How to clean and care for suede leather shoes

How to Clean and Care for Suede Shoes

Suede shoes have always had a little something extra to offer, being in casual or formal shoes, the distinct soft feel and finish adds that little bit of sophistication. People are often discouraged from investing in a good pair of suede shoes because of the misconception that they are difficult to care for. Although it may be true that suede may be more prone to stains, water damage and wear compared to traditional leather shoes, a little care and maintenance will mean that you can enjoy them and keep them looking luxurious for just as long.

Although the Rana Cheikha brand does not currently carry full-on suede shoes, the incorporation of suede details is quite often used to enhance the models and give them a little something extra special. You can see this in the likes of the Rai Calf Boot, Teir Block Heel and Dinieh 5cm Block Heel (shown in the main article image). And because I don’t want anyone discouraged from the idea of suede, I will be taking you through the characteristics of suede shoes and how to best take care of them so that you can step into any pair with full confidence!
RANA CHEIKHA Rai Calf Boot Chocolate Brown Suede Calfskin Leather
How to clean and care for suede leather shoes

Now let’s get started with the basics.
What is suede?

Suede is leather that has been made by buffing the under-layer of leather. This creates very fine fibers that give softness and flexibility. The main characteristics are its:

  1. soft and supple feel,
  2. napped surface giving it a unique velvet-like texture,
  3. and a matte or brushed finish.

Suede is very versatile and can be used for most types of shoes – being loafers, boots, oxfords, sneakers or high heels. The most important aspect in owning a suede pair is to make sure they are properly cared for in order to keep them looking great for years.

Next, let’s review the most common misconceptions that may discourage you from settling on a suede pair, and finally get you to see the light!

  1. “Water will ruin suede.”
    While it can cause stains, proper care and drying techniques can recover suede from water damage.
  2. “Suede cannot be cleaned”
    The used of effective methods and special products designed for suede can restore its form.
  3. "Suede cannot be worn in wet conditions.”
    Although not the best option, using waterproofing sprays and maintenance can give the flexibility to wear suede in wet conditions.
  4. “Suede brushes cause damage to the material.”
    These special brushes actually help to maintain the texture of suede, remove dirt and bring life back to it.
  5. “Suede should not be exposed to sunlight.”
    Prolonged exposure will ruin suede (like other forms of leather), but moderate exposure will not cause damage.
  6. “Suede cannot be restored once damaged.”
    While it might be more challenging, proper cleaning techniques can fix scuffs, stains and scratches on suede.

    And now to the good stuff - the cleaning process!

    Items that you will need to clean and care for suede shoes:

    1. suede brush
    2. soft cloth / sponge
    3. mild detergent / suede cleaner
    4. suede protector spray

    Before cleaning, always keep in mind:

    1. to test any products or techniques in a small internal area of the shoe,
    2. remove any accessories or laces and clean separately,
    3. and avoid using an excess of water or harsh cleaning products.

    The most useful cleaning and maintenance techniques to use:

    1. Brushing:
      Brush to remove surface dirt in a back-and-forth motion to lift loose dirt without damaging the suede.
      I recommend: the Fiamme Suede and Nubuck Cleaning Kit, or the Jason Markk Suede Cleaning Kit (both paid links).

    1. Suede Eraser:
      Without applying too much pressure, use a suede eraser to focus of tougher stains and marks.
      I recommend: one of the kits above as they also conveniently come with a suede eraser!
    2. Talcum powder:
      Use talcum powder (like baby powder) to address oil or grease stains by applying a small amount on the affected area and letting it sit for several hours before gently brushing the powder away with the suede brush.
    3. Damp blotting:
      Use a clean cloth dampened with water gently to blot the area (do not rub!), and leave the suede to dry. Once it has dried, brush the area with a suede brush.
      How to clean and care for suede leather shoes
    4. Colour restoration:
      For color fading (that may be due to exposure to sunlight or wear) use a suede dye or suede colour restorer.
      I recommend: the Pedag Suede Color Restorer that is neutral and colourless,
      or the Fiebing's Black Suede Dye for black (both paid links).

    Post-cleaning drying is crucial to ensure the suede restores its appearance and that you don’t actually cause additional damage to the suede.

    What to keep in mind during suede cleaning and maintenance?

    1. Stuff your shoes with shoe paper or newspaper in order to maintain the shape of the shoes and to absorb excess moisture.
      How to clean and care for suede leather shoes
    2. It is best to air dry your shoes in a well-ventilated area that is free of moisture and humidity and away from direct sunlight. It is especially important to avoid using strong or direct heat sources (such as hair dryers, radiators or direct sunlight) that can cause the suede to stiffen or even crack.
    3. It is important to give the suede enough time to dry completely. Wearing damp suede can cause stretching and not drying through can although lead to mold or mildew growth.

    As always, constant maintenance is the best way to care for your shoes. They are small and simple tasks, but ones that can make a big difference in the long run.

    Let’s go through a few simple ones important in the maintenance of suede shoes:

    1. Apply suede protectors periodically, this helps to create a barrier against regular moisture, stains and dirt.
      I recommend: the Cadillac Shield Water and Stain, or the Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Proof Waterproofing (both paid links).
    2. Brush and buff with a suede brush after every wear, and especially when your suede shoes have been exposed to dirt and dust. 
      How to clean and care for suede leather shoes
    3. Properly  store suede shoes in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture in a breathable shoe bag or box. 

    The key take-away is that suede shoes should not be feared, and that a little pro-active care and maintenance can go a long way. The tips mentioned for cleaning, drying, restoring and maintaining are all simple yet crucial in making sure your suede investments stay looking great! 

    And as always, you can always refer to our other cleaning and maintenance guides that include Your Shoe Care Guide: A Quick Shoe Uplift Using Shoe Cream or The Proper Way to Polish Your Shoes for more in-depth cleaning and care.

    Signing-off: The Shoe Advisor 
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