How To Clean Suede Without A Suede Cleaner?

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Suede is one of the most underutilized fabrics in the world of fashion and styling. It’s warm, durable, and adds a great texture to any outfit. Cleaning suede is, however, a topic that most people shy away from.

Everyone knows that you can use a suede cleaning kit to get your suede shoes or suede jacket to look brand new. And that’s the method that I usually recommend to people.

But there are also certain other methods that clean suede, albeit not to the same degree as a professional suede cleaning kit.

In this article, I will be going over a bunch of different methods you can use to clean suede if you don’t have access to a suede cleaning brush, spray, or eraser:

How To Clean Suede Using Household Items

Here is the five-step process to clean suede with the help of household items instead of professional suede cleaning kits:

1. Use a toothbrush and rub vigorously

Ideally, this should be done by a suede brush (they cost less than $10 on Amazon), but if you are adamant about using a household item, you can go for a toothbrush.

Take a used toothbrush that has fine and soft bristles. Hard bristles tend to harm the nap of the suede. So go for a soft toothbrush and start scrubbing the dirt out of your shoes.

Make sure that you only rub in one direction, that is, the direction in which the suede fibers already flow. This will ensure uniformity and neatness. Rub until most of the scuff marks and dirt are gone.

2. Use a pencil eraser to clean suede surface

Again, this should always be done with a suede eraser (they cost even less than a suede brush), but in emergency cases, you can also do this with a pencil eraser.

Take a sturdy eraser and start rubbing it on the scuff marks and stubborn dirty spots. Remember to only rub in the direction of the flow of the suede.

Also, unlike the previous step, you do not have to rub the pencil eraser all over the shoe. Only use it in the parts that need extra care.

3. Use white vinegar to get rid of stains

Although the first two steps would get rid of the majority of dirt and mud from the suede, they aren’t going to do much in case of food and wine stains.

For getting rid of stains, it is best if you use a proper suede cleaner, but with some shoes, you can also use white vinegar and rubbing alcohol.

Simply take a small microfiber cloth and dip it in white vinegar. Now use this cloth to clean the stain. Rub the affected region until the stain is completely gone.

NOTE: White vinegar, depending on the preservatives added to it, may react with the suede. It would be best to spot test it in a discrete location before working on the stain.

4. Clean the additional parts of the shoe

You see, shoes are more than just their body. When cleaning suede, you also have to think about the sole of the shoe and its lace.

For cleaning laces and the sole of the shoes, you have to use steps 1-3 depending on the severity of the individual case.

The sole of the shoe or boot, depending on the material, can simply be cleaned with a wet cloth. Soles in suede shoes are generally made of either leather or rubber, and water does not react with either material.

For the laces, you may need to dip them in rubbing alcohol for some time.

5. Waterproof the shoe

The final part of the cleaning procedure is not really related to cleaning at all. Instead, it is related to preventing future damage.

Water and suede do not get along with each other, and the proper way to deal with this problem is by using a dedicated suede waterproofing spray. They sell for pretty cheap on Amazon.

But in the spirit of the article, we will be using something else.

Wax. The stuff that candles are made of. Rub some wax all over your suede shoe. Again spot testing is really important here because every company makes wax differently.

Once you rub the wax on your suede boots, wet your fingers and flick a couple of water droplets on an inconspicuous region of the shoe. If the water glides down, you’re good.

If it doesn’t, well then you would have to use a real waterproofing spray.

Cons Of Cleaning Suede Without Suede Cleaner

Now, there are also a bunch of downsides to going for the methods that I mentioned in this guide. Because we’re using household items, there’s always a chance that they ruin your shoes beyond repair.

That’s why I only recommend these methods if you can take the risk of ruining your shoes even further. Only use household cleaning solutions on cheap shoes that you don’t care much about.

When it comes to high-quality and expensive suede items, I would tell you to go for a proper suede cleaning kit. Again, most of them are terrible and can absolutely ruin your shoes.

Therefore, I did the hard work of compiling a list of the best suede cleaning kits that I have personally tested across multiple pairs of shoes. Check that guide out if you are serious about cleaning your suede stuff.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, here is how you clean your suede shoes if you don’t have a proper suede cleaning kit:

  1. Use a toothbrush to get rid of the dirt and the mud from your shoe.
  2. Use a pencil eraser to clean the scuff marks on the suede.
  3. Use white vinegar or rubbing alcohol to get rid of tough stains.
  4. Clean additional parts such as the sole of the shoe and the laces.
  5. Waterproof the spray using wax.

In this article, I tried to give you a balanced perspective about cleaning suede and the implications of using household items to do so.

What I would suggest you do is to go through every method using the concept of the spot test. It would take time and effort and still might not be successful.

Or you can simply buy a suede cleaner (most of them are pretty cheap and under $20) to make your life easier.