Q & Answer: How To Clean Suede Shoes

March 5, 2015

Q & Answer: How to Clean Suede Shoes

Eric writes: I have an oil stain on some suede oxfords. Happened when I accidentally dropped some food on them. What do you recommend for cleaning the spot? The shoes are dark brown, and I’m sure most people wouldn’t notice the damage, but it bothers me just the same. Any advice?

That’s tough. The usual way to clean suede shoes involves brushing them down with a specialized suede brush, then do any necessary touch-ups with a suede eraser. You can get these products through Woodlore, Allen Edmonds, or your local shoe repair shop. They’re effective and affordable, but if you want to spend a little more money, our advertiser The Hanger Project sells some nicer looking products. 

Those only take care of superficial stains, however. Like what you might get from dirt. For more serious stains, such as what you have, you can try a three-stage approach. 

First, brush your shoes down with a suede brush and eraser. Then mix together a solution with equal parts water and Saphir’s Omni Nettoyanat Shampoo. Brush this onto your shoes until you get a nice, rich lather, then rinse it off by brushing your shoes down with pure water. 

Once done, stuff your shoes with crumpled newspaper and let them dry for a day or two. You can restore the nap with a suede brush, a crepe brush, or even an old toothbrush. 

If that still doesn’t work, try putting some kind of absorbent powder on the stain, such as baking soda, talcum powder, or Terre de Sommieres. People have reported mixed results, but this is essentially your last ditch effort. 

Oil stains are hard to get out of anything – cotton, wool, or leather. To help prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future, spray your suede shoes down with some kind of protector. I use Allen Edmonds’ Waterproofer, but have also heard good things about Tarrago. Only use this on suede, however, and spray about once a year or after ever washing. 

In the end, if you’re especially clumsy, you can always switch to work boots. Oil stains in those cases are called patinas. 

(photo via NOBD)