How To Clean Suede Shoes

Posted on October 03 2021

Suede leather is known for and often sought out for its distinct texture and aesthetic.  Unlike its smooth textured top grain and full grain contemporaries, suede has a fuzzy & matte texture and appearance.  To obtain the fuzzy texture, suede is made from the underside or of the split layers of the animal skin.  

This unique look makes suede ideally suited for wear in the fall and winter seasons, but in certain settings it is also equally at home in the spring and summer seasons.  Use cases aside, because of its texture, you can't polish or clean suede the way you clean smooth leathers using creams and waxes. Instead, you have to use suede erasers and shampoo.  If you do not want to read about it, give the video above a viewing.

Please note that this video does not cover how to clean and care for full grain & regular leather shoes (that video may be found here) or ostrich & alligator leather shoes (that video may be found here).

Recommended Suede Care Products

Cleaning suede shoes will be the focus of this article and to kick things off, let’s first collect the tools and materials you're going to need to clean your suede shoes. 

Brush Off Dust and Dirt

To clean your suedes, start off by brushing the shoes. Get any dirt and dust off the shoe while paying special attention to the seams and crevices where dirt and dust can accumulate. It is important to get the dust and dirt off because accumulation can lead to deterioration of the suede as well as hinder the success of the shoe cleaning.  In addition, the sooner stains can be tended to the better.  The longer a stain sits on the shoe the more difficult it will be to remove it.

Be sure to give the toes and heels a stiff brushing, these areas often receive the most wear and the nap of the suede can be most worn down in these areas. Bear in mind that you might still see stains and marks on the shoes after brushing but do not be discouraged, the erasing and shampooing processes will remove many of the more set in and hardy stains.  

Use Eraser on Problem Areas

A suede eraser can help you get out more moderate stains and scuffs. Rub the eraser on problem areas, just as you would a pencil eraser on paper. You don't need to worry about damaging the suede, it can withstand this type of pressure and abrasion. 

Once you are finished using the eraser, brush the suede once again to remove the eraser residue. 

Shampoo the Upper

The shampooing stage is, to borrow the phrase, where the magic really happens.  To use shampoo, you will first need to prepare a 1:1 mixture of water and shampoo when using Saphir’s Omnidaim. You don't need to use a lot of product, a few tablespoons should be enough. Prepare the water-shampoo solution in a small bowl and prepare to apply the shampoo, this is best done in a sink or bathtub. Shampooing suede may sound challenging but it is actually quite simple and getting the suede wet should not damage the suede or the shoe.

First rinse off the shoe with water, make sure the water is absorbed into the suede, at first you may see the water beading off of the suede but keep the water on until the water no longer beads off.  The beading will occur if there is residual suede protector from a previous application.  

Next, dip your brush in the shampoo and start massaging it into the suede. Small circular motions are best and be sure to hit all areas of the upper. Let the shampoo do the work, there is no need to apply strong pressure. Once you have covered the entire upper, again rinse the shoe off with water to make sure all of the shampoo is out of the suede.  This is going to complete the cleaning process and your shoes will come out looking almost new. 

With the shampoo, you do not have to worry about altering or fading the color of the suede. The shampoo is specially made for suede and it is not made to remove color or pigment from the suede, it is only meant to preserve and clean the suede.

Stuff with Paper and Let Dry

Before wearing your shoes you will have to let them dry for a day or two. It is recommended that you stuff the interior of the shoe with paper towels, towels or tissue papers. This will absorb the excess moisture as well as help the shoes retain their shape and size. You don't want your shoes to lose their fit after cleaning.

Applying the Protector

A suede protector is useful, as it will hinder liquid spills from staining suede. Before you apply the protector, it is a good practice to brush the shoe to restore the nap of the suede. Spray the protector on the shoes in a well ventilated area. Be sure to cover all areas and don't worry about any ornamentation on the shoes, such as metal bits, since they can be wiped down after. Give the shoes ample time, at least a few hours if not a day, to dry and then begin to wear them.

Final Word

Suede is a hardy and beautiful material.  Fortunately, it is also easy to care for and clean, a proper shampooing should take no more than 15 minutes plus the time needed for the shoes to dry. This cleaning is essential to ensure a long life for your shoes and to ensure that they are looking their best.  If you are looking for a little more detail, check out the video that we made on the matter.

If you have any questions or concerns about how to care for and clean suede shoes, don't hesitate to reach out to Jay Butler, we look forward to hearing from you.  

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