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How To Clean and Protect Suede & Nubuck Shoes

Suede cleaner and protector

People never really did figure out why Elvis didn’t want anyone to step on his blue suede shoes but it’s probably because he knew how difficult they were to clean. Suede Shoes look sophisticated and are perfect for any occasion, from walking they get a stain, scuff, or even get them wet and those shoes don’t look as stylish. There’s no need to throw out those suede shoes when that happens. Despite what some people might say, it is possible to clean suede shoes.

 This guide will help you find a way to keep suede shoes spotless.

It’s best to explain how leather becomes suede and why it gets ruined easily. Cleaning and removing of a variety of stains and marks from suede shoes is possible using different proven methods. There’s no need to avoid buying those gorgeous suede shoes, so go ahead and walk into the shoe store, department store, or retail outlet and grab those suede beautiful shoes you always dream off.

How Suede is Manufactured

Suede is a type of leather with small, smooth raised hairs (called "nap") on the surface. Suede is actually the French word for Sweden. The French used to call a certain type of soft glove from this country "gants de Suede". However, today this word refers to the leather material, regardless of its origin.

Leather is made from animal skin that has been processed. Animal skin (usually from cows) is separated, cleaned, and then tanned by leaving it in the sun. This produces a very durable, yet soft material called full-grain leather. Full- grain leather can be made into a variety of items, from couches to leather bags. This type of leather is very expensive because it has gone through very little processing. On the other hand, manufacturers can create less-expensive types of leather that may not be as durable, but are affordable.

Tanners split the hide into two or several layers, depending on the thickness of the skin. The outer surface (or grain split) produces the smooth, shiny leather familiar to most people. The inner layers (or flesh split) with the small, raised hairs is where suede comes from. Suede is usually made from calf or lamb leather. It’s also possible to create suede from full-grain leather, usually by running a tool called an emery wheel along the leather to produce the velvety surface. This is called nubuck, and while more expensive that suede, it’s also much stronger.

How Suede Reacts to Liquids and Dirt

Leather is a sturdy material, but suede tends to get dirty easily. The raised hairs (nap) make it particularly susceptible to stains and dirt. Regular leather has a smooth surface that repels water naturally. It can be wiped clean with a soft cloth and a special suede leather conditioner can be applied to ensure it stays smooth and supple. Suede, on the other hand, seems to attract dirt and scuff marks. Since suede has a brushed surface, it becomes more porous and absorbs liquids easily. So, instead of repelling water, it actually absorbs water. Solid dirt can become caught in the hairs and attempts to remove dirt often cause stains that are difficult to clean.

Methods of Cleaning Suede Shoes

Most suede items come with a cleaning brush, which is good for removing dirt and grooming the nap. There are different methods to clean suede shoes, depending on the type of dirt or stain on the item. There’s a way to clean suede shoes for general upkeep, clean water stains, mud stains, remove scuff marks, and get rid of waxy or gummy materials. One of the best ways to keep suede boots clean, however, is to protect them using protector spray or solution.

General Cleaning

While most people don’t wear their suede shoes when it’s raining outside or when they go to muddy areas, sometimes just walking out the door gets them dirty. After each use and before storing them, it’s a good idea to clean suede shoes. Shake them gently to remove loose pieces of dirt, and use a suede brush to sweep away any remaining dirt. Remember to brush in the same direction, preferably the direction of the nap, to preserve the suede.

Cleaning Water Stains

Water is suede’s number one enemy, if your shoes/boots have leather soles it’s best to leave those them at home when it looks like it’s going to rain. However, if water does get onto the suede, it’s still possible to clean and dry it. While this may seem counterintuitive, water can help prevent the water stains from setting into the suede. Place a cedar shoe tree or some absorbent material inside the shoe to absorb excess moisture. Using a suede cleaner  evenly all over the shoes, and then blot the excess cleaner with a damp cloth. The shoes should dry evenly, removing the appearance of the water stains, although they may look a little darker than before. When the shoes dry, use a suede brush on the surface of the shoes.

Cleaning Mud Stains

Mud is actually one of the easier stains to remove from suede shoes. Allow the mud to dry completely, and then use a suede brush to remove any dirt.

Removing Scuff Marks

Suede eraser  is a special tool made just for erasing scuff marks on suede. Suede brushes and erasers are usually bundled together, but it’s easy to buy them separately. Use the eraser to rub off the scuff marks and then use the brush to restore the velvety finish.

Removing Wax and Gum

There’s nothing worse than stepping in gum, but wearing suede shoes while doing it is even worse. To clean gum or wax from shoes, place them in the freezer. Eventually, the gum or wax will freeze. Use a plastic tool or butter knife to break off chunks or scrape off the material. Use the suede eraser if there are any scuff marks left, and finish off with the brush.

Other Stains

Aside from rain, gum, and mud, there are a variety of stains that can ruin a pair of suede shoes. The chart below shows some common and uncommon types of dirt and stains that can affect shoes, as well as how to clean each.


Removal Method


Sprinkle the stain with powder or cornstarch, and leave overnight; shake off all the powder and brush off any remaining specks; use a steam iron to mist the stain, and then use the suede brush


Use a cotton ball soaked in peroxide to lift the stain slowly until it is removed


Blot with a dry towel to remove ink before it sets; use sandpaper to remove ink that has set; use a suede eraser on lighter stains; it may be possible to use a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol to remove tougher stains

Food stains

Wet or sticky foods should be cleaned and blotted with a dry cloth; dry foods should be scraped or brushed off; for any leftover stain, apply some vinegar on a soft cloth and lightly blot over the stain

These are just some of the common things that may stain suede shoes. If the stain has set in or is too severe, the only option is to consult with a professional cleaner who can help remove tough stains and marks.

Protecting Suede Shoes

The only way to ensure that suede shoes stay 100 percent clean is to never wear them. Since this isn’t practical, the next best thing is to protect them. Special suede protector spray can be used to keep dirt and moisture from seeping into the material. Formulas vary by manufacturer, but these sprays use a special chemical to create a protective barrier around the shoe that repels most dirt, moisture, and stains.


Suede is a luxurious material made from tanned animal hide. It is used to make a variety of items, from couch upholstery to handbags. Suede shoes are particularly popular with women who want to look stylish and elegant. However, suede shoes attract dirt much more than other materials. Shoe owners who find themselves with stained or dirty suede shoes might think the only remedy is to throw those shoes out.

However, cleaning suede shoes is possible, and each type of stain requires a certain type of care. First, general care should be done to maintain suede shoes. Water stains, mud stains, scuff marks, gummy or waxy materials, and different kinds of stains need different techniques to ensure they don’t set and ruin the shoes. Using a protective spray is also very effective in preserving the shoes and safeguarding them from dirt and stains. eBay is a great resource for almost anything fashion-related. Those looking for the perfect pair of blue, black, white, or any color suede shoes, will find what they need on Shoe Shine Service Ltd

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