5 Steps to Proper Suede Shoe Care & Upkeep


Suede shoes are popular for their durability, elegance, and versatility. However, this unique material can sometimes be difficult to maintain. Properly caring for your suede shoes has its payoffs, though. For one, it helps them last longer – which, considering their price tag, is a major benefit. 

Secondly, it allows them to maintain their original luster and like-new look. Caring for suede (or nubuck) shoes is not unlike caring for leather ones, but there are some nuances. 

To start, you’ll need the following tools: 

  • Suede brush 
  • Knife 
  • Vinegar and/or talcum powder
  • Lint-free cloth/towel 
  • Suede cleaner
  • Waterproofing spray 

Step #1: Remove scuffs. 

It happens. You scrape your new suede shoes against something, your cat attempts to scratch them, or you toss them carelessly into your closet. These are events you can’t help, but you can tackle the scuffs that result as soon as they happen. 

The surest way to get scuffs out of suede is to use a suede/nubuck eraser. These are usually found in suede cleaning and repair kits. Just press the eraser lightly against the fabric and rub the scuff away. 

If it’s a particularly tough scuff, brush it away vigorously with a suede brush, moving it back and forth over the spot. If neither of these methods work, the scuff could be deeper than predicted. In that case, you’ll want to use a straight-edged knife to scrape the scuff away. Do so gently, and the scratch should lift right out. 

Step #2: Brush them.

Don’t wait until your suede shoes begin developing wear-and-tear to brush them. If you wear them regularly, brush them regularly. Since suede has a soft grain, you’ll want to use a special suede brush, which can be bought separately or as part of a suede care kit. 

Unless you’re trying to get a scuff out, always brush in the direction of the grain. Similarly, always brush them when they’re dry. If you’ve been out in the rain with them, don’t brush them right away. This could cause the suede to matte or stick in certain spots like a cowlick.  

Step #3: Remove deep set stains. 

Certain substances cause deeper stains than others. Oil, grease, and ink can be difficult to get out of suede shoes, but it’s not impossible. There are two solutions to getting out deep set stains: 

  • Mix two parts water with one part white vinegar, and pat down the stained area with this solution (using the lint-free cloth). Leave the area to dry, and then go over it with the suede brush.

  • Sprinkle talcum powder over the stained area and let it set overnight. Some of the powder will absorb. Brush off any remaining powder, and enjoy your now unstained shoes. 

There are tons of other homemade solutions you can use to tackle tough stains, but these are sure to work 90% of the time. 

Step #4: Exercise prevention. 

The best way to take care of your suede shoes? Don’t let them get messed up in the first place. Take care of your suede shoes the same way you would a designer handbag or expensive coat: with the utmost care and caution. 

Always spray them down with waterproofing spray. This allows liquids and other substances to roll right off the surface instead of being absorbed into the material. If you wear your suede shoes regularly, and in turbulent weather, spray them once a week. 

If possible, let a day pass between wears. That way, any dirt and mud you pick up during the day will have time to dry up and fall off. Otherwise, it can get caked on to the point that it’s impossible to clean off. 

Note that, if you live in a region with harsh winters, wearing your suede shoes at the end of the season may not be a good idea. Since this is when the snow typically melts into slush and dirt, it can leave irreparable stains on your shoes. 

Step #5: Store them carefully. 

Give your suede shoes a proper home. This means somewhere cool, dark, and dry. Direct sunlight will cause them to fade, so keep them away from bright windows. Also, make sure to place them inside a dust bag, or in a shoebox, so that they won’t pick up dust or brush up against your other shoes. 

To help them keep their shape, consider placing a split-toe cedarwood shoe tree inside. The cedarwood absorbs moisture, thus helping eliminate odors. 

When it comes to caring for your suede shoes, prevention is half the work, but cleaning them and utilizing the right tools is still essential. With the right technique, your suede shoes could last you more than a decade.