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How to Clean Suede Shoes So They’re Spotless Again

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From summer sandals to winter boots, there’s no question that suede looks chic all year round. But to keep your favorite pair fresh, you’ll need to learn how to clean suede shoes properly.

The best way to keep suede shoes clean according to the Shoe Service Institute of America, is to practice preventative maintenance from the get-go. Before you wear new suede shoes, spritz them with a water-and-stain repellent designed specifically for suede. One popular option is the Apple Brand Garde Rain & Stain Water Repellent ($16.97, Amazon). If you get water on your shoes afterward, it should bead up with rounded droplets on the surface instead of staining the material. Whenever the water stops beading, is time to give them another spray. 

It’s also helpful to use a plastic or rubber-tipped brush to remove any surface dirt right when you see it. This will restore the material to its original state and prevent the dirt from setting in. Important: Since there are many different types of suede (including sheepskin, cowhide, and pigskin), you should always check the manufacturer’s label to see the specific cleaning tools recommended for the type you own.

But in the midst of all the other chores we have to do, sometimes we forget about cleaning shoes. And even if you’re religious about it, accidents can still happen. If you get a stain on your shoe, the SSIA recommends removing it immediately with a solvent-based cleaner made specifically for suede. One popular option includes the Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner Kit ($17.87, Amazon). You can also use a stain-fighting block like the “cleaning eraser” in the Suede & Nubuck Cleaning Kit By Care Guys ($8.59, Amazon), which can help abrade the material to remove marks. Give your dirty shoes a little TLC with by lightly sudsing them with the cleaner and buffing them with the block, and your kicks will hopefully look just like new.

When it comes to pesky salt lines on suede shoes that appear during colder months, you can treat those with a DIY solution. Cleaning experts recommend a mild blend of one teaspoon each of dish washing detergent and fabric softener in two cups of warm water in a spray bottle. After you brush your shoes with a shoe brush to remove as much salt as you can, spray your solution on evenly over the suede and lightly brush it in. Then, wipe it off with a cloth dampened with clean water. To ensure the shoes retain their shape, stuff them with pieces of newspaper until they dry out completely. Afterward, you can rub the suede shoes with light sandpaper to help maintain the texture.

When it comes to severe discoloration or heavy marks on suede shoes, it might be best to call in a professional for help or take your pair to the dry cleaners, according to Good Housekeeping UK. Since this can be pretty expensive, it’s best to save this option as a last resort — but one that will be well worth it if it saves your best shoes.

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