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How to Clean Suede Boots in 4 Easy Steps

William Barton
Expertise:

Boots, Leather, Heritage Fashion, Denim, Workwear

William founded BootSpy in 2020 with a simple mission: test and review popular men’s boots and give a real, honest opinion. Since then, we've welcomed over 5 million readers on our boot reviews and boot care guides. Reach out to him for your own personalized boot recommendation at william@bootspy.com. Or join 50,000+ subscribers on the BootSpy YouTube channel, or send him a message on the BootSpy Instagram. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Mar 15, 2024
6 min read

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. 

Plus, many folks are actually afraid to clean suede because they’re convinced they’ll end up ruining it.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry.

In this article, I’ll explain 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 simply with a suede brush, and it can also work wonders when it comes to general cleaning and maintenance, if your boots are starting to look tired but aren’t necessarily stained.

For more stubborn dirt spots and slight grease stains, you’ll need 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. 

And, for harder stains like water, salt, food, or beer, you might need a cleaning solution (but just note this is a last resort).

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. 

Step-by-Step Instructions for Cleaning Suede Boots

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 bone 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. 

Step 2: Use Your Suede Brush

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

Only swipe in one direction while you brush. While you likely won’t damage your boots if you brush them in different directions, keeping each stroke in the same direction will help restore the knap and get that velvety texture back. 

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

I use the brush from my Sof Sole Suede and Nubuck Cleaning Kit, and it works wonders.

If you find boots are still stained after brushing, a suede eraser is the next step.

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.

Check Price

Step 3: Rub Your Boots with Your Suede Eraser

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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 with the eraser. 

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.

Step 4: Apply Cleaning Solution to the Stain and Wait

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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.

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

I definitely recommend Otter Wax Suede Cleaner if you do go the suede cleaner route. 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 potentially creating a fresh stain. 

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 5 (Optional): Spray on Suede Protector

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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.

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

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

Note: 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.

After your boots have been thoroughly wiped down, set them aside to dry. Once they’re fully dried, assess them and repeat the process as necessary. 

Once the salt stain is fully removed, give your boots a good brushing to make them look their best again, and spray with a suede protector if you so desire.

Conclusion

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, but for tougher stains, a suede eraser or cleaning solution will do the trick. 

FAQs

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. I do recommend getting a suede brush, though, as they’re usually available for 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 often best.

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