How to Clean Suede

When talking about suede, we have to distinguish between suede, the leather, and suede, the fabric. The fabric only imitates the rough surface of suede leather. Apparel made of suede fabric may be laundered or dry cleaned, simply by following instructions on the garment’s label.

Suede leather is used in a number of products, including upholstery, gloves, jackets, and handbags. Also used for shoes, probably the best known brand of suede shoes is Hush Puppies, made from pig hide. Suede shoes may also be made of doeskin and cow hide.

Suede shoes, because they have a nappy surface, scuff very easily. Scuffs can be difficult to clean, so it’s best to keep people and pets from stepping on them. But scuffed or not, suede is going to get dirty at some point and must be cleaned.

Keeping Suede Clean

When leather is produced, it’s usually the outermost layer of skin that gets used, which is tougher and more durable than the inner surface used for suede. Suede is more supple and flexible than full grain leather, but the wearer pays a price. Suede gets dirtier faster and is more difficult to clean. It also stains easily; even water stains it, so suede shoes and jackets are not appropriate for exceedingly wet climates. Water also damages the leather, making it darker, less supple, weakening the leather by removing oils, and making it look scuffed. Suede may be waterproofed or stain-proofed, but it’s no guarantee against possible staining and damage.

Should you get a suede article soaked in a downpour, you should blot as much water from the garment as is possible with paper or cloth towels, then simply let the article dry at room temperature. Do not apply heat to speed drying. Stuff wet shoes with absorbent paper so that they hold their shape as they dry. Same with suede hats; in fact, for any kind of hat that gets wet, it’s good to have a wooden form the size of your head to put it on while drying.

The very best way to clean suede leather shoes and garments of any type is to take them to a dry cleaner. This might get expensive over time, of course, but so would replacing your garments. You can mitigate costs by performing minor cleaning jobs at home.

How to Clean Suede at Home

To clean suede:

  1. Rub the surface of the garment with a clean bath towel. This brings up the nap.
  2. Try to remove small, dry stains through the judicious use of a clean pencil eraser. Small stains that are still wet should be blotted up by putting a paper towel on it and a weight on top of the towel. For either kind of stain, avoid using a chemical stain remover.
  3. Stains may also be rubbed off with a damp towel and some white vinegar. Allow the leather to dry before assessing your success. After drying, the garment will reek of vinegar for a while – but it will eventually fade.
  4. If there are lumps of dirt or dry scuff marks that won’t come off this way, try rasping them off with a fingernail file. Be gentle.
  5. Your last step (if cleaning suede shoes) is to brush the shoe gently with a wire suede brush.
  6. Body oil stains on clothing and suede furniture can be attacked with a degreaser leather cleaner made especially for suede.

Be warned: Attempting to clean suede on your own can cause irreparable damage, it is always safer to take the garment to a professional dry cleaner.

Colors in suede fade quickly, and it’s best to store them in the dark. Make sure it’s not damp, because the moisture will attract mildew, and mildew is a bear to remove from suede or any other kind of leather. Never store or transport suede shoes in plastic; cover them, instead, with a pillow case. Should suede lose its color, it can be dyed. First, clean the garment thoroughly. Using a commercial cleaner may be enough to restore the original color. If not – or if you would like to change the color – once the garment is cleaned and free of stains, it will take a commercial dye which may be obtained at leather repair centers.

Comments

  1. Susan says:

    Old toothbrushes work great on suede. They are soft enough not to create damage, but are strong enough to rub out the dirt.

  2. Peggy says:

    Use a metal nail file to remove dry stains and spots from suede, then rub with a rough dry towel. It looks great; your done!

  3. Kelsey says:

    I used the eraser trick on my favorite Anne Kleins that have a beautiful blue suede wedge heel. It was perfect for the tiny water stains around the heel. Worked like a charm!

  4. Renay says:

    I had a pair of Ugg boots in pink that needed the toe section cleaned. I first used a dry toothbrush to bring up the nap, then I took a slice of white bread and just rolled it around on the area. It’s messy, but it works. I used about a loaf to clean them. They look great and it’s cheap to use bread!

  5. Farahans says:

    I used my dry toothbrush to rub soup stains off of my favorite suede handbag.

    It totally worked!

    I then dabbed it with a damp paper towel before rubbing it with a dry towel.

  6. Alyssa says:

    Wow!!! I did the eraser thing. My UGGs were badly water stained. Although they don’t look perfect, they look a million times better than they did before I “erased” the water stains. You can barely notice them now!! AMAZING!!! Probably saved myself a lot of money too.

  7. Becky says:

    I have a poncho that is made out of suede and was rained on years ago, and I want to get the water spots out; is it possible? Please help; very much appreciated. Thank you!

    Becky

  8. Alyssa says:

    Great tips on here!

    I have a fantastic Wilson’s suede coat – five or six seasons old, shearling style. My favorite. Over the years, it’s gotten increasingly grungier. Any tips on how to remove blue ink marks on tan suede? Random, but I had a toddler who tried to put a pen in my jacket pocket and it’s been there for years now.

    Also, any tips on cleaning the shearling parts on a jacket like this? I’m finding the cuffs and neck are the dirtiest. Many thanks!

  9. Jill says:

    I was at a candlelight church service and candle wax dripped on my suede coat. HELP!! Does anyone have a recommendation?

  10. Kathi says:

    To Jill, who posted on December 12, 2008:
    I had gotten wax on a suede jacket of mine almost two years ago. I put my jacket into our chest freezer and was able to crack off the wax and then brush the suede with a suede brush that we had purchased at a shoe store for a pair of suede shoes. Best of luck to you.

  11. Kourtney says:

    Help! My tan suede Coach Sneakers are stained from the indigo dye from my jeans. What does anyone recommend? PLEASE!!!

  12. Dan says:

    Bought a nice pair of brown Rockport shoes at a local thrift shop for $5. They were in good condition, but dirty on the side suede panels. I just used a regular pencil eraser (the pink kind) and it came off great. Just like new. Now I have to clean the regular leather part of the shoes and they’ll be like new!

  13. Sun says:

    Can anyone tell me what is a better color suede to buy out of olive green, khakhi, camel – in terms of maintenance? …and which one will look good?

  14. Jake says:

    Any advice on getting mud out of reindeer suede? Slipped in the snow and now I’ve got nice mud patches on the upper arms.

  15. Jenny says:

    I also have a problem with the indigo dye from my jeans staining my brown suede boots. I had used a protective spray on them and seem to have avoided any salt or water stains, but the suede looks discolored blue. I’ve tried using the suede leather eraser thing that I bought too, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Does anyone have any suggestions to try next?

  16. Jane says:

    I took a dry toothbrush and rubbed it all around my UGGs (I had major water damage) and a bunch of dirt came on the toothbrush, but my UGGs looked a lot better.

  17. Sydney says:

    Okay, so I had some pretty bad water damaged Uggs (from wearing them in the rain). They are a darker gray and you can STILL see how bad it is. Anyway, what I did was let it dry over night and once it was dry, I got a clean dry white cloth and just rubbed/scrubbed it on the damage. Next, I got an old soft toothbrush (you can use any, but I think the soft might work better) rubbed/scrubbed the damage with that (to get the nap up). Next, just got a new clean pencil eraser and basically just “erased” the water damage. It works great! I suggest this on Uggs and any other suede things. Thanks. (:

    Sydney!

  18. Jessica says:

    I have a pink suede top that has numerous stones and beads all over it and the dry cleaner has refused to clean it due to the decorations. Any suggestions on how to clean it? It doesn’t just have a few stains, it has been worn to its fair share of rodeos and when you are riding out in the arena, it can be quite dusty. Please help with any suggestions. Thanks!

  19. Colleen says:

    Toothbrush, eraser, etc. Also, a single edge razor. Carefully rub it sideways to bring up the “suede.” Then brush it off. I’ve used it on the bottom of my shoes because the creme and grease from softening my feet in the summer made my sandals feel disgusting and greasy. This should also work on a wallet, jackets, etc.

  20. Kayla says:

    Hi! I went out in my camel color suede leather boots and came home with black marks all over them! I rubbed them out with a damp cloth, not knowing this made the surface feel rough. They look a little better but they are still a bit discolored by the toes! I had them scotch guarded and am worried this will make them more difficult to clean! Any suggestions?

  21. Jacqui says:

    HELP! I bought a purple pair of shoes, but one is really faded; what can I do to match the color? Is dyeing best?

  22. Blakeley says:

    I have a pair of black suedette boots that have been badly scuffed on one heel. How can I get this repaired; it needs patching?

  23. Trev says:

    OK, I have one for everyone … I bought a suede jacket, with the sleeves being black and the body being orange. I’ve had it for 4 years now and the black dye from the sleeves has rubbed off on the body of the jacket. I can’t find a dry cleaner here in Calgary who will touch it. Any ideas? I love the coat, but my wife says I shouldn’t be wearing it, as it looks pretty nasty. HELP !?!?!?!? =0)

  24. Darlene says:

    I put a name tag on my suede jacket and the adhesive is still on jacket. How do I get it off? Erasers? Vinegar? Towel?

  25. Lonesonetonight says:

    What’s the best thing to use? I used leather cleaner and no luck. Should I try the vinegar?

  26. Suedelove111 says:

    How do I clean my 100% leather coat? It has a soft suede look. But the interior is faux fur. The faux fur part is matted and looks very dirty. It’s a dark brown coat. I know I am not supposed to put liquid on the leather part so how should I clean the inside fur part?

  27. Susan says:

    When a coat is a mixture of materials, such as this, it is best to have it professionally cleaned. Take it to a cleaner who is experienced with both leather and fur products. They will be able to use their dry cleaning methods to clean the fur without damaging the leather portion of the coat.

  28. Angie says:

    I used my dad’s suede shoe cleaner from Footlocker to clean my black faux suede boots and scrubbed them with the brush it came with. I think it was chemical foam. Now my boots are faded and look kinda gray instead of black. Should I wash them with water, because it looks like the foam just stained them and never came off. Please help!!

  29. K says:

    I found a fantastic pair of old suede boots at a thrift store, but the inside is dirty. The dried up old suede flakes off in to this grainy dust, and I can’t figure out what to do about it. I haven’t wanted to wear them because they get my feet and legs all dirty and dusty looking when I take them off. There is a thin layer of nylon on the inside so I can’t scrape it at all, and a damp sponge only does so much. Ideas?

  30. Rhona says:

    I have a full length vintage black suede coat that has been stored in a fairly damp environment for a couple of years. There is a grayish mildew or mold in the front and hems now and I’m wondering the best way to clean it up.

    The article says that mildew is ‘a bear’ to get off, but doesn’t suggest a method – is it a pointless exercise? It looks like it would just wipe off with a damp cloth, but I want to make sure I kill whatever’s causing the problem.

    Thanks, appreciate all suggestions.

  31. Kat says:

    I got new moccasins and they’re dyed suede, but they turn your feet the color of the dye. Does anyone know how to fade the dye some without just wearing them all over? I heard for fabric it works to soak things in salt water to fade the dye, but I’m not sure if that will work as well on these shoes. I’ve had a pair before and I’m not worried about keeping them clean and tidy looking, I just don’t want to deal with my feet being orange!! Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

  32. Susan says:

    I purchased a Bebe brand suede coat that is cream color and super soft – it is very supple and I always worried about tearing it. That is, until I read the cleaning instructions: Machine wash gentle cycle, cold water, tumble dry on low, remove promptly! Shell Fabric = 100% suede/leather. Lining = polyester. So, after much worry, I went ahead and followed the directions… the coat came out good as new – soft and clean. I decided to try this with a pink suede jacket I have with faux sheepskin lining: it too came out clean and soft! So, I cleaned the other five suede coats I own this way and they all came out just fine! I don’t know if ALL suede can be cleaned this way, but I was willing to take the risk. I wouldn’t recommend that you throw a $300.00 coat into the wash, but if you have an old beater you think is beyond hope, you might want to give it a shot in the wash before giving up on it.

  33. Maliblue says:

    Call Neiman Marcus Dept Store. They refer a leather cleaner to customers that you can contact. You pop your item in a bag and mail it off for the company to clean. They are the best in the nation. Sorry I don’t remember the name, so contact the designer or sportswear dept. of Neiman’s.

  34. Mollie says:

    I tried the eraser trick on my grey UGG boots. They did have a very noticeable black scuff on them but after about 30 minutes of erasing the scuff, it’s almost gone, not completely but it looks so much better than it did before! Thanks!!

  35. Skinchild says:

    I have Minnietonka boots and have hand washed them then used a wet vac with the hose on the exhaust port starting from the inside @ the toe and force blowing out the water through the suede (just like drying a pet @ the salon, lol. I’m a veteran groomer). BUT FIRST you need to get an odor remover especially for animal odors, check @ your local pet stores. Even skunk off would be good, and follow the directions saturating the urine spot. Then hand wash & force dry. You’ll need to further dry them by turning them upside down on a heat source like a heat register (as they are double materials). Mine have come out great each time I have had to do this. I do treat them with a protectant / water-proofer. But after a few wearings & them being light and sometimes muddy they need special care.

    Good LUCK!

    PS: Our NATIVE ANCESTORS didn’t have DRY CLEANERS…lol & all our clothes where SUEDE, LEATHER & REAL FURS ;) Nothing of mine goes to get CHEMICALS put on it!

  36. Lynne says:

    Thanks for all these comments being on here. I’m definitely going to try the pink pencil eraser.

    I have a light-colored, very supple, suede shirt (I wear as a jacket), beautifully decorated with “Navaho” beads. I can send it for dry cleaning with, of course, a 0% guarantee. Once one bead comes off, the shirt will lose its “appeal.” Dry cleaning shrunk a super simple suede suit last time. I’m extremely hesitant.

    I’ve seen some other questions in here that may help me, but unfortunately, the answers aren’t posted.

    What would you recommend for the dirt, in general … and especially a red spot from a marker (I do presentations/seminars/workshops A LOT with markers!)?

    And if any readers have a tried-&-true tip, thank you for sending it along to me.

    And to the creators of this forum … Thanks for being here!

  37. Gini says:

    I purchased a beautiful quilt from an estate sale that has suede in it. At the time, I didn’t consider the cleaning factor and now I notice the tags have been removed. The suede pieces are about 8-10 inches in diameter with four on this cotton quilt. I hesitate to wash it or dry clean. I would really appreciate some input please.

    Look! We’ve answered your question!

  38. Shelly says:

    We have a mold problem at our apartment and I recently discovered mold on all of my shoes. I have cleaned them all with the exception of my two pairs of suede boots. One pair is grey and the other is a light cream color with a lot of faux fur. I am so scared of trying to clean them and accidentally ending up ruining them. I don’t have money to get them dry cleaned or buy a special cleaner. I want to clean them without damaging them and still kill the mold. If anyone has any suggestions, please, please let me know. They have been sitting for a little over a week. Please help!

  39. Laura says:

    I had Vicks Vaporub on and accidentally touched one of the fingers of my UGG gloves. Please tell me they will not be stained, or that I can get it out! :(

  40. Ry says:

    No need to bring your suede shoes to the shoe maker or dry cleaner for stain removal. A clean eraser does a flawless job. Just stained my white suede Pumas last night. Granted, it was a light stain, but pretty noticeable against the white. Sure enough, an eraser made them look brand new!

  41. Cassandra says:

    I have a suede shirt my dad owned that’s about 35 years old. It’s stiff, but not dirty. How can I restore it to it’s supple state? My dad killed himself and it’s all I have left. Thanks to anyone who can help.

  42. Victor says:

    For light to moderate stains, just make some rooibos tea and squash the teabag out, then just dab the teabag on the dirty marks.

  43. Karen says:

    Jill, the best thing to do for candle wax, is to place a piece of paper on the affected area and run an iron over it. The wax melts and the paper absorbs it. Keep using fresh paper until the stain is gone. I’ve done this before and it works beautifully.

  44. Lorena says:

    I want to change the color of suede leather shoes from Hush Puppies. Can anyone suggest what kinds of dye product?

  45. Lauren says:

    Long story short, a friend borrowed my suede boots on NYE, threw up on them, and then “forgot to bring them back to school.” Now, I have dried stains on them and I need to get them out. Please help.

  46. Angela says:

    Vinegar kills mold, so maybe it would work for mildew as well. Mildew stains are very hard to get off anything.

  47. Balls says:

    I have a sofa that needs to be cleaned and I can’t afford any products. What do I do? Help!

  48. Cheyenne says:

    Please help. I have a blue ink mark on my tan suede boots and I don’t know how to get it off without damaging it. Please help!

  49. Jennifer says:

    Someone told me to use candle wax to remove scratches on my suede boots and of course I did it without realizing how difficult it would be to remove. First, I tried scraping it off. Then I tried using ice and suede cleaner. Finally, I tried the paper bag and iron trick and it worked great with the exception that now I think I over-processed my boots; the black isn’t as dark as it once was. The scratches are gone, but I’ll definitely be staying away from wax from now on.

  50. Aditya says:

    I have a pair of black colored Zara moccasins and one of them got Fevicol stuck on it the sides. Can u tell me a way to clean it and how to get a shine on it?

  51. Melanie says:

    Aditya,
    Try using an artgum eraser or scraping the adhesive off of the suede with a spoon or emery board.

    Source: HowToCleanStuff.net – How to Remove Adhesive from Suede

    To restore the faded suede once the adhesive has been removed, consider re-dying the suede and applying a silicone spray onto the moccasins.

    Source: HowToCleanStuff.net – How to Restore Faded Suede

  52. G says:

    The white vinegar really works – I’m so grateful to have found this site! I have a light suede handbag that got some dark marks on it (dye transferred from a coat) and I stupidly tried to remove the marks with a little water, making the mess worse and making the suede hard/stiff as well. I thought the bag was ruined. Tried the white vinegar and used a soft toothbrush, and it looks/feels good as new. I am amazed and relieved.

  53. Melanie says:

    Cheyenne and Alyssa,
    Dab a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and rub the cotton swap on the stain as though you were removing nail polish from your finger.

    Source: HowToCleanStuff.net – How to Remove Ink Stains from Suede

  54. Melanie says:

    When you can’t afford any products, there are some key things to know: vinegar and baking soda are two inexpensive and common products that can clean a variety of items, including your suede couch. Vinegar is only a couple dollars and since you don’t need much, you could ask one of your neighbors for some. To clean the entire couch, make a solution of diluted vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the entire couch to disinfect the suede or soak a cloth in the solution to rub away any stains.
    Baking soda is another option; you can get a box for less than a dollar. You’ll likely need your own box to clean and disinfect the whole couch (ie. don’t ask a neighbor unless you plan to buy them a new box).
    Another option is to use the suds from a mild detergent, such as dish soap.
    You can also use a piece of sandpaper – they’re also only a couple of dollars. If you live in an apartment complex, you can probably borrow a piece from the maintenance staff. No sandpaper? Try an emery board – most girls have a pack – though that would only be effective for small stains, not a complete cleaning of the couch.
    Another option is a pumice stone (usually used for feet and can be found at a dollar store or in a girl’s bathroom). You can get a stiff brush at a dollar store usually as well.

    Source: HowToCleanStuff.net – How to Clean Suede Upholstery
    Source: Stain-Removal-101.com – Clean Suede With Baking Soda
    Source: InfoBarrel – Easily Clean Suede at Home
    Source: wikiHow – How to Clean Nubuck

  55. Samantha says:

    I washed my moccasins in warm water and soap, and there’s yellow stains on the fur on the outside of the moccasins. How do I get the yellow stains out? Any suggestions?

  56. George says:

    Hi, I have a camel color of suede shoes. Can anyone tell me a home remedy to clean them up? Please, I need the advice ASAP.

  57. Patt says:

    Hi, I have read a lot of the postings and I am impressed. I have a suede sofa that our Berniese Mtn. dog was not allowed on, but as time progressed and as he is getting older, we let him up on the suede couch. Only problem is that he would lick his feet while he is up there and get his saliva on the couch. Some spots are small, some are large. We are going to look in Wal-Mart for suede cleaner and try it on a piece of the couch you can’t see to see if it works. With the items like vinegar or baking soda, which would be better that won’t leave any spot? Couch is dark brown.

  58. Michael says:

    Got alcohol stains in my new suede desert boots. So, rubbed them with a damp cloth. Will they dry out and go back to normal or have I ruined them ?

  59. Melanie says:

    Michael,
    Perhaps this article can help: How to Remove Alcohol and Sambuca Stains from UGG boots. You can also try having the boots dry cleaned or professionally dyed.

  60. Phe says:

    HELP! My favorite pair of LL Bean moccasins just got ruined with pee and it’s dry. WHAT DO I DO?

  61. Melanie says:

    Phe,
    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Urine from Suede.

  62. Ash says:

    How do you remove water stains from red Nike blazers?

  63. Melanie says:

    Ash,
    Often the best way to remove water marks from suede is simply to clean the suede as usual – with a suede brush or dry towel. If that doesn’t work, try the eraser, nail file, vinegar trick, or even suede cleaner or dry cleaning.
    Source: eHow – How to Remove Water Stains from Suede

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