How to Clean Suede: Easy Steps that Remove Stains

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Suede is a type of leather often used to make shoes, clothing, and sometimes furniture. It is very durable and can last for a long time with proper care. But, suede attracts dirt and stains easily. Use this guide to learn how to clean it.

Man walking on wood floor wearing clean blue suede shoes

What Is Suede?

Suede is made from the underside of the animal hide. It’s not as smooth as leather, which comes from the outer animal skin. This softer, fuzzy nap makes it more comfortable to wear, but also easier to damage. When suede shoes, furniture, or clothing get dirty, you need to exercise caution to clean them.

How To Clean Suede Shoes

Suede shoes are easily damaged by rain and snow, even those allegedly waterproofed. They develop water stains and discoloration from stepping in puddles or spilling liquids. Dirt and mud can mess up suede shoes as well. 

Supplies you will need:

  • Paper towels
  • Undyed towel
  • Suede brush, soft brush or soft toothbrush
  • Fingernail file
  • Pencil eraser
  • Microfiber cloth
  • White vinegar

1. Wait Until It’s Dry

Suede’s nap is fragile and can be permanently damaged by friction when wet. So, it is important to wait until your suede shoes are dry before you begin to clean them. 

You can speed up the drying process if you’re careful by stuffing your suede shoes with paper towels. Then, using a clean undyed cloth, lightly blot excess moisture from the outside. Do not press hard or you will crush the nap. Let the shoes dry away from heat and direct sunlight before you proceed.

2. Remove the Dirt

Before you begin cleaning your suede shoes, rub a finger over the material to determine the grain. You must clean in the direction of the grain to avoid damage. Use a suede brush or soft toothbrush to dislodge dirt and other grime. Go over stubborn spots lightly with a fingernail file.

3. Remove Scuff Marks

If you have many pairs of suede boots and shoes, you can get a good suede eraser for under $10. Otherwise, use a clean pencil eraser to get scuff marks off of suede shoes. First, rub the eraser repeatedly on a piece of paper to remove any lead marks so you’re down to the clean surface. Then, lightly erase the scuffs on your suede shoes. 

4. Remove Stains from Suede

Water spots: Use a microfiber cloth and plain white vinegar to remove water marks on suede shoes. Dip the corner of the cloth into the vinegar and lightly wipe the discolored areas. Do not soak the spot. Let the shoe completely dry before proceeding.

Gum or wax: If you’ve stepped in gum or dripped candle wax on your suede shoes, pop them in the freezer. After an hour or two,  gum and wax will harden and you can easily lift it off the suede. Use white vinegar and an undyed cloth to wipe away any residue.

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Grease and oil: For greasy or oily spots, use cornstarch or baby powder. Brush a small amount gently onto the spot, going with the grain, then apply more. Wrap the shoe with plastic cling film to hold the cornstarch in place so it can absorb the grease. Let it sit overnight. The next day, unwrap it, shake off the powder and check the stain. Repeat if needed.

Ink: Blot fresh ink stains with a clean, undyed cloth. Take care that you do not rub the ink or you will spread the stain. Once you can’t lift any more ink off the suede, let the rest dry. Treat dry ink stains by dabbing them with rubbing alcohol. Once the stain is gone, let the spot completely dry.

Blood: Get the corner of an undyed cloth or paper towel damp with hydrogen peroxide. Gently dab the blood to lift it off the suede, and rotate your cloth so you are always working with a clean section. Do not rub. Once you’ve gotten rid of the bloodstain, let it completely dry.

5. Final Brush

When your suede shoes are clean and dry, use the suede brush to go over them in the direction of the grain. This step will restore the nap and make them look good as new.

6. Apply Protectant

You can pick up some suede protector at most big box stores or buy it online. Be sure to check reviews. Some people report that suede protectants have made their shoes darker. If you do apply it, spray the protectant from many different angles so it gets on all sides of the suede fibers. Reapply as directed by the packaging instructions.

How to Clean Suede Jackets and Clothing

Despite what you’ve seen on Tik Tok, you can permanently damage suede clothing by laundering it.

1. Check the label

Genuine suede clothes should not go in the washing machine. Instead, brush them with a suede brush and then treat any stains using the methods above. Some suede clothing is made from synthetic microsuede fabric and can be laundered. Check the manufacturer’s label and follow the instructions.

2. Deodorize Suede Clothing

To deodorize suede jackets or other clothing, sprinkle it with baking soda and put it in a bag or lidded container. Seal it tight and place it away from heat and light. After 24 hours, shake the clothing outside to dislodge the baking soda and brush it to restore the nap. 

How to Clean Suede Furniture

Since genuine suede is easily stained, it’s rarely used to make modern furniture.  Most “suede” furniture these days is made from microsuede, a synthetic fabric that is easy to clean. 

1. Vacuum

Clean your suede couch or other furniture using your vacuum’s brush attachment using overlapping strokes. Avoid using an attachment with a roller brush, since this can damage the fabric’s texture. Clean all sides of the cushions and underneath them, as well as the front, back, and sides of your sofa. Clean your sofa weekly to remove dust, pet hair, and other debris.

2. Treat Stains

If your suede couch is genuine, use the stain removal methods described above. Let your furniture completely dry before proceeding with the next step. Do not sit on it until you’ve finished all the steps.

For synthetic suede furniture, dampen the corner of an undyed cloth with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Dab the soiled area lightly, rotating your cloth so you are always using a clean spot to lift the stain. Let the area completely dry then repeat if needed. Do not sit on it until you’ve finished the next step.

3. Brush

Use a suede brush or soft-bristled brush to revive your suede furniture’s nap. Brush it in the direction of the suede’s grain, using short and gentle strokes. Work from the top to the bottom, and repeat monthly to keep your suede furniture looking new.

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