The Only Three Things You Need To Know About Cleaning Suede

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I am curious if you have a favorite way to clean suede shoes. I have some black Vince slip on sneakers and I need to get some dirt or something off them. Maybe a suede brush?

I sure do have a favorite way to clean suede shoes, which is excellent news for you and for me because I just got a new pair of wicked major suede kicks that I intend to keep perfect-looking for years to come.

I mean, look at these beauts.


In the event you were wondering who the asshole is who buys the commemorative Red Sox World Series sneakers is, well wonder no more: That asshole is me. But I’m an asshole who knows how to maintain a pair of suede shoes so you’ll forgive me because I can help you with my wisdom more than I can hurt you with my taste in footwear.

For the Love, Use a Suede Protector

Let me tell you the dirty (heh) secret of suede protectors: It doesn’t even really matter what brand you use, the thing that matters is that you use one.


It also matters that you use suede protectors the right way; they should either be used on new or on clean shoes, and you should be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you get the application procedure right. For the most part, suede protectors should be applied in a thin layer, and often require two coats to fully protect the hide. Suede protectors also do need to be reapplied from time to time. The instructions on the brand of protector you get should tell you that but in the event they don’t, plan to apply a new coating once a year (right before foul weather season begins is a good time to do this job).

Since I’ve got you, let me go ahead and recommend some protectors — even though, really, they’ve mostly created equally.

Meltonian is what I have at home; I bought that particular product because 1. Meltonian is one of the better brands of shoe care products and 2. This protectant can be used on leather, suede and nubuck, and it’s nice to have one product for all three rather than separate ones for leather and for suede and nubuck. Sidebar: Even if it doesn’t explicitly say so, protectants designed for use on suede can also be used on nubuck; the same is not necessarily true of protective sprays that designed for use on leather, so be sure to check that.


Some other brands to look for are Kiwi Suede Protector (for suede and nubuck); Apple Brand Garde Rain & Stain Water Repellent (for leather, suede and nubuck); and Jason Markk Repel. That last one is a bit pricier than the others, but I included it because it makes a nice gift for the sneakerhead or handbag enthusiast in your life and ‘tis the season.

Suede Brushes

Suede brushes serve an important role in the care and keeping of suede shoes, jackets, belts, bags, etc. They two functions they bring to the suede-care party are to brush away the dirt and grit that collects on suede during the course of wear, and that can cause a dingy appearance, and to restore the nap, which will get matted and need some perking up. Suede brushes are especially clutch when suede has gotten wet — let it dry, then give it a good brushing and, barring major staining (which hopefully won’t have happened because you heeded my very sage advice and protected the shoes before wearing them in a monsoon)(also don’t wear your suedes in a monsoon!) the shoes should look almost new.


Suede Erasers

Our Letter Writer asked about using a suede brush on her scuffed shoes, and yeah, that’s a good first place to start when it comes to cleaning soiled suede. But it sounds like the brush alone won’t be enough, which brings us to suede erasers. Marvelous little things, suede erasers.


The good news here is that most suede brushes also come with a suede eraser, and that the set of two will run you under ten bucks. Here’s one set from Sof Sole, another from Kiwi, and a third from Woodlore. If I were giving this as a present, I’d pick the Woodlore one because it looks higher end than its actual price. Speaking of presents! This Gear Aid set that includes cleaner, protector, a brush and an eraser is a great buy at $20.


You can also use a white art eraser but what you can’t use is a pink eraser (or green or whatever other color erasers come in these days) because the pink color (or green or whatever) can transfer onto the suede and then you’ll have a whole other problem that you’ll have to write to me about. Which is fine! I’m here to help, but also if I can help you avoid needing more help, I’m here for that too.