Many people love the appearance of suede. It’s a type of leather from the underside of animal skin and looks great on a lot of different types of shoes. It’s softer and thinner than full-grain leather and that begs the question, how can it be washed?
It is not recommended that you wash suede in the washing machine. When they become wet, suede shoes can lose their colour and the material becomes stiffer. Along with this, water can also spot stain your suede shoes and can damage the seams.
Washing Suede in a Washing Machine: Steps
While not recommended, you can still wash suede shoes in a washing machine. This should only be done very rarely as it will quickly degrade the shoe. If you wanted to run the risk then you can follow these steps.
Detergent – There are detergents available that are specifically designed for leather and suede. It’s best to use this over any regular detergent. You also shouldn’t use any fabric softener.
Setting – Set your washing machine for a slow spin and low-temperature setting. If it has a ‘hand wash’ setting then choose that. If not, select the setting which would be most gentle.
Drying – You can wrap the shoes in a towel to try and absorb as much moisture as quickly as possible. They should be air-dried, which means avoiding a tumble dryer.
How to Clean Suede Shoes: The Right Way
It’s always going to be the best idea to hand wash suede shoes. Here we look at the steps you should take and how you should try and tackle those stubborn stains.
1. Let them Dry
If your shoes are a little muddy or dirty then you should let them dry completely. If you don’t do this, then you could simply push the mud around and make it worse. Dried suede shoes will be much easier to clean.
2. Brush them
Part of the reason you need them to dry is that the first stage of the cleaning process is brushing them. There are brushes specifically made for suede which can be a good investment. If you don’t have one of these then a similar soft brush would do, such as a toothbrush.
You should lightly brush the shoe and it’s important to do it with the grain to maintain its appearance. If you’re struggling to get rid of the stain then you can apply a little more pressure but it’s important not to scrub too hard and damage the shoe.
3. Use a Rubber
For those stubborn stains, a rubber can help to lift them up and remove them. As with brushes, you can actually buy suede rubbers but a regular one that you use for a pencil would work just fine. You just want to ensure that the rubber you’re using is clean.
As with the brush, it’s important to get the right amount of pressure. You can be a little more forceful than you were with the brush but it’s a good idea to constantly check your progress to see if it’s working or if you’re damaging the suede.
4. White Vinegar
When using any sort of liquid solution with suede, you want to use as little you can get away with. For this step, it’s best to cover a couple of your fingers with a clean cloth and then rub it gently onto your suede back and forth with the grain.
White vinegar is an excellent household cleaner as it’s able to break down particles which will then easily lift off the shoe. With it being quite acidic, you don’t want to use too much of it. Also, don’t worry about it changing the colour as this should return once it dries.
5. Extra Cleaning
Hopefully, the above steps have given you the finish that you want. If not, then there are a few more things that you can try. You should always be careful with any cleaning solution as you may ruin the shoe if you’re too aggressive.
Steam – Hot steam can help to loosen up a stain. You can use an iron, handheld steamer or kettle to do this. Simply hold the shoes over the steam and then use your brush to get rid of the stain. Be mindful of your shoes not getting too wet.
Soap – Good old soap and water can do the trick too. As you can probably guess, again should use the bare minimum of water. It’s actually a good idea to mix the soap and water together and just use the suds at the top rather than the water itself.
Baking soda – If you have liquid stains, then baking soda can be highly effective at lifting them off. It’s highly absorbent and you can rub these onto your shoe and leave them overnight. It should hopefully absorb the stain and leave you with a clean shoe.
Suede cleaner – Another option is to get a dedicated suede cleaner which more or less does the same job as soap and water. These usually aren’t great at removing dirt but can lift off stains and help to restore your shoe to its original appearance.
There is a saying that prevention is better and a cure, and that can be true of your suede shoes. It’s a great idea to buy a suede protector spray that you can put onto your suede shoes. There are many available and are highly effective.
They work by giving your shoes a clear waterproof coating. They aren’t completely effective but they can significantly reduce the risk of stains and problems caused by rain. You can prevent needing to do the steps above and make your life a lot easier.
Never Put in the Washing Machine
Even though you technically can with the steps we looked at above, we’d strongly advise that you avoid using a washing machine. Clean them by hand using the methods we’ve looked at and buy yourself a protector spray for the future.