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How to Clean Suede Boots in 4 Easy Steps

A pair of suede boots is an excellent way to add some texture and class to your outfits, but they can look a little dingy over time. 

In this article, we’ll break down exactly how to clean suede boots, plus what to do if they get salt stains during the winter months.

What You’ll Need

  • Suede Brush
  • Suede Eraser
  • Vinegar or Suede Cleaner
  • Clean cloth

Most stains in suede can be removed with a suede brush. If you’re looking to bring your favorite boots back to life, a brush can help. Say you own a pair of light tan boots and they’re looking grey—it might surprise you how much you can restore the natural color and texture with a suede brush. 

Sof Sole Suede and Nubuck Cleaning Brush Kit

This little kit does the job to bring your suede or nubuck shoes back to life. The handle on the brush is sturdy and well placed and the bristles are just the right level of stiffness.

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Even if you plan on giving your boots the full wash, you’ll need a brush to bring out the knap that makes suede special. 

Slight grease stains and more stubborn dirt spots can be rubbed out with a suede eraser. These are just small chunks of crepe rubber. You rub them against the suede and then use the brush to finish the job. 

For harder stains like water, salt, food, wine—or more commonly for us: beer—you might need a cleaning solution. 

We recommend trying the other methods first because liquids should be applied only as a last resort.

For a quick homemade suede cleaner, just open a bottle of distilled white vinegar and apply to the stain. 

How does vinegar clean suede shoes?

White vinegar is effective at breaking down stains on suede without damaging your shoes or changing the color. Lightly spray a clean cloth with vinegar and apply gently over the target areas of your shoe.

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If you want a more targeted product specifically for cleaning suede, there are a few suitable options. 

One of our favorites is Otter Wax Suede Cleaner. It’s easy to spray on, which reduces the risk of saturating the leather and causing an even more unsightly stain than what you started with. 

Otter Wax Suede & Nubuck Cleaner

This is one of my go-to suede boot cleaners---it’s easy to spray on, which means you're less likely to damage the leather and cause an even more unsightly stain than what you started with.

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Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Dry the Boots and Knock Off the Dirt

Moisture is the enemy of suede boots so you want to make sure they’re dry before you kick off the cleaning process.

Use a clean dry cloth to dab the boots and absorb any moisture. If they’re wet inside, stuff them with paper and leave them overnight to dry.

Once dry, grab your boots by the ankles and knock the soles together to remove any dust, dirt, or caked on mud. 

This will loosen up any grime, so you don’t have to gunk up your brush. If you have a spare clean cloth, you can also quickly give your boots a quick once-over to achieve the same result. 

Step 2: Use Your Suede Brush

Suede brush is the first tool you’ll use to try to remove any stains. 

When brushing down your suede boots, only swipe in one direction. You likely won’t damage your boots if you brush at them in every direction, but to restore the knap and get that velvety texture back, you want to only brush one way. 

Are suede boots hard to maintain?

We believe this is a bit of a myth—suede gets an unfair rap. Once you know how to take care of suede boots, caring for them is no higher maintenance than regular leather. By following guides such as this one, scratches can be buffed away and stains can be dealt with.

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After you’ve given them a good brush, check to see if the stains are still there. 

Most of the time, this step is all you need. Suede is more durable than many people think, and a simple brushing will do the trick.

If you still have a stain, move on to…

Step 3: Rub Your Boots with Your Suede Eraser

A suede eraser is a piece of crepe rubber, which will grip the leather much closer than the brush. Dirt stains can be stubborn, so don’t be afraid to put some pressure while rubbing them out. 

You might notice the suede becoming more dull, flat, and grey-looking. Don’t worry, that’s the rubber buffing the dirt out. Once you use the brush, these dull areas will look refreshed and good as new. 

Use the suede eraser on the midsoles, too. This should pill the dirt up, and it’ll fall off easily (or with a little help from a clean cloth or brush). 

If the eraser and brush still haven’t taken care of the stain, it’s time to move to the last resort.

Velasca Ofele

With suede calfskin leather, the Velasca Ofele is my top pick for a suede Chelsea boot. The knap is finer, the leather is sturdier, and the overall construction and style are well worth the cost.

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Step 4: Apply Cleaning Solution to the Stain and Wait

You can either buy suede cleaner, or you can use distilled white vinegar. 

For the vinegar method, just dab some onto the stain and let it sit for six to eight hours. Once it’s soaked for a while, use the eraser and then brush. You should have stain-free boots. 

Don’t mix the vinegar with water as any extra liquid can damage your suede. 

Can dry cleaners clean suede boots?

Yes, because dry cleaners wash your shoes with little or no water, it’s perfectly fine to send your suede boots to a dry cleaner. Just do yourself a favor and read a few reviews first.

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We have a few suede items beyond just our boots, so we have the Otter Wax Suede Cleaner on hand. It’s easy to use because the spray cap allows for easy application and you don’t have to worry about soaking the leather through with vinegar and creating a fresh stain. 

Step 5 (Optional): Spray on Suede Protector

If you’re often spilling on your suede boots, or you want that fresh “out-of-the-box” look for longer, use a weatherproofing spray. 

We like the classic Scotchgard Suede and Nubuck Protector. Just hold the can about 10 inches away from your boots and give them a single spray-on coat. Let them dry for an hour and you’ll have an extra layer of protection from salt and water stains. 

Scotchgard Suede and Nubuck Protector

This is worth having in your locker if you're often spilling on your suede boots, or if you just want to maintain that 'fresh out of the box' look for longer.

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How to Remove Salt Stains from Suede Boots 

To clean salt from your boots, all it takes is a few household items and a bit of patience. You’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • A bowl or basin
  • A rag
  • A toothbrush or suede brush
  • Suede protectant spray (optional but recommended)

Step 1: Mix 

It’s easy to think you’ll need to purchase an expensive suede cleaner. Luckily, a simple solution of vinegar and water will effectively clean the salt stains from suede.

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Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a small basin or bowl. White vinegar is preferred, as any colored vinegar has the potential to stain your boots. 

Using warm water is ideal, as it will help the water and vinegar mix a bit more easily.

Step 2: Wipe 

Once you have your water and vinegar solution, it’s time to apply it to your boots. 

Grab a clean rag or paper towel and dip it into the solution. Gently wipe the boots with the wet rag, focusing on the salt stains.

While you want to dampen your suede boots, try not to get them absolutely soaked. All this does is make the drying process more tedious and increase the likelihood that you warp your boots.

Keep the pressure light, as being overly aggressive can damage the suede.

Step 3: Dry 

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After your boots have been thoroughly wiped down, set them aside to dry. 

Allow them to air dry in a room-temperature area. While it may be tempting to set them next to a heat source to speed up the process, doing so will increase the chances of warping your boots, potentially ruining them.

A bit of patience ensures your boots dry back to their original shape, without any damage to the interior or exterior.

Step 4: Repeat

Now that your boots are dry, it’s time to inspect them again. 

While the vinegar and water solution is very effective at eliminating salt stains, sometimes the salt will cling stubbornly to the suede. In this case, you may need to repeat the process over again.

The best way to do this is to focus exclusively on the areas that are still showing salt. This will keep you from making your boots too damp and will help ensure they dry quickly.

Step 5: Brush 

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If you’ve let your boots dry and they’re no longer showing any salt, you’ll want to give them a good brushing to make them look their best again. Brushing the suede helps restore the nap, making your boots look soft and fresh. 

Suede requires the use of soft, fine bristled brushes. Big, rigid brushes can leave scratches in your suede and won’t properly mesh with the nap. 

If you don’t want to purchase a dedicated instrument for this, you can just use a toothbrush. This should work fine, as toothbrushes are very gentle.

That said, a good suede brush can help make your suede look fresh out of the box again. 

This one from Shacke is a fantastic choice. It features multiple brush heads to help you brush each part of your boots with ease, helping your boots look their best.

Shacke Suede & Nubuck 4-Way Leather Brush Cleaner
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Step 6: Spray

This final step is optional but highly recommended. Once your boots have been thoroughly cleaned and brushed, you may want to spray them with a suede protectant spray.

Because suede is so soft and nappy, it is incredibly vulnerable to the elements. Suede stains easily and can get soaked when worn in the rain. 

Suede protectant sprays offer a degree of waterproofing that helps keep your boots from getting dirty again.

The Scotchgard Suede & Nubuck Protector is our top choice. It works and you can use it safely on all suede and nubuck types .

Scotchgard Suede and Nubuck Protector

This is worth having in your locker if you're often spilling on your suede boots, or if you just want to maintain that 'fresh out of the box' look for longer.

Buy Now at Amazon
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Get Cleaning

Cleaning your suede boots really is that easy. 

It’s a much simpler process than cleaning other kinds of leather boots—no conditioning balm or polishing necessary.

Again, most stains are easily removed with just a simple brushing. 

If that doesn’t do the trick, try a suede eraser and rub out any stubborn dirt stains. 

When you’re fighting against something more permanent, like grease, food, water, or salt stains, you can either make your own vinegar-based cleaning solution and dab it on, or you can use a pre-formulated spray-on cleaner.

When it’s all said and done, you can get out the toughest stains in eight hours or less.

So what are you waiting for? Get cleaning and step out in your good-as-new suede boots.


What can I use to clean my suede boots?

The best way to clean suede boots is with a suede brush. This inexpensive and easy-to-use tool will get out most stains on your suede boots and usually have them looking good as new. If that doesn’t work, try a suede eraser. If your boots are still looking a little rough, use a vinegar-based solution to dab out any stubborn stains.

How do you clean suede shoes without a suede brush?

While a suede brush is the most important tool for cleaning suede, you can also use a clean toothbrush. It’s not as effective, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy solution, most people usually have a spare toothbrush on hand. We do recommend getting a suede brush though as they’re usually available under $10.

How do you clean dirty suede?

You can clean suede in four easy steps: knock the dirt off, use a suede brush to restore the knap, use a suede eraser to buff out grime stains, and finally, use a suede cleaning solution to remove any final stains that might remain. Use the suede brush once more and you’re done.

Can you clean suede with water?

No, it’s not recommended that you use water to clean suede. Vinegar will work in a pinch, but a suede brush and suede cleaner are the best, and you can usually find both for under $20.

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