Suede boots are liked by so many because it is sophisticated enough for the office and a dinner date but isn’t too dressy that it feels like you’re going to a wedding.
However, its versatility is not enough for people who like it to buy it because it gets dirty very easily.
In the past, you’d either have to bring a muddied pair back to the cobbler to breathe new life to it or give up and throw it to the nearest bin. Now, you’ve got options.
Below is a simple step-by-step guide on how you can go about this and some of the most effective products that you can find at home so you can clean your cool pair of suede boots.
In a nutshell, cleaning suede boots is quite intimidating for many but it’s actually very simple. With easy-to-find items from your home – a toothbrush, a pencil eraser, and white vinegar – you can restore your tired-looking pair and make it look new again!
1. Prep The Shoes for Cleaning
What You Need: shoetree or crumpled paper
Place several crumpled papers inside each boot. You can use newspapers or scrap paper for this. Suede is a soft and pliant material and can easily be bent or folded so you want to stiffen it up inside so you can scrub and buff it with ease.
The shoe tree works the same way so you can use this if you have it. But besides the fact that not everyone has this at home, many have remarked that crumpled papers work better because it fills up the boot more.
While this may be considered a pre-step, it’s a very important part of the process because it keeps the shoes in their shape while you work on them. You wouldn’t want to ruin this pair further by not prepping it in this way.
2. Air Dry Your Shoes
What You Need: a dry, warm place to leave your shoes in
If you love this pair of boots so much and use these every day, you will see some of the dirt accumulate overtime, discoloring your shoes in the process.
And if you’re extra unlucky and are caught wearing this in the rain, getting mud on it is not impossible.
See to it that your pair is completely dry before you do anything to it. This hardens the accumulation of dust and cakes the mud so it’s easier for you to remove with your hand or with a brush.
- Don’t take a hair blower to it.
- Don’t place it under a hand dryer.
- Don’t put it inside the oven.
- Don’t leave it out under the sun.
Although air-drying it in a warm place will take a bit longer, you can be sure that you’re not ruining the leather by calcifying the hide and toughening up the fibers.
3. Brush The Dirt Off!
What You Need: special suede brush, but you can also use an old toothbrush, old nail brush, and/or a towel
Compared to regular smooth leather, suede has soft fibers on it similar to a carpet (this is more visible when you look at it under a microscope), that is why it’s easy for dirt to burrow into it and for mud to be a pain to get rid of.
This is also why you need to brush these off.
You can start by gently lifting caked-up mud from the surface of the leather with your hands. For the rest of the dirt embedded in the fibers, take an old fuzzy towel that you don’t use on your body anymore and use that to brush off the rest.
If you think it still looks grubby, take an extra soft-bristled toothbrush (this should be dry as well) or an old nail brush and gently graze the leather with it, sweeping the accumulation particles on it.
However, the best tool for this job is a suede brush. Really good ones have bristles made of animal hair so these are stiff enough to pull out the dirt but soft enough to preserve the leather and not ruin its pile.
You can still use cheaper versions like those with plastic bristles or thin rubber ones. You just need to be gentle in brushing the surface of your shoes.
4. Rub The Stains Off
What You Need: special suede eraser and cleaning solution, but you can also use a pencil eraser, white vinegar, and/or rubbing alcohol
Another troublesome issue with this particular type of leather is that it stains very easily. Aside from dirt and mud, it can get be stained with oily food, colored drinks, and many others. Even water splotches can be difficult to remove with just a brush.
There are special erasers for suede and nubuck which you can find today. This is usually part of a set with the brush, cleaning spray, and protector. But one of the most useful items for this is, believe it or not, a regular pencil eraser. And you can use this the same way as the aforementioned special product.
After you’ve found the blemish on the shoe, simply rub the eraser on that particular spot using mild to moderate pressure. Once you’ve covered the affected part, brush the particles off. Do this twice or thrice for effectiveness.
Unfortunately, that will only work for dried-up water splotches. You will need something tougher for oil-based and colored stains.
Again, there are special shampoos for this. The most expensive ones are made of all-natural ingredients with conditioning ingredients like coconut oils and jojoba.
But two items you can find in your pantry will do just as well: white vinegar and rubbing alcohol.
Whichever you’re using, simply rub the affected part with a cotton bud or piece of cloth dipped in the solution. As soon as that is dried, rub the eraser over it and then brush the particles off. You can do this twice to make sure that the blemish is gone.
5. Apply the Suede Protector
What You Need: suede and nubuck protective and/or weatherproofing spray
This step is optional. But if you’re the type who gets into accidental spilling a bit too often, you might want to invest in a bottle. Getting this is also a good idea, especially if you just bought new suede boots since your pair can have that fresh look for a long time.
To use, simply spray the product over the shoes. For better coverage, place your pair over a large piece of paper on the floor and hold the spray about 10 inches away. Let this dry for an hour before doing another round, just to make sure your boots are completely coated.
The barrier can last up to six months, especially if your shoes don’t get wet often.
But right before those six months expire, you can do a ‘general cleaning’ of your shoes – following the steps provided above – and then do another spray.
Other Important Care Tips:
- Daily scrubbing and buffing, especially before you store your suede boots help prevent the accumulation of dirt and other particles in the pile. Remember, that could harden and form into something more difficult to remove.
- It is also important to store your shoes in an open, dry space. Putting these in a container is not advisable because the moisture which may form can cause fungal growth on the leather. If you want to store it in a box, throw in a couple of dehumidifying packets to keep its surroundings dry.
- If it isn’t obvious with the tips above, let us make it clear: NEVER USE WATER on suede.
- Accidentally wet your shoes? Fast-dry this with talcum (baby powder) as it absorbs moisture quickly. As soon as that’s done, take a brush to it.
- If you’ve got a light-colored pair (taupe, tan, or white), spray this with waterproofing as soon as you take it out of the box. Doing this will save you from a whole lot of headaches in the (very near) future.
The process of cleaning this type of leather may take time – an hour at most if you’re meticulous. But it’s worth it because it works.
On top of that, you don’t have to spend so much on a suede and nubuck cleaning kit because a lot of the materials you’ll need can be found in your home. But if you want the professional’s gear, go ahead and get a set.
Give all those a try and you will see what most people have been raving about: incredibly new-looking pair of suede boots all the time.
Steve Oddvar Vicantas is a professional electrician and building inspector who loves writing about work boots, work safety, and everything in between. He is also a part-time blogger when he has spare time.