Suede shoes: They’re so fabulous, Elvis sang about them! While suede shoes look great, whether they’re in boot, sandal or heel form, they’re notoriously difficult to clean. Suede, a type of leather with a napped finish, poses two challenges when it comes to cleaning: its unique texture and its tendency to absorb liquids. If you’ve ever stepped in a puddle while wearing suede shoes, you’ve likely seen firsthand how delicate and porous they can be. While there are suede cleaners you can buy, it’s always best to know your alternative cleaning options before shelling out for single-use products. With this in mind, we’ve gathered some of the best hacks for how to clean suede shows without a suede cleaner from cleaning pros.
To remove scuffs: Try an eraser
If you’re going to be cleaning suede shoes without suede cleaner, you’ll want to avoid dousing them in any cleaning products. A simple solution for gently removing stains? An eraser! It turns out they’re not just for pencils — countless cleaning pros actually recommend erasers as a quick fix for removing suede shoe stains without upsetting the delicate material. “A regular pencil eraser works” when it comes to removing unsightly scuff marks, says cleaning pro Muffetta Krueger of Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants. “Gently rub the scuffed area with the eraser to lift the scuff without harming the suede.”
The TikTok video below shows the eraser hack in action. If the eraser doesn’t work, you can also try using a nail file.
To remove stains: White vinegar + baking soda
Okay, so you know not to use water to clean your dirty suede shoes and you’d rather not run out and buy suede cleaner — but which liquid cleaners are actually safe to use? The answer might be in your kitchen! “The best way you can clean suede shoes without suede cleaner is to use white vinegar and baking soda,” says Gretchen Boyd of NYC House Cleaners. “Mix two tablespoons of vinegar and one tablespoon of baking soda in a cup with water, then use a cloth to apply this mixture to your shoes and rub it until the stain is removed.”
Got seriously soiled suede shoes? Krueger says another kitchen staple will do the trick. If your shoes are stained with grease or oil (yikes!), “Sprinkle a small amount of cornstarch over the grease or oil stain and let it sit overnight,” she says. “The cornstarch will absorb the oils, and you can just brush it off the next day.”
To remove all-over dirt: Try steam
Steaming your shoes is a good way to remove stains without chemicals or liquids. “Boil water and let the steam rise, then hold the stained area of the shoe over the steam but not too close,” says Krueger. While the steam is on the shoes, gently brush them. “This will help lift and loosen stubborn stains,” she says. Just make sure not to get any water on the shoes.
To remove dust: Try a brush
Suede’s signature softness comes from its nap (the textured fibers that make up the fabric). If the nap gets wet, it can take on an unappealingly stiff texture. Using a brush will help keep the nap intact, so your shoes stay soft. There are brushes made specifically for suede, but Krueger says that any soft-bristled brush, or even a clean toothbrush, will do. “Brush in a back-and-forth motion to avoid damaging the delicate fibers,” she notes, and don’t use a brush that’s abrasive (like one with particularly rigid or sharp bristles).
To smooth the suede: Try a razor
We know what you’re thinking: A razor on shoes sounds pretty dangerous! Fear not, it can actually work wonders when it comes to removing those pesky fuzzy bits that show up as the suede’s nap becomes worn out. Grab a fresh disposable razor and gently run it along the material. This will get rid of fuzzy or stringy parts, and leave your suede looking and feeling smooth.
To remove stuck-on bits: Try the freezer
Got a piece of gum or other gunk stuck to your suede shoes? Try putting them in the freezer! After sitting in the freezer for several hours (in a bag of course, so they’re not directly touching any foods), the stuck-on bits will be easier to chip off.
Cleaning suede shoes may seem intimidating, but with the hacks above, you’ll find that the process can be surprisingly simple. Best of all, you can use products you already have at home!
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