How to Clean Suede Sneakers

by Carole Ellis ; Updated September 28, 2017

Suede is an attractive, versatile and comfortable fabric. However, it also aggressively attracts stains, which can make it difficult to wear on a regular basis. For this reason, suede sneakers, while extremely sharp looking, are generally not optimal for daily use. If you love your suede sneakers too much to forgo wearing them, though, then you must accept the fact that you should clean them regularly or risk ruining them. With regular, careful maintenance you can keep your suede sneakers in good shape even through extended wear.

Test everything before you use it. Different types and brands of suede will react differently to different cleaning techniques. If you are not a professional cleaner, test any method you select for your suede sneakers in a small, unnoticeable place before you start cleaning. Otherwise, you could fade the fabric, ruin the nap or even exacerbate the stain.

Brush off dirt and mud. If you get any type of grime or debris on your shoes, then patience will be key. Let the dirt or mud dry on the shoes, then use a suede brush to simply brush it away. Once you have removed as much of the excess dirt as possible, evaluate the stain issue. If you try to remove the dirt before it is dry, you will just smear it around and create a bigger problem.

Rub off dark stains with a rubber eraser. Always use a light touch so you do not rub the suede away completely since it is often fairly thin on sneakers. Once you have removed the dark stain, try re-brushing to see if further action is needed. Attack any stains on the rubber portion of the sneakers with the eraser.

Lighten liquid stains with white vinegar. Apply a small amount of white vinegar to the cleaning rag, and gently rub it on the suede. Then scrub the area gently with a toothbrush to lift the stain out of the suede.

Attack tougher stains with foaming spray carpet cleaner. Apply it in moderation, and scrub with the toothbrush. Then blot or wipe it off (depending on the brand) with a cleaning rag.

Restore nap using a bath towel. Suede sneakers will, at the very least, have their nap "mussed" during daily wear. Prevent this from tiring out your sneakers overly quickly by rubbing the nap nightly with a bath towel. This will not wear out the suede the same way a stiff suede brush will, and you can save the suede brush for more serious issues.

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