Suede boots are a wardrobe staple in cold weather, offering stylish warmth and comfort. However, the velvety fluff delivering suede’s soft, fuzzy texture makes it highly susceptible to dirt, moisture, and oil stains.
With regular wear, suede boots can accumulate scuffs, dirt, water spots, salt marks, and other grime. That’s especially true if you wear them in inclement weather. Since suede can get damaged by excess moisture, you can’t just soak your boots in water to eliminate buildup and stains.
But with the right tools and techniques, learning how to clean suede boots is easy. While you may need a few store-bought suede cleaning products, some household items can also make them shine.
This article explores how to clean suede boots to restore the soft, spotless appearance of your suede footwear.
What Is Suede?
Softer, thinner, and not as strong as full-grain, traditional leather, suede is a type of leather made from the underside of the animal skin which gives it a soft surface. Usually, it’s made from lambskin, but it can also be made from other animals, such as pigs, goats, calves, and deer.
How Is Suede Made?
To make suede, the underside of the animal skin is separated from the top, creating thin, soft leather. This makes suede a split leather compared to full-grain leather.
The suede texture is typically soft and smooth when it comes from soft skin, such as those of younger animals. On the other hand, the nap of the fabric can be tougher if the hide comes from older animals or those with thicker hides, including deer and cows.
Types of Suede
Suede slightly differs in appearance and quality based on the type of animal hide. Here are some of the most common suede types:
- Sheepskin suede: Sheepskin suede is the softest and most delicate type of suede. It’s made from sheep and lambs and has a smooth nap. Also, it’s lighter weight than other suedes.
- Cowhide suede: Cowhide is the roughest type of suede. The older the animal, the rougher and thicker the nap. Cowhide suede is also known as rawhide, split cowhide, bush coat, calfskin, and rough out.
- Pigskin suede: Pigskin suede is durable, thick, and heavy. It has a short, rough nap.
How to Clean Suede Boots
Before heading straight to cleaning your suede boots, make sure they’re dry, as treating spots while they’re damp can work the stain deeper in the material, making it harder to remove.
You can use paper towels to extract as much moisture as possible before allowing them to dry naturally. Avoid direct sunlight, a blow dryer, and other heat sources as this can dry out and harden the material. Once dry, follow the instruction described below.
What You Need to Clean Suede Footwear
- Suede brush
- Suede eraser
- Clean cloth
- White vinegar or rubbing alcohol
- Suede protector spray
You can remove most stains in suede with a suede brush, and it may surprise you how much you can restore the color and texture with this simple item. Even if your boots need a full wash, you’ll still need a brush to bring out the suede’s soft texture that makes it so unique.
More stubborn dirt spots and grease stains can be rubbed out with a suede eraser - you simply rub it against the suede and use the brush to finish the work. However, for harder stains like food, wine, water, and salt, you may need distilled white vinegar or a targeted product specifically for cleaning suede.
Now that you know what you need, let’s jump to the suede cleaning steps.
Suede Cleaning in 6 Easy Steps
1. Put Crumpled Paper Inside the Boots
Before cleaning, put some crumpled paper inside the boots to keep their natural shape while you clean them.
2. Knock Off the Dirt
First, grab your boots by the ankles and knock the soles together to get rid of any dirt, dust, or caked mud. This way, you will loosen any grime, which is helpful for the next step.
3. Use Suede Brush to Remove Dirt and Grit
Use a suede brush or toothbrush to remove the remaining dirt. Start with light strokes to brush the boot's surface to get rid of loose particles and grit. Just remember to brush in the same direction the suede naturally sits.
For more stubborn marks, apply more pressure and move the brush back and forth to raise flattened fibers and help with cleaning.
Note that if the dirt is still wet, you will want to wipe off the excess and leave it to dry before using the brush. If you try to clean the stain while it’s still wet, you risk working particles deeper into the suede, making it harder to remove once dry.
4. Rub the Boots with Suede Eraser
A suede eraser is a piece of crepe rubber that grips the leather closer than the brush. Since dirt stains can be stubborn, you may need to apply some pressure while rubbing them.
The suede may become dull, flat, and grey, but don’t worry - this is just the rubber buffing the dirt out. These areas will look fresh as soon as you use the brush again.
However, some stains won’t go away with a brush and eraser, and that brings us to the next steps.
5. Try White Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol
Applying white vinegar and rubbing alcohol may seem counterintuitive. However, their acidic components can help break down particle clumps.
To do this, dip the corner of a cloth into a bowl of vinegar or alcohol and apply it to the stain, massaging it into the material in a back-and-forth motion. Be careful not to soak it. Instead, dampen it.
Reapply vinegar or alcohol where necessary to effectively remove the stains - repetition and patience are keywords here. And don’t worry about the unpleasant smells - they will go away as soon as your boots dry.
Note that both vinegar and alcohol will dampen the material, altering the color before evaporating and returning it to its initial color.
6. Shave with Razor to Restore a Smooth Texture
After a while, suede can start to look a bit stringy. However, you can take care of it using an old shaving razor.
Gently shave the strings off the suede when you notice them, and use the brush to brush away the stringy bits.
Fluff the Material with the Brush
The suede can appear a bit dull after all that brushing and rubbing. To fix this, rub the material with a cloth dampened with vinegar or alcohol and let it dry naturally. Once dry, fluff up the suede using the brush. This way you’ll keep your suede boots looking clean and lustrous.
Apply Suede Protector
Some suede boots are pre-treated to resist stains and moisture. However, adding another layer is always a plus. Go for a protector spray specifically designed for suede and apply it following the instruction. Still, the best way to keep suede looking good is to avoid wearing them when it’s wet outside.
How to Remove Stains from Suede Boots
When cleaning suede boots, some stains will require special techniques, some of which are listed below.
Oil and Grease
Your suede boots can survive oil and grease stains if you have baking soda. Before your start, make sure to do a patch test to see how your boots react to it - if everything looks fine, you can move to the next steps.
First, blot off any excess oil or grease with a clean cloth. Then, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the stain to cover it and leave it to sit for at least several hours. Once the time passes, remove the baking soda with a suede brush and repeat the process if needed.
If you wear your suede boots outside during winter, salt stains from snow and ice melt can be an issue. You can remove these stains by brushing away as much salt as possible. Then, dip a clean cloth in cold water mixed with a small amount of dish soap and gently blot the stain. Repeat until the stain is gone, and let it dry naturally.
It may sound counterintuitive, but adding water can help remove water stains on suede boots. Use a spray bottle to lightly spritz water across the material and gently brush it with a brush. Then, blot up any excess water with a paper towel or a clean cloth and let it dry naturally.
Pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball or paper towel and gently dab at the stain until it comes out.
If the ink is still wet, dab it with a paper towel to absorb some of it. Once dry, use rubbing alcohol to try to lift the stain. Once dry, scrub it with the suede eraser.
Keep Your Suede Boots in Top Shape
Suede is a unique type of leather made from the underpart of animal skin, giving it a smooth surface. While cleaning this type of leather may sound complicated, it's not. All you need to do is learn how to clean suede, and your good to go.
Hopefully, this article has given you all the answers, so go ahead and make your suede boots as good as new. And if you don't have any, check our collection of leather boots and find your perfect suede pair.