Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Cleaning Suede Shoes

How to keep your favorite fall kicks in pristine condition

September 20, 2016 9:00 am

It happens every year without fail: when fall arrives, man reaches for suede.

Not only because nappy leather is most fitting for the transition from summer to fall — what with its soft, cozy texture — but because, weather-wise, autumn is the most optimal time for it. Not too hot, or too cold, and just before the frosty and wet days of winter.

Safe to say suede was made for autumn, and autumn for suede. So it’s best a man knows how to care for that suede.

To find out everything there is to know about cleaning suede, we sat down with Duncan Davis, the CEO and co-founder of Shoe Drop, a Chicago-based startup bringing shoe repair into the digital age. Needless to say, Duncan and his merry band of cobblers and shiners deal with this kinda’ stuff every day.

And lucky for you, suede is quite easy to clean. Says Davis: “First thing about caring for suede: know what you’re getting into. It’s about being proactive, not reactive.” Below, a few tips to help you do just that.

Suede, contrary to what many people think, is a type of leather.
It’s the underside — or reverse side — of calfskin. Lambskin is also commonly used.  And while it seems delicate and porous in nature because of its fuzzy nap, suede is tougher than you think. Even still, Duncan says applying a waterproof spray will protect your new kicks from stains and water. Don’t forget to brush before and after.

Keep your eye on the weather.
This is what Duncan is talking about when he says be proactive. All and any wet days, best to just leave the suede shoes at home.

Use a medium to firm nylon bristle brush to protect the nap of the suede.
When it comes to suede, brushes are your friend. Use a soft to medium bristle brush to sweep away dirt and stains. Use gentle strokes in one direction. The firmer the brush, the more delicate the sweep. When the “fuzzy” part of suede is worn down, there is no way to get that back.

Never spot clean. Clean the whole shoe to keep the color consistent.
In most cases, small stains like water specks can wait. The reason: it’s best to clean the whole shoe at once so the color of the nap stays even and uniform. If you simply can’t wait, a soft gum eraser can be used for a quick touch-up. We recommend the suede cleaning kit from Jason Marks.

For tougher stains, shampoo and wash your shoes.
When the stains and dirt have accumulated, give it a wash. We here at InsideHook recommend Saphir’s Omni’Nettoyant, basically a shampoo ointment for suede. After dry-brushing, apply the shampoo with another brush. Then let it dry in a cool environment, keeping the shoes out of the sun so everything dries evenly. After, brush the shoe with water. After drying for a second time, dry brush again.

Et voila: clean kicks.

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