How To Clean Suede Shoes: Expert Advice From Our Cobbler

How To Clean Suede Shoes - Expert Advice From Our Cobbler

Google 'how to clean suede' and you'll be overwhelmed with information. There are so many methods and contradicting tips that it's more of a hindrance than a help.

Expert Home Tips are committed to bringing you real, reliable advice, so we headed off to our local cobbler for industry advice on the best ways to clean suede shoes.

Paul and Steph at Guildford Cobblers were more than happy to help. We asked them for the truth about how to clean suede shoes, and here's what they said.

1. What is the best way to clean suede shoes?

cobbler man
Meet Paul!

"Keep things simple. Pick up a multi-purpose suede brush, and it will give you the tools you need to clean most suede shoes.

It's important to realise not all suede is equal. Not only are there varying qualities of suede, but also different lengths.

For short suede, I recommend using the rubber side of your multi-purpose suede brush. Brush in short strokes towards to toe. For longer suede, use the metal side, but be gentle at first.

This will reduce the appearance of light stains and lift the nap to give your shoes a refreshed look. If there are stubborn stains embedded in the nap, don't be afraid to use a back-and-forth motion to remove them."

2. How can I remove tough stains from suede shoes?

"When it comes to tough stains, you're best to use a suede eraser. Identify the stains, and spot clean them by rubbing the eraser into the marks in small, motions. Use a moderate to firm pressure until the stain has diminished.

Brush over the suede with your suede brush to finish it off nicely. If stains persist, treat with suede cleaner."

3. How do you remove mud from suede shoes?

mouldy suede shoes
Often all you need is a suede brush.

"Like most suede stains, it's best to let mud completely dry before attempting to remove it. When dry, it should come off pretty easily using a multi-purpose suede brush. You can then follow up with a suede eraser and cleaner if necessary."

4. How do you use suede cleaner?

"Suede cleaner is basically shampoo for your shoes. As it's a wet substance, and, in theory, suede should be kept dry, it's important to follow the instructions.

Once you've brushed over your shoes to remove any surface dirt, sponge your suede shoes down with a lightly dampened cloth. Shake the suede cleaner well, and spray onto shoes from a distance of 20cm.

Use a suede brush to rub the cleaner into your shoes, then remove dirt with a cloth. Leave to dry for 30 minutes, after which time you may wish to brush the shoes again to tidy up the nap."

Cor, that was much easier than anything the internet suggested! Next, we asked Paul and Steph about some of the 'suede cleaning hacks' we saw flying around on the internet. Will they be busted? Time to find out...

5. Can I use rubbing alcohol/vinegar to clean suede shoes?

suede boots wedge heel
These boots have a thin nap.

"Wow, we've not heard of this one before. Using rubbing alcohol or vinegar is definitely not something we've ever tried, or recommended. Suede is a delicate material, and the tools and products a cobbler sell to clean it have been specifically designed for that purpose - we'd advise sticking to those."

6. Can I use a toothbrush to clean my suede shoes?

"Another strange question! If you want to wear your suede shoes immediately and don't have a suede brush nor the time to source one, I suppose you could try it.

It's unlikely to be anything near as effective as a multi-purpose suede brush, as it's the rubber and metal bristles that provide such great results. If you're looking for a quick smartening up of your suede shoes, a going-over with a toothbrush certainly won't do any harm - just make sure it's clean, and dry, first."

How to clean suede brogues - we try Paul's tips

Stuck with two pairs of worn, stained and generally tired-looking suede shoes, it was time to put Paul and Steph's tips into action.

Cleaning suede boots

cleaning suede boots
Don't they look better!

Starting with some slightly tired looked grey boots, we used the rubber side of the multi-purpose suede brush in soft, forward strokes. This lifted the nap, and gave the boots a much more polished look.

Cleaning suede brogues

cleaning suede brogues
What a difference!

The second pair of suede shoes we tackled was much more intimidating. The brogues had not only got water stained, but they were also covered in mould. As the nap was much 'shaggier' on these shoes, we used the wire-bristled side of the multi-purpose suede brush.

We again used soft, forward motions to lift the nap. A back and forth motion was also used to remove deeper stains.

They looked great after just a few minutes of work.

Wow, Paul and Steph were such a great help! How do you clean suede shoes?

Stephanie C


Lover of all things fashion & foodie...I look to satisfy my tastes without obliterating my budget. Wannabe interior designer, I'm an avid cushion cover maker and charity shop hunter.

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  1. Author Joanna Hamilton on November 2, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    If grease gets on to suede shoes i sprinkle with baking powder and brush off after couple of for me!

    1. Author Stephanie C on November 3, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Hi Joanna. What a wonderful tip! This one will definitely come in handy. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Author Olwen Ineson on October 13, 2019 at 8:12 am

    A tip I was given when buying new seude shoes was to spray them with waterproofing spray. It does seem to work to keep them looking new longer!

    1. Author Joanne A on October 14, 2019 at 12:53 pm

      Great idea! Prevention is always better than cure.


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