How to Clean Suede

Updated November 15, 2019
Man cleaning his suede shoe

If you spilled mustard on your favorite suede shoes, they aren't destined for the trash. While suede can be a bit more tricky to clean at home than other fabrics, there are a few suede cleaning tips you can try. Remember the type of stain and materials you use are important when it comes to how you clean your suede.

How to Clean Suede

Suede is difficult to clean without changing its color or texture. Having a professional dry cleaner that knows how to clean suede is often preferable to attempting to clean it yourself as you may cause more damage. Dry cleaners are trained in safe cleaning techniques for suede, so the nap stays soft. However, minor cleaning jobs can be attempted at home. Remember, when using any cleaner (water, vinegar or baking soda included), try it on a discrete area of the suede material. If in doubt, seek a professional.

How to clean suede infographic

Brush Regularly

Loosen up the debris on suede by rubbing the area with a clean, dry washcloth or soft brush. A good habit to get into when you own a favorite suede garment is to brush it regularly. Shoes, for example, could be placed in shoetrees after they are worn and then brushed with a special suede shoe brush. Brushing prevents the buildup of dirt in the nap. When brushing, always remember to go in the opposite direction of the nap.

Cleaning Materials

While there are several methods for cleaning suede, when it comes to materials, there are a few things you can have ready for any cleaning need.

  • White cloths
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Heavy object
  • Gum eraser
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Towels

Blotting With a Smidge of Water

If you get a dab of dirt on your favorite suede jacket, it isn't the end of the world. While suede needs a tender loving hand, you don't need to throw your jacket out. For a simple clean, try:

  1. Spray the cloth with the water. You want it damp but not soaked.
  2. Brush away as much of the stain as you can.
  3. Gently blot the stain with the damp rag. You need enough pressure to pull up the stain but not push the water into the fibers.
  4. Use the toothbrush to gently scuff the stain.
  5. Set a dry towel on the stain and place a heavy object over it.
  6. Allow it to sit for several hours.

Rubbing Might Be Necessary

The first trick might have been all that you needed. If you still have a remnant of a dry stain or scuff marks that won't come off, break out the white or brown gum eraser then:

  1. Use the toothbrush or cloth to rough the area a bit and remove any loose debris.
  2. Grab the gum eraser and gently erase the area.
    Maintenance brush for suede

Vinegar for Victory

If your stain is being irritatingly stubborn, you can break out the bigger household guns. Give the cleaning power of white vinegar a try. To use the vinegar method, you'll:

  1. Lightly spray your cloth with white vinegar.
  2. Use the cloth and lightly rub the stain.
  3. Being gentle is key here. You also need to watch your pressure. The vinegar shouldn't penetrate the fabric but attack the stain instead.
  4. Allow it to dry and repeat as needed.

Go for Baking Soda

Vinegar and baking soda usually go hand in hand. You can try baking soda before vinegar or vice-versa. This method is pretty easy since you are trying to get the baking soda to absorb the stain or oils. To try this cleaning method, you'll:

  1. Sprinkle some baking soda on the stain.
  2. Let it sit (overnight is best).
  3. Brush the baking soda off with a dry cloth.
  4. Use the toothbrush to gently brush the suede.

Get Out the Suede Cleaner

Oily or large stains are going to require a bit of professional help from a professional degreasing cleaner. Choose your favorite suede cleaning agent, and follow the instructions that are offered on the bottle. Not every cleaner is created equal and trying it in a discrete area first is key to not ruining your favorite shoes.

Cleaning Suede Shoes

For general suede shoe stains (and cleaning Birkenstocks), you might bust out the eraser or baking soda. However, suede shoes are unique in that they are prone to getting water spots. While you can avoid this on your jacket with an umbrella, there isn't really any way to help this on your shoes. You might think that you want to get out your hair dryer but don't. Instead, you'll grab a dry cloth and brush then:

  1. Use the cloth to blot and soak up as much of the water as you can.
  2. Then brush the suede to bring up the nap.
  3. Allow the shoes to dry.
  4. If available, put them on boot or shoe dry that they slide on top of.
Woman cleaning Suede boots for winter care

Getting Stains Out of Faux Suede

Faux suede is a whole separate beast when it comes to cleaning. You can try some of the methods for authentic suede and have some success, but you can also try other methods that you wouldn't dare with your authentic suede.


  • Mild detergent
  • Water
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Brush
  • Spray bottle


Get your stained area ready and flat so that you can go to work then follow these steps:

  1. In a spray bottle, combine a couple cups of water and a drop or two of mild detergent.
  2. Spray the sponge or cloth with the concoction.
  3. Gently scrub at the stained faux suede handbag, boots or furniture, going against the grain of the nap.
  4. Check the label for washing instructions. If machine washable, throw in the washer following the machine settings.
  5. Dry as normal.
Cleaning suede boots

Further Tips For Taking Care of Suede

Storing your suede properly is as important as knowing how to clean suede. If your furniture is suede, keep the sun off of it. Sun can fade suede, especially if it is dyed suede. Brush or vacuum your furniture regularly with a soft bristle brush to remove dirt and dust. Store colored suede clothing in a dark closet. Consider covering it with a dust cloth. Do not lose heart if a favorite suede garment gets stained, suede that loses its color or becomes stained can be dyed to a new or darker color.

Cleaning Your Suede

Suede, while awesome to wear, can be a bother to clean. To save your dry-cleaning bill, you can spot treat your suede shoes and clothing. Just remember to be gentle and always try the method out on a hidden area first. Now that you know how to deal with suede, get some tips on how to clean faux leather.

How to Clean Suede