How To Clean Suede Boots | The Best Products and a Step-By-Step Guide

While extremely popular amongst dress shoe enthusiasts, suede is often not the first choice of leather sought out by people looking to buy boots. This is largely due to two misconceptions: that suede boots are harder to clean and suede is more delicate than smooth leather.

While it is true that traditional suede is more absorbent and therefore stains more easily, cleaning and maintaining suede is no harder than cleaning smooth leather.

Now, I am not here to argue for one type of leather over the other. Wear and tear on a boot really depends on how hard and often it’s worn, and how it’s maintained over time. But I do want to show you that cleaning suede boots is a simple process and that you don’t have to walk on eggshells when wearing suede — it’s harder wearing than you think.

Below, I visited world famous cobbler Trenton Potter in Tennessee to get a step-by-step guide to how he cleans his customers’ suede just about every day. 

The products used:

Saphir Omni'Nettoyant Suede Shampoo
Check Best Price
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

What Is Suede?

So what even is suede? 

  • Regular leather that’s split down the middle

It’s thinner than regular “full grain” leather that’s used in most high quality boots because it’s split. Suede is made by cutting the leather down the middle, exposing its underlying fibers. That’s what the “fuzz” on suede is: fleshy fiber that produce an elegant, napped look.

Its softness and high color variation make it a top choice for not only footwear, but even other form-fitting garments such as jackets and gloves. In fact, the term suede came from the French phrase “gants de Suède” which translates to “gloves from Sweden”. 

[Learn more about leather types: Leather vs Suede vs Nubuck]

suede texture
Suede’s nap gives it its gorgeous texture. 

What You Need to Clean Your Suede Boots

Before we begin, here is what you will need to get before cleaning up your suede shoes. 

Read more about how Saphir’s products rank against other high-quality shoe care brands

Prepping Your Boots And Cleaning Solution

The boots we cleaned was Thursday’s Cavalier Chelseas, which I had spent several months wearing around Europe.

  • First, put a shoe tree on your boots.

    If you don’t have one available, you may stuff some newspaper into the boots.

    The reason for doing this is so that the shoe tree/newspaper can act as a counter-pressure. Without anything inside, the boot can lose its shape once when you start scrubbing, and you don’t want that. You want the suede to be as flat and free of creases as possible so that you can get all of the grime out. 

  • Take your suede brush and scrub the boots thoroughly.

    This will remove any surface dirt and bring up grime that was trapped under the nap.

  • Prepare our cleaning solution.

    For the products recommended, mix 2 parts water with one part Saphir Omnidaim/Omni’Nettoyant.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Stridewise (@stridewise)

How to Clean Your Suede Boots

Got your products and your boots all ready? Here’s your step-by-step guide.

  • Take your shoe brush, and dip it into the Saphir Omnidaim/Omni’Nettoyant solution.  
  • Once the brush has absorbed enough of the solution, lather it onto the boots while scrubbing it in a circular motion.  
  • Repeat this until you have covered the entire surface area of the boot. Don’t forget to scrub the welt as well to give your boots the complete spa treatment. 
  • After scrubbing your boots, take the piece of cloth and pat the boot down. This final step will draw any surface moisture and dust out of the suede. 
  • Lastly, let it air dry for about 30 minutes to an hour. 

[Read more about Thursdays Chelsea Boots]

Brushing suede Chelsea boots
Brushing Nick’s suede Chelsea boots by Thursday Boots 

Tips For Cleaning Your Suede Boots

  • It’s fine to repeat the process a few times.Some stains and dirt are more resilient than others and will require a few rounds of scrubbing to completely remove. 
  • Don’t use Saddle Soap. This is an intense cleaner that’s fine for smooth leathers, but will damage suede.
  • Once your boots are dry, you may use your suede brush to bring up the nap.Sometimes water and pressure from the scrubbing may flatten the texture of suede. 
  • Some stains can’t be removed.Indigo dye from jeans is one of them. It’s literal dye, you may need to accept that cleaning will just lighten those.
  • Don’t worry about the cleaning solution harming your suede boots/shoes. Saphir’s Omnidaim is free from harmful chemicals that may draw color or dye out.
  • You don’t need to condition suede boots.Once your boots are dry, you can wear them normally again. 
  • You can remove light stains with a suede eraser.These are usually white gum rubber erasers found on the suede brush itself or sold together. No soapy mess needed.
  • Most importantly, to keep your suede looking fresh, use a stain and water-repellant spray on your boots after cleaning. More about this is below.
brushed Alden indy suede boots
Freshly cleaned suede Alden Indy boots.

Best Products To Protect Your Suede Boots 

Once your suede boots are cleaned, you will need one of the following or any similar products to protect them. These sprays coat an invisible layer on your boots preventing water and other liquids from staining them. Remember to spray lightly; don’t build a layer so thick it’s visible to the eye and protrudes from the surface.

suede protector
Trenton and Heath using Nano Spray to protect Nick’s boots.

Cleaning Suede Boots DOs And DON’Ts 

  • DON’T USE SADDLE SOAP on suede boots. It will discolor the suede and ruin the velvety texture. 

[Related: How to Use Saddle Soap on Boots, just not these ones]

  • DON’T spot-clean your suede boots.Always clean the entire boot to prevent odd or even discoloration on your boots. 
  • DON’T use any protective spray before you clean your suede boots.Using a hydrophobic spray before you clean your boots will make it harder for the solution to penetrate the fibers. 
  • DON’T apply waxes or conditioner to your suede boots after cleaning them. They don’t need it!
  • DO brush your boots before cleaning them.You do not want to spread any of the dirt around. Localized stains are easier to clean. 
  • DO clean your boots several times if you feel like a stain is a little stubborn. 
  • DO give your boots time to dry before wearing them.

Cleaning Suede VS Cleaning Leather 

One of the main differences between cleaning suede versus cleaning smooth leather is that you are not stripping away any vital oils from the material when you are cleaning suede.

The reason many guides out there tell you to coat your smooth leather boots with conditioners and oils after cleaning is that the soaps used in cleaning smooth leather contain harsh chemicals that dry out the hide.

Dry leather looks extremely dull and is extremely prone to cracking. If you are using the correct cleaning tools like the ones listed above, you will not have to worry about damaging your suede boots. 

 

Conclusion

Cleaning suede boots is not the Herculean task that many seem to make it out to be. Is it time-consuming? A little. But is it easy? Also yes. The whole process takes maybe 45 minutes to an hour but the effects will be felt for months.

There is nothing like walking out of your house in a nicely cleaned pair of suede boots. Those boots maybe have cost $300 but deep down, you will feel like a million bucks. 

As always, this guide serves to teach you how to clean suede boots at home by yourself. If you find a particular spot that is stubborn, it is best to bring it to a trusted, professional cobbler. They will have additional cleaning agents and (most importantly) expertise at their disposal to help rejuvenate your boots. 

What can I use to clean suede leather?

It is best to use solutions forumated for suede care such as Saphir’s Omnidaim.

Can I wash suede leather shoes?

If by wash, you mean scrubbing the suede shoes with the appropriate cleaning agent then yes. Splashing and rubbing suede shoes with water is not recommended as it can set in stains that are present.

How to clean suede shoes with household products?

If you are in a pinch, you can use baking soda to draw out any wet stains and once it dries, you may take a cotton swab and gently dab the stain with distilled white vinegar.

Can you use a toothbrush instead of a suede brush?

You may, however suede brushes have brass bristles to fully bring out the nap of the suede. 

Can suede get wet?

Yes, suede can get wet and even if you’re stuck in a rain storm, just allow your suede boots to full dry before brushing them with a suede brush. 

The following two tabs change content below.

Humphrey Tsui

Humphrey is a native Brooklynite who loves clothing! He is a teacher by day and a total shoe geek by night.Follow him on Instagram.

Leave a Comment