How to Properly Care for & Maintain Suede Shoes

Whether they’re formal or casual, suede shoes emanate class, style, and elegance. Their price tag is usually representative of their sturdy build and universal appeal. However, in order for your suede kicks to maintain these qualities, they require some TLC.

One mistake that people make is caring for their suede shoes in the same way they care for their traditional leather ones. While both require regular cleaning and maintenance, they don’t follow the same process. Where most leather boots and loafers have a protective coating to prevent scuffing and dirt buildup, suede and nubuck shoes do not.

Before you begin the touch-up process, you’ll want to ensure you have the following tools for proper suede and nubuck care:

  • Suede brush
  • Knife
  • Vinegar (or talcum powder)
  • Lintless cloth/towel
  • Waterproofing spray/protectant

1) Get tough with scuffs.

Scuffs can be a particularly unappealing blemish on your suede shoes. Fortunately, you can remove them in a number of ways. The most certain way is to purchase a special suede/nubuck eraser. These can usually be found in suede cleaning kits. You’ll need to lightly press down as you rub away at the scuff.

You can also use a suede brush to vigorously brush back and forth over the scuff until it fades into oblivion.

If the scuff is not responding to either of these methodologies, you’ll want to use a knife. It sounds drastic, but it works. Gently scrape the edge of a knife over the scuffed area in order to lift the scratch. You won’t want to use a serrated knife, as that will only damage the material.

2) Brush them regularly.

Brushing can (surprisingly) rid the suede of all sorts of regularities. A special suede brush is required for the best results, since suede has a very soft grain. Make sure to brush them while they’re dry and always in the direction of the grain, as opposed to back and forth.

Always brush them after wearing in turbulent weather, but make sure to wait until they properly dry. Brushing the suede while wet could cause it to flatten awkwardly and potentially even deepen mud/water stains.

3) Use vinegar or talcum powder for tough stains.

Whether it’s oil, grease, or ink, most suede stains can be treated in much the same way. A mixture of two parts water and one part white vinegar, patted down over the stain with a lintless cloth or rag, should get most stains to lift. Leave it to dry and then go over the stained area with the suede brush.

Talcum powder or corn meal can also be used. Just sprinkle a little bit over the stain and let it set overnight. The following day, use the brush to remove the dried powder, and the stain should be gone as well.

4) Add a layer of protection.

As doctors have rhapsodized for ages, prevention is often better than a cure. The best way to ensure you don’t have to tend too often to your suede shoes is to keep them in good condition in the first place.

The first step is to spray them with suede protector or waterproofing spray. With this, water and other liquids will simply roll of the surface as opposed to soaking in. Make sure to spray them once a week if you wear them regularly.  

Secondly, give your suede kicks a day of rest between wears. This ensures dirt, mud, and other elements your shoes pick up during the day don’t continue to cake on above one another, making cleaning much more difficult.

Lastly, if you live in a climate where there is inclement weather, avoid wearing them at the end of the winter season. This is when snow melts, covering the ground in a dirty, slushy mixture of water, salt, and mud.

5) Store them properly.

When they’re not on your feet, your suede shoes deserve a proper home. As such, you’ll want to avoid placing them somewhere where there is direct sunlight or a lack of circulation. A cool, dry, dark place is the best solution, as suede fibers need to breathe to maintain their luster.

You can also use a split-toe shoe tree made of cedarwood to place inside when they’re not in use. The cedarwood helps absorb odors and moisture, while the split-toe allows them to maintain their shape. If you wear them infrequently, it’s also recommended you keep them in a dust bag, or wrapped in tissue paper and in a shoebox.

Properly caring for and maintaining your suede shoes not only shows you have inarguable style, it shows you have unmatched discipline and appreciation for the finer things.