delicate.
Due to its fabric-like texture, suede is also prone to soak up liquids and hold stains. In terms of flexibility, suede is firmer than most shoes, however, that is most likely what you’ll be wanting for the style of shoe that suede most often comes in for men. While the material is on the firmer side, it still provides enough flexibility so that you are comfortable while wearing them, even for long stints at a time.
What You Need To Clean Suede Shoes
Before we get into how you clean suede, we first need to go over what is needed to clean them. While you can take them to the dry cleaners for professional cleaning, there are plenty of at-home options for a good clean-up. Being that each stain that comes from a different substance may need to be treated differently, make sure you have these items on hand if you own suede shoes:
- Suede brush
- Suede rubber
- Paper towels
- Cloth towel
- Pencil eraser
- White vinegar
- Nail file
- Suede-friendly leather degreaser
While this may seem like a random bunch of items, this is pretty much all you need to get any major stain out of your beloved suede shoes. From scuff marks to watermarks to liquid spills and dirt accumulation, these are all stains that can be removed by following the following steps.
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How To Clean Suede Shoes
Though it is possible to buy waterproof suede shoes or to scotch guard them for an extra layer of protection, no suede is completely safe from blemish or damage. That being said, knowing how to keep them clean and looking is imperative.
Step 1: Before starting, make sure that your shoes are totally dry. If they have gotten wet due to rain or snow, it is necessary for them to be totally dry before beginning the cleaning process. In order to thoroughly dry them, avoid rubbing with a towel, but rather, blot the moisture off the shoes as gently as possible. After you’ve done that, make sure that you store the shoes in a safe place so that they continue air drying on their own.
Step 2: After the shoe is dry, then either rub it with a towel or brush it with a suede brush so that the suede runs in the same direction that it naturally falls, aka, make sure the suede is going with the grain. In addition to keeping the texture intact, this will also assist with ridding the shoe of some of the surface-level dirt or grime.
Step 3: Next, using a suede rubber piece or a pencil eraser, press firmly and rub back and forth over the stained or damaged spot. This should usually do the trick on any small marks or clumps of dried dirt.
Step 4: If you’re tackling a stain that is a bit more difficult or tumultuous to get rid of, then white vinegar and a soft cloth are going to be your best friends. Simply dip the corner of your cloth into a small amount of white vinegar and apply it to the stain. You’ll want to continue to use small amounts over and over until the stain is clear so as to avoid over-soaking the area.
The vinegar is merely acting as a cleaning agent to separate the unwanted stain or dirt from the suede itself. If the suede changes color a bit, fear not. This often happens when cleaning with vinegar, but white vinegar will evaporate as the suede dries. After you’ve treated the area with vinegar, allow for the spot to dry completely.
Step 5: Once your shoes are dry, try using a suede brush or toothbrush to brush the suede back into place. Again, make sure you brush with the grain, not against it.
Step 6: For any stains that are caused by oil or simply will not disappear with the above steps, try using a leather degreaser that is specifically suited for suede. Make sure to read all instructions before beginning and only apply the degreaser to small specific spots on the shoe.
Another tip for cleaning suede shoes includes knowing where the stain came from so that you can better know how to treat it. In addition, taking proper care and caution with your suede shoes will prevent them from becoming too scuffed up or stained in the first place, so when possible, avoid making a mess to avoid cleaning one. However, since it is very possible to clean suede shoes, don’t sweat it if you face a mishap or two.
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