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How to clean red suede

Updated March 23, 2017

Suede is a popular material for shoes, jackets, purses and sofas; unfortunately it is also one of the most frustrating ones. Even when you take care to prevent liquid and other stains from damaging your suede pieces, accidents happen. It can cost up to £65 to get a pair of suede shoes or a purse professionally cleaned, and several hundred to clean a suede sofa, so it's important to learn how to handle most cleaning situations yourself. Cleaning a dark colour like red can be even more frustrating due to the behaviour of the original dye.

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  1. Vacuum the surface as clean as possible.

  2. Stuff paper towels or socks into a shoe or purse to maintain the item's shape, if needed.

  3. Lightly brush the nap of the suede with a toothbrush to loosen grime.

  4. Gently scrub the stains with the pencil eraser until the stains disappear or transfer to the eraser.

  5. Vacuum the surface to remove bits of eraser, if needed.

  6. If the suede is clean, brush the nap again, varying directions, until the nap texture is restored.

  7. Water and suede do not mix; often the only way to remove a water stain is to mask it over a larger area. If the surface is still wet, lightly soak up excess water with paper towels, being careful not to push the moisture into the suede. A wet vac can help suck up excess liquid from a sofa.

  8. Lightly brush the nap of the suede with a toothbrush.

  9. If needed, stuff paper towels inside the item to help with the moisture, maintain the shape and prevent shrinking. Allow the suede to dry.

  10. Test the following steps on an inconspicuous spot to ensure the colour will not be altered.

  11. Spray the suede with a gentle mist of water so the surface is evenly damp but not dripping wet.

  12. Soak up the excess water with paper towels or a clean cloth.

  13. Lightly brush the nap with a toothbrush and allow the suede to dry.

  14. Brush the nap with a toothbrush again. If water stains remain, repeat the above steps.

  15. Make a solution of half white vinegar and half water.

  16. Test the following steps on an inconspicuous spot on the suede to be sure the colour will withstand it.

  17. Dab the vinegar solution onto the stain with a cotton ball or soft cloth and rub gently.

  18. Lightly brush the wet area with a toothbrush.

  19. Allow to dry and brush with a toothbrush again to restore the nap.

  20. Tip

    To prevent future stains on your suede, treat it with a commercial suede protector and waterproofing. This is available at many shoe stores. Follow the application directions on the product. To avoid future water stains, do not wear suede shoes on rainy or snowy days.


    If the dye on your suede is not colour-fast, contact a professional cleaner before attempting to clean it.

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Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum sweeper
  • White paper towels
  • Toothbrush
  • Pencil eraser
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Clean soft cloth
  • Vinegar
  • Cotton ball
  • Optional:
  • Socks
  • Wet vac
  • Suede protector

About the Author

Kim Scott

Kim Scott has been writing professionally and personally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in graphic design and printing management from Pittsburg (KS) State University and has graduate level-education in Early Childhood Education.

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