How to Take Care of Suede Shoes

Leah Bourne
How To Take Care of Suede
Photo: Getty Images

We all love a good pair of suede shoes and boots, or a suede jacket. But keeping your suede in good shape? That’s where things get complicated, especially in the winter and spring. Wintry elements like rain, sleet, and snow aren’t particularly kind to suede items, and April showers just make things worse. But, with a little bit of planning—and knowing exactly how to take care of suede—you can not only wear them year-round, but also keep them in mint condition.

Follow these six tips to make sure your suede shoes and boots look as good as new.

Seal Your Suede

You wouldn’t hit the beach without sunscreen, and, similarly, you shouldn’t hit the streets in suede without properly protecting them first. Everywhere from drugstores to shoe repair stores carry protective sprays, and we’re big fans of Gear Aid ReviveX Nubuck Suede & Fabric Water Repellent , in particular. A thin application of a suede sealant will last for several months (that’s right, you do have to treat suede every couple months) and will help repel dirt and stop stains before they start. A tip to keep in mind before actually spraying: We strongly recommend brushing with a suede brush before and after you spray it.

Use Talcum Powder or Corn Meal

If you spill liquid on your suede item, pat the area with a clean cloth or towel and then apply a layer of corn meal or talcum powder. Let it set overnight, and then brush the suede the following day with a suede brush to remove the dried powder.

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Treat Dried Stains with White Vinegar

Approach dried stains, like dirt, a little differently. For a quick fix, rub off dirt with a kneaded eraser or an emery board. For heavier stains, blot the stain using a small amount of white vinegar and a clean towel. Repeat for as long as necessary until you see your stain disappear. This is a great way to get rid of both water and salt stains.

Use a Toothbrush

Should your suede begin to look tired and flattened, scrub it with a clean toothbrush or terrycloth towel. If it’s really in bad shape, hold your shoe above steam—even from a teakettle—for a few seconds, and then brush it.

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Don’t Clean Suede with Water!

This might seem counterintuitive, but don’t try to clean suede with water alone, which can affect both the color and texture of suede.

Get Them Professionally Cleaned

If all else fails, consider getting your shoes professionally cleaned. Obviously, this is a solid way to ensure your suede looks it’s best. This is also a great thing to do before you put your winter suede boots or jacket away in storage during the warmer months.

A version of this article was originally published in November 2014.