Now that we’re right in the thick of summer, there’s a good chance that suede shoes have been a regular feature of your wardrobe. Especially given that suede sneakers are a pro-level style move right now. But of course, with regular wear comes unwanted dirt and grime (and the occasional rainstorm). And if you live anywhere that requires a lot of walking, your favorite suede shoes will quickly start to look like you’ve spent your summer working in a tire yard. Luckily, keeping them clean and crisp doesn’t require all that much effort. With a bit of regular upkeep, your shoes can look box-fresh all summer long. Here’s how you do it.
Regularly Brush Them
The one thing you absolutely have to have if you own suede shoes is a suede brush. Because of the soft grain of suede, a special brush is the best way to keep it clean. And it’s also the best way to maintain the finish so that your shoes don’t look worn out.
To clean off any dust, dirt, or minor stains, simply brush the shoes while dry. And make sure you brush them in the same direction rather than back and forth if it’s just a bit of dirt or dust. To get rid of a scuff mark, however, go ahead and brush it vigorously back and forth to lift the grain back up.
For Bad Scuffs, Use a Knife
Scuffs on suede are generally nothing more than a spot on the grain that has gotten too matted down. Sometimes, a suede brush won’t do the trick. When that happens, try scraping a knife (very carefully) over the area to lift the nap. If you’re worried about using a knife on your precious shoes (which is understandable) you can also try using a pencil eraser. There are also suede-specific erasers that you can try.
Fight Water Stains with Water
As anyone who lives anywhere but the Southwest knows, summer storms can creep up on you in an instant. Which means there’s always a bit of a risk for water-staining your suede shoes. Ironically, the best way to get rid of a water stain is with more water. The trick is to first apply a light coat of water with your suede brush, and then gently dab the surface of the shoes with a rag until it is evenly wet, without any water stains showing. Then, insert shoes trees or, barring that, wads of paper so that your shoes will maintain their shape as they dry. Once they’re completely dry, go over them lightly with your (dry) suede brush to restore the grain to its original look.
Water and Vinegar for Really Tough Stains
For hard-to-remove stains—or, if you wear them during the winter, for salt stains—the best method is to use a solution of two parts water, one part white vinegar. Apply a small amount of the solution with a soft rag or a towel, and then let it dry. Once it’s dry, go over it lightly with your suede brush.
The best method for keeping your suede shoes clean, however, is to employ a preemptive strike—i.e. a good spray-on suede protector, like this one from the Rochester Shoe Tree Company. This will keep a lot of dirt and stains from sticking to your shoes, and will also keep them a bit more water-resistant. If you haven’t sprayed a protector on your shoes straight out of the box, simply follow the steps above to clean them, and then spray some on.