How to Clean Black Suede Shoes

Suede shoes are expensive and have strict maintenance guidelines. This is because the leather used in their manufacture is delicate— so delicate that even water would easily ruin it.

As a result of that, it’s best to opt for a suede polish, a suede brush, as well as some other cleaning tools and practices I’ll further discuss.

If your black suede shoes are stained, like I said earlier, do not use water, use a suede brush to gently rub off the dirt till it disappears.

What’s a suede brush, and why should I use it?

A Suede brush is a special kind of shoe brush manufactured with the delicate nature of suede leather in mind. You shouldn’t use just about any type of brush as it could be too hard for the material.

If you don’t have a suede brush at hand, you could use a soft cloth or a nail polish brush. In other words, the brush shouldn’t be hard.

When you’re brushing, ensure you brush in the direction of the fibers and also avoid scrubbing in a back and forth motion, instead, brush the dirt off the shoe with an outward motion.

Make sure the shoes are dry, otherwise you’ll stand the risk of spreading the dirt around.

Apart from the brush, there are other items required to clean your shoes and make it last. Some of them include;

  • Paper,
  • Eraser
  • Vinegar
  • Bath towel,

Let me explain further


Well, technically, I’m referring to crumpled paper to be exact. Before you even begin to clean the shoes, stuff the insides with a bunch of crumpled paper (newspapers are generally preferred) so as to maintain the shape when you’re cleaning.

It also helps to like, stretch and tighten up the material a bit to make it easier to clean.


Not exactly your conventional eraser but a special type known as suede eraser. If you notice any stain, first ensure the whole thing is dry before gently scrubbing them off with the eraser.

If the stain still persists, feel free to apply more pressure but make sure it’s not in excess. If there’s no suede eraser at hand, you could still use a pencil eraser; a viable alternative but still not as effective as the suede eraser.

Vinegar (white vinegar to be precise)

This formula actually works on more serious and much tougher stains like food, wine, coloring, and pretty much any other stain that the simple scrubbing can’t take care of.

The trick is to soak a clean cloth with some vinegar (ensure the cloth is soft and smooth), gently rub the affected area and wait for it to dry—the stained area has to absorb the vinegar.

Once it’s dry, proceed to scrub the area with your suede brush until the stain disappears. If it doesn’t work, repeat the entire process until you finally get rid of the stubborn stain, don’t worry, the vinegar won’t damage your shoes.

Bath towel

Like I’ve always been saying, ensure the towel you use for cleaning is soft — suede is a delicate material. Also, when you’re rubbing, ensure you rub in the direction of the grain of the suede.

Bath towels are important because they also help remove dust from the material.

As a finishing touch, you could go for a suede spray

Suede sprays not only make your shoes shiny, they also make them waterproof as well as trap dirt which could easily be cleaned off. However, if you’re going for it, make sure you go for quality; quality suede sprays are completely odorless and colorless.

I strongly advise against dunking your shoes in water on purpose, simply because you have the water resistant spray though, after all, there’s only so much it can do.

Let’s get to some common specific stains and how to get rid of them

Removing oil stains from your suede shoes

As soon as the oil drops on the shoe (or as soon as you notice), sprinkle some baby powder or corn starch on the affected area, this is going to absorb it.

Come back to the stain after an hour and then gently brush it off with your suede brush or viable alternative.

Repeat this process until the spot becomes very clean. Please, resist the urge to gently wipe it off with water, I cannot stress this enough, you could end up spreading the stain further.

Removing sticker glue and stains

Use a gum eraser to wipe off any residue. Wipe it off gently and lightly and the whole thing will come off.

Apart from that, you could also go for commercial gum removers but please, be very careful with the type you choose, if it’s too strong, you could end up damaging your precious shoes.

The texture and the surface may end up getting rumbled in the process, to fix this, gently smooth everything out your suede brush.

Removing ink stains from your suede

This one’s a bit tricky, you’re going to need steam for this one. I know I said you should get your suede as far from water as possible, and steam has water, but relax, steam wouldn’t ruin your shoes, in fact, steam helps to lift the fibers of your suede and release dirt.

To achieve this, simply boil water in a kettle and place your shoes over the spot where steam comes out from it. Don’t go too close though. You could also use a steamer.

Okay, back to the ink stain

Gently scrape the affected area with an emery board, and then hold the stained spot over some steam.

Soak a soft cloth with some vinegar and then gently wipe the spot. Make sure the vinegar dries up before wiping

If it doesn’t come off, you could apply some more vinegar or Windex and gently scrub it off with fine grit sandpaper.

Rubbing alcohol also helps remove ink stains. If you’re going to use it, dip a cotton swab in it and gently rub the spot.

You could also spray the area with hair spray because hair spray contains alcohol.

What are the best ways to care for your suede shoes?

  1. Do not clean suede shoes with water

I believe you’ve already seen the importance of this point, which explains why I’ve been stressing it throughout. Water ruins suede by damaging its color and texture.

  1. Use water repellent suede sprays on your shoes

Never step out of the house with your shoes unprotected, anything could happen; it could start raining, someone could splash water on them, you can’t control everything but you can protect yourself.

Suede sprays help trap dirt and repel water, an effect that typically lasts for several months.

  1. Brush it regularly

This is to remove dirt and stains that could either settle on the shoes directly or on the layer created by the spray. It’s important that you do this regularly to prevent the build up and hardening of dirt.

  1. If your black suede shoes start fading, use a black suede dye

Regular cleaning could end up fading the color, to remedy the situation, get a dye specifically for suede shoes and simply follow the instructions.

For stains like mud which a soft brush can’t handle, you could go for a rubber stone or suede eraser. Wipe it gently and then remove any form of eraser or rubber stone residue with the brush.

If you’ve tried all the steps I outlined and the stain doesn’t come off, the stain is in a very large portion of the shoe and you’re unsure about cleaning it yourself, or it’s stained by, well, not your everyday stains like blood, seek help from someone who specializes in leather materials, like a cobbler.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Suede shoes and Nubuck shoes similar?

No, they may look the same but are very different in quality. You see, suede is made from scraping and sanding the insides of leather hides, nubuck on the other hand is crafted by sanding the outsides of leather hides.

Which is better? Suede or Nubuck?

Well, nubuck is much better than suede and it all comes down to the way it’s prepared. Since nubuck is gotten from the outer parts of the leather, it’s generally much tougher and more durable then suede, as well as more expensive.


Suede is a delicate but elegant material that ought to be treated with care. Follow these cleaning/care guidelines and your shoes will thank you.