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How to Clean Suede Shoes

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There are few business casual options in the shoe department that can compete with suede.  Whether it’s suede desert boots, or a nice pair of wingtips, they work well with everything from a suit to chinos or jeans.  The only problem is knowing how to clean suede shoes when you get them dirty.  That’s where we step in.  We don’t want our readers to be walking around in scuffed up, scrubby looking kicks.  So, to avoid looking like your shoes are older than you are, and having to buy a new pair every other month just to save face, we’re going to teach you how to clean suede shoes.

Table of Contents

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Rain

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If you’ve watched enough Seinfeld, you know rain (or any water) is suedes most vicious enemy.  Obviously, if you know it’s going to be wet outside it’s best just to leave your suede shoes at home.  However, sometimes we get caught and there is nothing we can do about it.  While Jerry’s jacket may not have beat out the storm, your shoes definitely can.

What you’ll need:

Here’s what you do:

  • Place a rolled up, or bunched up towel inside your shoe, covering as much area as possible (this will soak up and excess moisture).
  • Using a small spray bottle, lightly spritz water, covering the entire shoe evenly– this may leave your shoes darker than before, but will eliminate all uneven water spots.
  • Let shoes completely dry.
  • Use suede brush to return to their former glory.

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Mud Stains

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So you forgot you were doing a tough mudder today, huh?  While we suggest you opt for more appropriate footwear next time you plan on jumping in the mud, we understand sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.  So, while your shoes might look like complete shit at the moment, we can do our best to save them.  Of course, if you went full mudpit, like the gentleman above, you might want to go ahead and throw those out.  But if the jackass next to you decided his rain boots were going to create a splash and stain your suede kicks in the process, that is problem that can be solved.

What you’ll need:

Here’s what you do:

  • Take your shoes off and leave them alone.
  • Let mud dry 100% before even touching them.
  • Use a butterknife to crack and scrape the mud from your shoe.
  • Use a toothbrush to brush away the remaining chucks and mud stuck in crevices.
  • If there is still remaining mud, use a soft, slightly damp cloth and move along stains in careful, circular motion.
  • Finish with suede brush and stop playing in the mud.

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Gum/Wax

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We’ve all done it, and the anger that flows through you is akin to someone killing your first born.  Stepping on gum is literally one of the biggest causes of stress for those of us who regularly walk the streets of New York.  What’s even worse is when that gum somehow makes its way onto the side or top of your shoes (how does this even happen!?).  While this is definitely a moment that can make anyone question their faith, your shoes are not forever scorned (just for the remainder of the day).

What you’ll need:

  • Freezer (hopefully you’re at home)
  • Butterknife

Here’s what you do:

  • Put shoes in freezer, allow gum to completely freeze.
  • Once gum is frozen, use butterknife to chip away gum and scrape off any remains.
  • This may leave scuff marks, in which case you…

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Scuff Marks

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There are plenty of ways to scuff a nice pair of shoes.  Whether you trip and fall, leaving a giant mark up the side, or it’s simple everyday wear-and-tear, it happens to all of us.  There are a few different ways to remove scuff marks, depending on the size.  Just know that your shoes aren’t ruined, no matter how embarrassed you are at the moment.

What you’ll need:

Here’s what you do:

  • If the scuff is small, simply use a pencil eraser, moving it in a gentle, circular motion on the scuff until it is no longer noticeable.
  • For larger scuffs, use a suede eraser.
  • Use suede brush to breathe some life back into your kicks.

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Blood

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We aren’t here to help you get away with murder, but a bloody nose that dripped on your shoe, or another small wound we can handle.

What you’ll need:

Here’s what you do:

  • Soak a cotton ball in peroxide.
  • Slowly dab the stain(s) until everything is removed.
  • Use a soft, slightly damp cloth to dab away any remaining peroxide.
  • Finish off the job with a suede brush.

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Oil

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While we don’t recommend you wear suede wingtips while working in the garage, who doesn’t appreciate a well-dressed mechanic?  However it happens, oil finds its way onto shoes at some point in your life, but that doesn’t mean the shoe should be thrown away with the old filter.

What you’ll need:

  • Talcum powder (Gold Bond is fine), or cornstarch
  • Steam iron
  • Suede brush

Here’s what you do:

  • Sprinkle powder or cornstarch on stain, covering the entirety.
  • Leave to sit overnight.
  • In the morning, shake off all the powder, brushing off anything remaining.
  • Use a steamer to lightly mist the stain/
  • Brush with a suede brush to finish.

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Food Stains

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Photo by nadine studio

You can never be exactly sure just when and where a food fight might breakout, so it’s best to be armed with knowledge on how to save your kicks in the hours following.

What you’ll need:

Here’s what you do:

  • If the food is dry, treat similar to mud and scrape it off.
  • If the food is wet or sticky, try using a dry cloth to dab away as much as possible.
  • With either scenario, use a soft rag with a little bit of vinegar on it to remove the remaining stain by gently blotting.
  • As always, finish off with a suede brush.

How to Clean Suede Shoes: Ink

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Whether it’s sick karma for stealing that pen from your coworker, or some other twist of fate that lands some ink on your new suede shoes, we’re here to help you.

What you’ll need:

  • Soft towel
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Suede eraser
  • Cotton ball(s)
  • Rubbing alcohol

Here’s what you do:

  • Blot the ink dry with a towel as soon as possible to keep the ink from setting.
  • Use fine sandpaper to remove the thin layer of ink that has already set.
  • A suede eraser can also be useful to remove the leftover.
  • Use a rubbing alcohol soaked cotton ball if the ink is set and stubborn.None of these are surefire, as ink can be a fickle bitch when it finds its way onto things, but they are the best options you’ve got.
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