How to Clean Suede Shoes the Right Way

Cao’s brand has a starter kit, that includes a bristle brush for dry cleaning and an eraser to remove any lingering dirt stuck at the top. If you’re wearing your suede shoes only on special occasions, a few brushes should be more than an enough to bring them back to life. Just make sure you’re not using a metal brush, “it will deteriorate the hair of the suede,” says Castillo.  

Jason Markk Suede Cleaning Kit

Another product Castillo recommends adding to your cleaning routine is a protectant spray, “something that’s water-resistant.” Makes sense, layering up with an invisible shield can keep most seasonal gunk from getting into the fine suede which will save you time (and money) when it comes to wash day.  

Synovia Suede & Nubuck Leather Protector

As pretty as it is, “suede is very delicate and not always to renew its color,” say Shinunov, which is why you should always use a protective spray first thing after taking your shoes out of the box and always after cleaning them. 

How to clean your suede shoes

You’ve got everything you need—now you just have to get the steps right to remove all the dirt while making sure your suede comes out refreshed on the other side.

“Dyed suede is likely to bleed with any contact with water,” says Cao, so the first thing you’ll want to do is check for color transfer. You can easily do that by taking a towel (preferably light colored so you can really see what you’re working with) and gently brush it against the suede. Once you know how much color is likely to transfer, you can adjust how much water and pressure you apply to the shoes when you’re actually scrubbing. 

Stuart Weitzman Mulearky Flats

Birkenstock Boston Shearling-Lined Suede Clogs

Frye and Co. Odessa Braid Mules

Suede Platform Chelsea Boots

Next you’ll take your brush and dry brush the suede hairs in a downward motion. “This will remove any loose dirt that may be sitting on the top of the suede.” Once that’s complete you can get down to the most important step—working in your cleansing solution. 

When you’re adding your cleanser, Cao says that you should apply it to a slightly wet brush. Once you’ve added a few drops, dip the brush back into the water and then shake off any access to prevent soaking the suede. Then get to gently scrubbing.


Hanna Lassen

“It’s best to give the entire panel of suede an even go,” he says. “This helps to promote even drying and prevents any water marks forming.” If you’re cleaning a shoe with different colors, opt to clean it section by section so you can prevent any color transfer. 

Ugg Classic Femme Over-the-Knee Boots

Sorel Joan of Arctic Next Boots

After you’ve made sure shoes are squeaky clean, grab a microfiber towel to dry using what he likes to call a “dab and twist method.” When done quickly, it soaks up more water from the suede and “helps to slowly bring the nap back while pulling more dirt away from the hairs where the bristles can’t get to.” 

The shoe will likely be a little damp after you’ve gone over it a few times with the towel, so be sure to set them air-dry for a couple hours. You can stuff them with a bit of newspaper to help the shoe keep its shape.

“Once dry, you brush it with a sponge (a clean dry kitchen sponge can work) or a toothbrush to lift up the suede and make it look velvety again,” Castillo says. When you’re adding the protectant, he recommends you spray at least a foot away and use it “like you would a hairspray.”



Now that your shoes are spruced up, you might be wondering just how often you should take them out. “Shoes are meant to be worn,” says Castillo. “I say, wear them as often as you’d like—you just have to take extra care to keep them fresh.”

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