How to Clean Suede Shoes: Don't Panic, Here's What You Need to Know

According to a footwear expert.

suede shoes


There are few things more wonderful than the plush feeling and chic look of a great pair of suede shoes. While some may think they're reserved for winter wear, suede shoes can be year-round footwear. They can be dressed up, dressed down, or styled for all your outfits somewhere in-between.

However, the biggest drawback of suede shoes is how easily they can be stained. Not only are they tough to clean, but sometimes using the wrong type of cleanser (like a water-based one) can make the blemishes bigger. But, we have you covered. Ahead, we tapped a footwear expert to share a few pro tips on how to clean and care for your suede shoes. Keep scrolling for their advice.

How to Remove Stains 

Though marks and smudges can set into suede pretty quickly, some can be lifted just as easily. The trick is to act as soon as possible. Below, find three important steps to removing stains from your suede shoes.

  • Rub the stain with a white pencil eraser: "The best way to remove stains from suede is first to use a white pencil eraser on the mark or stain,'' says Tyler Pinkos, founder of Raum Goods, an ethically sourced, handmade earthing shoe company.
  • Gently brush the stain with a nylon-bristle brush: Once you have rubbed the stain well, you are ready for the next step. You will then need to use a nylon-bristle suede brush like the one found in the Sof Sole Suede and Nubuck Cleaning Brush Kit for Shoes ($7) to gently brush the nap (little hairs) of the suede in the direction of the fibers. "This pulls out the dirt or moisture stain from the base of the leather and evenly blends it out from the shoe upper," says Pinkos. You can also use a dry, soft toothbrush.
  • Try a cleaning solution: If that process doesn’t work, or you have an older set-in stain, you can also use a cleaning solution like Bickmore Suede & Nubuck Cleaner ($10) that is specifically made for cleaning suede. "This is important because most leather cleaners are for full grain (smooth leather) and will damage a suede shoe," Pinkos tells us. 

Stuff your shoe with paper or clothing to help it maintain its shape. This will keep it taut and make cleaning easier. 

How to Protect Suede Shoes 

The best-case scenario is to avoid stains completely. There are many treatment sprays available that can protect your suede shoes before wearing them. You want to take this preemptive step, especially with light-colored suede shoes. "My favorite is from a brand called Crep Protect,"  Pinkos says. "Just spray it about a foot away from your shoe, let it dry, and it will create a waterproof and stain-resistant invisible layer on your suede shoes," he says.

Spray the protectant on an inconspicuous area before using it all over to ensure that you will be happy with the results. 

Caring For Suede Shoes

While you may be tempted to use products meant for leather on suede, that could cost you a pair of your favorite shoes. "You should never use any shoe creams, conditioners, polishes, or oils on suede," Pinkos tells us. You also want to avoid getting them wet because not only will it stain the finish, but it will also cause your shoes to stretch and leave wear marks. To ensure that your suede shoes maintain their shape, it is recommended to use wooden shoe trees. This will also help to smooth out the wrinkles that occur from regular wear. 


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