How to clean suede shoes and suede sneakers

Updated February 16, 2017

Supple suede shoes attract more dirt and dust than do their smooth leather counterparts. You can easily clean your suede shoes of stains and surface dirt without damaging the napped leather.

Clean surface dirt. Using a vacuum cleaner with a small attachment, skim your suede shoes. Allow the suction to remove dust and dirt.

Brush your shoes with a small-bristled brush. For dirt trapped beneath the suede nap, apply the brush to your shoes using small and short strokes.

Remove scuff marks with an emery board by rubbing the board across the grain of the suede. Use a circular motion to lift the dark marks from your suede shoes and suede sneakers.

Apply diluted vinegar to stubborn suede stains. Mix two teaspoons of vinegar with ½ cup of cold water. Dip the end of a terry cloth towel into the vinegar solution and dab your footwear gently with the towel. Let the soiled area dry for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the stain (and any vinegar residue) with a suede brush.

Dry water drops with a towel. After wearing your suede shoes and suede sneakers in the rain, blot the footwear with a terrycloth towel. Air-dry the shoes in a well-ventilated space. Be sure to remove all the moisture to prevent mildew stains and odours.

Fight future stains with a silicone suede protectant. After cleaning your footwear, coat the shoes with the sealant. Reapply this protectant on the top surface of your suede shoes and suede sneakers after every second or third wearing.


Test your suede for damage before cleaning with vinegar. Avoid damage to the nap or discolouration of your suede footwear with a patch test. Suede stones, suede erasers and ultra fine sandpaper will remove small amounts of dirt from suede. But these cleaning tools are not as effective as a small-bristle suede brush. If your suede footwear is completely soaked with water, take the shoes to a suede and leather cleaner for professional repair.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum cleaner with attachment
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • Emery board
  • ½ cup water
  • Suede brush
  • Suede protectant
  • Terrycloth towel
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About the Author

Mimi Abney is a lifestyle writer specializing in online content for women. Her work has appeared in and "Keepsake Magazine," among other publications. With over 15 years of writing and editing experience for the web and print, Abney is also a contributor to online health, beauty and fashion publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Spelman College.