How to clean suede naturally.

Last Updated: May 18, 2021

Excited by the classic look of suede but terrified of the thought of cleaning it? That’s why we made this guide on how to clean suede naturally to keep it beautiful!

Suede is a luxurious choice for all sorts of duds, from vests to jackets to boots. Less expensive than leather, and with very different colors and options, suede can accent and complete so many different outfits in so many different styles.

Despite all this, many people avoid suede due to one common myth: Suede is impossible to clean.

But, we’re here to give a bit of a suede update, and bring everyone up to speed on the facts and fictions of this oft-misunderstood material.

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What is suede?

Suede, like leather, is made from animal hide — specifically from the softer underside of an animal hide. Despite sharing similar origins, suede and leather look and feel completely different.

Suede generally has more of a velvety texture, compared to leather’s smooth toughness. Compared to leather, suede tends to be more affordable, lighter, and less durable. The most popular form of suede tends to be in fashionable shoes.

Why is suede hard to clean?

Like a few of our favorite fabrics, suede requires some specialty tools to clean. But, once you learn a few tips and grab a few tools, the whole world of suede will welcome you with open arms!

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Can I use water to clean suede?

Hard no! Suede and water are not friends. Unlike fabric, suede actually stains when wet, hence the specialty tools and tips needed to properly clean suede.

How to clean suede: The fast & easy way

With a few tricks, a few tools, and a big bucket of know-how, you’ll find that cleaning and maintaining suede is fast and easy.

Orange cleaning gloves illustration

What you’ll need to clean suede:

  • A suede brush
  • White vinegar or rubbing alcohol
  • A suede eraser
  • A microfiber washcloth
  • Water-repellent spray (as a finish)

4 different ways to clean suede

Use a suede brush for general cleaning

Using a suede brush once a week will keep your suede items clean and chic. Suede brushes generally house a combination of stiff and soft bristles, designed to brush off dirt and freshen up suede fiber.

Try to brush in a downward motion, brushing dirt and debris away instead of toward you. After a few minutes of brushing, your suede should start looking fresher and more textured!

Use a suede eraser for deeper cleaning

Often packaged together with a suede brush, a suede eraser shares a lot in common with a pencil eraser. Both shed particles that lift dried-in, baked-in dirt from surfaces.

If your suede brush isn’t doing the job, try using the same, single-direction brushing technique with a suede eraser. It will gently crumble, as erasers do, and take debris with it!

Use white vinegar or rubbing alcohol for general stains

You can’t use water-based cleaning methods to clean suede, so vinegar and alcohol are great substitutes.

Pour a little bit of white vinegar or rubbing alcohol onto a washcloth, gently rub the stained area, then let it totally dry before reassessing. If the stain is gone, use a suede brush to retexture the treated area.

Treat suede with water-repellent spray

After you’ve gotten your suede cleaned and freshened, it's time to do some futureproofing. Use a specialty suede water-repellent spray to help prevent future water stains before they happen.

Spray your suede from every angle to reach every nook and cranny. Leave it out to air dry for a few hours before wearing it again. The water-repelling coating will help prevent water stains but won’t turn your suede shoes into rain boots — so keep that in mind!

Tips for cleaning stains on suede

Now that we know how to tackle day-to-day suede care, it's time to confront everyone’s worst fear: big, tough, accidental stains.

Blue water drops illustration

How to treat water stains on suede

The most common, and least problematic, stain on suede is water. For a recent stain, use a dry bath towel to blot the stained area and lift off as much water as possible. If the stain is long set-in, try blotting it with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol on a bath towel.

How to treat mud stains on suede

When it comes to mud stains, the most important thing is moisture. Let the mud dry for as long as possible before trying to clean it off. Once the mud is dried, it crumbles off of suede easily. Use a suede brush to break off and get rid of the dried mud and dirt.

Yellow essential oil dropper illustration

How to treat oil and grease stains on suede

Oil and grease stains require another special trick: cornstarch. Sprinkle cornstarch over the stain, covering it completely. Then, let the suede sit for a few hours. Lastly, remove the now-oily cornstarch by dusting it off or vacuuming it up, as using a suede brush can actually set the stain instead of removing it.

How to treat gum and wax on suede

There is nothing worse than walking out in your new boots and stepping into a big wad of gum. Luckily, if you have some space in your freezer, gum-boot is no problem. Neither is dripping-candle boot — wax stains may seem like the worst, but everything will be okay.

Just stick your suede in the freezer for two hours, and the cold temp will cause the gum or wax to harden and make it much easier to scrape off and remove completely.

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How to treat blood stains on suede

While scary, blood stains, regardless of material, fear hydrogen peroxide. Pour a little hydrogen peroxide onto a cotton ball or bath towel. Then, dab at the stain until the blood comes out. Let the suede dry, then apply your suede brush to retexture the previously stained area.

How to treat ink stains on suede

Ink stains are a bit trickier than most, but doable with the right technique. If the ink stain is fresh, try to absorb as much ink as possible with a cloth or paper towel. For set-in stains, dab with rubbing alcohol, leave to dry, then apply a suede eraser to remove set-in ink.

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