These 7 Brilliant Tricks Are the Easiest Ways to Clean Suede Shoes

From steam to spray, here's what you need to know to make those babies look brand new.

Detail of person wearing a powder blue overcoat and knee-high suede boots
Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

I'm not ashamed to admit that laundering my clothes is still something I'm getting the hang of. Blouses and bottoms aren't the problem — I know which garments should be washed in cold versus hot water, and when to use low versus high heat for their dry cycle. It's footwear that really trips me up, like how to clean suede shoes without completely ruining them.

If you've ever hesitated to buy clothing or a pair of shoes for no reason other than the fact that you were unsure how to clean and care for that piece properly, I can relate. After a traumatic experience wearing UGGs in a snowstorm as a teenager (sorry, Mom), suede shoes have been a weak spot for me. I own two precious pairs and only wear them on special occasions, in specific weather conditions.

However, it's now more than a decade later, and (in my opinion) I'm much more responsible with my belongings. Ergo, I reached out to a few experts to weigh in on the easiest ways to clean suede shoes, and they were happy to share their best tips.

Use Protectant Spray as a Precautionary Measure

Tamar Miller, founder of Bells & Becks, recommends using a tried and tested protectant spray formulated without silicones on new, clean shoes to help repel minor stains, spills, and splashes.

"Make sure you use a spray that is recommended for fine leathers and suede in particular and follow the instructions carefully," she says. (Saphir Medaille d’Or Super Invulner comes highly recommended on Amazon.)

Check the Weather Forecast

Person wearing a cream-colored dress with brown suede boots
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Suede shoes have never gallantly declared they could hold up through rain, sleet, or snow because, well, they can't. Even if you 'waterproof' your pair with spray, Miller tells InStyle you should still avoid wearing suede shoes in damp weather conditions and near the beach as "water and harsh salts will stain, damage, and weaken the material over time."

Steam Them

A nice steam shower doesn't just de-wrinkle your favorite blouse. According to the head of product line management of PUMA Sportstyle, Adam Pieters, hot steam and a suede brush are a dynamic duo if you need to remove any marks on your shoes.

"There are people who enjoy getting their suedes dirty," he reveals, "but not me." Instead, Pieters swears by steam to keep his pairs clean.

Dry Brush Them Regularly

In addition to spray, Miller recommends also investing in a suede dry brush with fine, natural bristles made of horsehair for regular maintenance and stain removal.

"Try using a suede eraser [on difficult stains] first by applying moderate pressure and gently rubbing back and forth," she says. "Follow with your brush to remove any residue and restore the suede's pile."

Be Specific When It Comes to Storage

You want to store your suede with extra care when putting it away for the season because it's a natural material, Miller says. "Opt for a fabric bag over plastic," she tells us, as doing so will better protect it from dust and damage and allow for adequate air circulation.

Invest In a Suede Care Kit

Detail of person walking in Uggs and leggings
Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Some brands offer suede care kits that come fully stocked with everything you need to protect and clean your suede shoes. That may include a rain/stain repellent spray, brush, and a cleaning conditioner, Pieters tells InStyle.

"[It's] great to have on hand for not only protecting new suedes but also for treating any stains," he says. His go-to products are a repellant spray for protecting new suedes and a brush for removing any marks.

Pricier Pairs Might Require Professional Help

If a deeper clean is required or if you're dealing with wet stains, Miller recommends leaving it to the professionals to handle — especially for high-end suede shoes. You've likely already invested a lot of money in your purchase, so it's better not to risk a major mistake by messing around. More than likely, the pros will be able to help.

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