How to clean suede shoes

By mczoot · Dec 12, 2014 · ·
  1. mczoot
    Hey everyone -

    As someone who wears a lot of suede Dunks and Janoskis, I know that it can be difficult to clean suede once it's gotten dirty at all. I just wanted to share my quick tips on how to keep your suede kicks looking clean.

    What you'll need:

    1. A suede/nubuck eraser

    One like this is great, and they can be found at most drug stores (I get mine at Bartells/Walgreens)

    2. A soft-bristled brush

    You can get a suede-cleaning kit from Kiwi, but the bristles on those are a little rough. I normally opt for one of the two from Jason Markk.



    3. Patience (and a little cleaning solution or magic eraser for the final steps)

    I want to start by stating the most important aspect of cleaning suede shoes. Suede and water do NOT mix. Despite the claims that Jason Markk is safe for cleaning all shoe materials, you’ll want to avoid getting liquid anywhere near suede. Once suede has gotten wet, it is extremely difficult to recover the natural nap of the suede, and the strands tend to stay matted down, leaving what appears to be discoloration in the material. As a result, it’s always best to try to clean suede shoes by utilizing a simple brush and eraser combination. There are also a couple products that can be used to do preventative care against dirt and water exposure.

    If the shoes you want to clean have been worn a handful of times, or have subjected to a dusty environment, I usually start by softly brushing the entirety of the shoe with a soft-bristled suede brush. This helps remove any dirt and dust that could have accumulated on the shoe, while also helping to determine where any tougher dirt/stain spots may have stuck into the nap of the suede. If your brush is really dirty after this step, make sure to clean it before moving on to prevent rubbing the dirt back into the suede.

    Once you’ve identified areas that need a bit more care, grab your suede/nubuck eraser. Use the eraser to lightly brush the dirty area back and forth. Don’t rub too hard, as you can damage the suede with excess friction. The porous eraser should begin to pull up dirt/dust from the suede. After a few seconds of brushing using the eraser, grab your bristled brush again, and brush the cleaned area to revive the nap of the suede. If there is still dirt present, give it another go with the eraser, followed by the brush again.

    It’s important to clean suede using this method as soon as you notice stains. If you wait too long (just like any other clothing), the stain will eventually set, and become far more difficult to remove. After removing stains, I like to use some sort of stain/water protective spray to prevent additional stains from occurring. If possible, its best to use these sprays before you plan on wearing your kicks, because that’s generally when they’re at their cleanest. It is very important to apply these sprays in thin layers/coats, to avoid soaking the suede. The last thing you want to do is cause damage to the suede while trying to prevent it. Try the sprays on some beaters first to make sure you can lay down thin layers. If you don’t want to risk doing it on your own, many cobblers can do it for cheap with some industrial-strength products that leave a longer-lasting water/stain-proof effect.

    Protective sprays I've tried:



    - Jason Markk also makes a Repel spray now, but I haven't tried it yet

    Wrap up the cleaning job by taking some cleaning solution (like Jason Markk), magic erasers, or regular soap and water to the midsoles and outsoles of the shoes, and your job is done!

    Thanks for taking the time to read! Hope this helps some people extend the life of their well-loved kicks.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. k8e_sproule
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 7, 2018
    I have a pair of suede af1 "the force is female" edition on it's way; this is exactly what I needed! Gotta keep 'em fresh!!


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  1. NCtwin
    A few things:

    - The Jason Markk standard brush is NOT recommend for suede. The bristles are way too hard and can damage the suede. Use the Premium Brush that has soft hog bristles or the brush that comes with their Suede Kit. They actually just dropped a foam that works great for suede. It has solution and water already mixed in, so no more water is needed to clean the shoe.

    - Suede can be wet and cleaned with JM, but it takes careful attention when doing so. Wetting suede will mat the suede down, yes, but you can bring the nap back by brushing the suede with the Premium Brush as it dries. The problem that people have is that they will wet suede, let it dry, and then wonder what happened. While the suede is wet, the fibers can still be manipulated. That's why brushing at this time is VERY important. When it dries, it'll be as soft as before you started.

    - Be aware that colored suede bleeds. With this being said, it's possible that your shoe may be a little lighter after cleaning.