How to Clean Suede Shoes at Home
It's no secret that suede is one of the more delicate materials in fashion. As such, it requires special cleaning to ensure it stays in tip-top shape. We spoke to two renowned cleaning experts for their advice on keeping our beautiful suede shoes looking their best.
Start with a Dry Brush
"The first rule of thumb when treating suede is to know the material and to avoid ruining it while attempting to clean it," says Jason Mark Angsuvarn, the founder and president of Jason Markk, a shoe cleaning company geared towards sneaker lovers. "For example, excessive water can ruin the soft buttery texture and possibly even fade the color away if the suede is dyed." According to Angsuvarn, the best way to clean suede is to use a soft bristle brush (like the soft hog hair Jason Markk Premium Brush or the Redecker Suede Brush to dry brush the exterior dirt and dust off before adding any moisture to the equation. "Oftentimes suede can be cleaned without any moisture added," he says.
If there are still stains after the initial impurities have been swept away, Angsuvarn says it's time to apply a gentle cleaning solution (his Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner is a Nordstrom best-seller). Squeeze a pea-sized drop of product onto the shoe and brush it back and forth with a damp brush to lift the stain and refresh the texture without fraying or damaging the suede. And, as the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, try again. Just make sure to absorb any excess soap or water as you work through the process. Letting a solution sit for too long can make the stain look worse. According to Joseph Hallak Jr. of the renowned Hallak Cleaners, you can effectively clean suede shoes at home with a soot sponge. "It raises the nap of the suede nicely without causing any damage," he says. With this method you might see some color transfer onto the sponge, but that's totally normal. To play it safe, Hallak Jr. says it's best to have sponges for each pair of suede shoes you own. His tip: Cut each sponge into three to four pieces.
Take Preventative Measures
The most important thing to keep in mind when cleaning suede is how much liquid you're allowing to sink into the fabric. "Always be cautious of how much water and/or solution you are using," Angsuvarn says. "The key is to have a microfiber towel handy to soak up the moisture shortly after it's applied to the shoes and not let too much moisture set into the suede." Other than that, once you're done cleaning your suede shoes (and once they've dried), Angsuvarn says to keep them looking their best by spritzing each shoe with protector (like KIWI Suede & Nubuck Shoe Protector or Jason Markk Repel Premium Stain & Water Repellent). That way when liquid comes in contact with the suede, it's more likely to roll right off the fabric than sink in to cause a stain. Additionally, gently dry brush your shoes after each wear to prevent dust and dirt from building up.