How to Keep Suede Shoes Clean and Fresh

Keep away from all things water.
IMAGE New Republic by Mark McNairy

You shy away from a pair of suede shoes because of its vulnerability to dirt, scratches, and water splotches, but if you knew that the level of care it requires is actually simple, then perhaps you’ll reconsider.

1| Brush It

Suede leather is made from the underside of lamb or calfskin, which gives it a fuzzy texture called “nap.” Just like any fuzz, nap is best cared for by brushing to rid it of dust and dirt and keep it soft to the touch. The golden rule is the fuzzier the pile, the softer the brush.

Full suede works best with longer-bristled horsehair brush, while short suede might need a more stringent wire brush. Of course, since suede nicks easily, take the utmost care when brushing. To be on the safe side, a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush or terrycloth towel is great for daily care. If the suede looks a bit dowdy, bring it back to life by quickly steaming right before brushing in all directions.


2| Fix It

A stain on suede may mean doom for the uninitiated, but like any sartorial emergency, disasters can be averted with a little elbow grease and handy fixes. If there’s one thing suede hates, it's moisture, so at all cost avoid cleaning it with water. To treat liquid spills, a dab of talcum powder or cornmeal can do the trick. Let it set overnight to absorb the moisture and brush it off the next day.

For dry stains, like soil or dirt, blot the stain with a drop of white vinegar and wipe gently with a clean towel. Or if you prefer a totally dry approach, rub off dirt with a kneaded eraser or a low-grit emery board—with extreme finesse. For older, more stubborn stains, however, it’s best to let the professionals like Mr. Quickie or Besa’s do their work.



3| Dry It

Water is the greatest enemy of your beloved pair, so when storing your suede shoes, keep invisible moisture particles at bay. Consider placing a pack or two of desiccant silica gel inside your shoe as this absorbs moisture and keeps shoes safe from mold. To reduce dust and grime, it is best to keep them in their boxes as well.

4| Seal It

All this work can be minimized if you protect your suede shoes right after you remove them from the box. A waterproofing and dirt-and-stain repelling spray such as Nano4Shoes or Crep Protect can keep your suede and nubuck shoes clean for a year. But of course, this shouldn’t prevent you from still giving your pair the TLC it deserves.

What's The Difference Between Suede and Nubuck?

While we're here, we might as well answer this question about the two similar-looking materials. Know that both suede and nubuck are the result of sanding leather. But suede is derived from an interior layer of leather, while nubuck comes from the topmost part of the animal skin. This salient difference makes one softer and the other tougher. No matter which you choose, follow the above steps to clean.

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John Magsaysay
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