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Caring for Suede and Leather Footwear


Suede footwear is expensive and difficult to care for. Suede is one of the few materials which cannot be cleaned successfully with water. In fact, weather can transform the smooth, velvety surface into one that is harsh and uneven.

These simple ideas will help to extend the life of suede boots. Never wear them in the rain or snow. A light application of silicon spray before wearing them for the first time will help prevent water from doing too much damage. After spraying, dry the boots away from direct heat, which may stiffen and crack the suede. After they are completely dry, restore the nap by gently rubbing with fine sandpaper or an emery board.

The silicon spray will also help protect against soil build up and rock salt stains. Loose dirt should be removed after every wearing by brushing the boots with a dry sponge, towel, gum eraser or suede brush. Fresh rock salt stains should also be removed before they have a chance to set. Dab the stain with a little clear water.

Grease stains can be removed by applying a bit of dry cleaning solvent mixed with an absorbent such as fuller's earth or sawdust. Never use a dry cleaning solvent alone, for it will leave rings and spots that cannot be removed. And even when used with an absorbent, dry cleaning solvent, should be used very cautiously. Solvents may remove color from suede, for the color is only on the surface. Always test the solvent mixture first on a tiny inconspicuous area of the shoe.

It may be best to have suede boots professionally cleaned by a reputable suede cleaning establishment. Resist the temptation to wear new footwear until you have polished them first with a stain-repellent product or plain shoe polish.

To remove salt stains from leather shoes and winter boots, wipe them with a solution of 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

To cover ugly scuff marks on leather, use a matching color in acrylic paint, indelible felt marker, or crayon.

Remove light scuff marks with an art-gum eraser.

For a speedy clean and shine on patent leather, rub a minute amount of petroleum jelly over your shoes and buff or use a spray glass cleaner.

Leather footwear should be aired out after every wearing, and periodically sprayed inside with a disinfectant or clothes deodorizer. Store them in soft cloth or tissue paper, never in plastic bags. Cornell Cooperative Extension Yates Association


By Gabriel (Guest Post) 10/24/2004

I tried to clean a spot off a pair of suede shoes with white vinegar, and it ended up making a ring around the spot. Is there anything I can do?

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By missy (Guest Post) 11/17/2004

can anyone tell me how to remove ink from a suede red couch its new and my 8 year old got some ink on it i want to cry please help

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By Susan Sanders-Kinzel 9 2,498 11/17/2004

I'd try taking some rubbing alcohol or vodka and dab it on the ink spot to see if it starts coming off. It should remove it but go slow and carefully because you don't want to take out the red dye, too. Then put some corn meal and rub it in where you worked on the spot. Brush out the corn meal and hopefully your couch will be fine.

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By renee (Guest Post) 11/24/2004

I have salt stains on a pair of my favorite black suede boots. How do I go about restoring them? I thought that I could get them dye black and it would cover the stains? Any suggestions?

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By Susan Sanders-Kinzel 9 2,498 11/24/2004

Hi Renee,
We posted this as a Reader's Request:


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By Sara (Guest Post) 01/06/2005

I wore my new suede boots out, and it started to snow without any warning. By accident my friend stepped on my boots. What can I do to clean them?

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By nicole (Guest Post) 01/26/2005

I have a black spot on my new suede skirt which I believe came from water while in the restroom how can I remove it. Any suggestions

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By laurel (Guest Post) 07/11/2005

what will clean it

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By (Guest Post) 11/26/2005

i have dirt on my timberland boots...suede.... there are black spots all over

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By Susan Sanders-Kinzel 9 2,498 11/26/2005

Whenever you have dirt or mud, make sure you let it dry thoroughly, then it should brush out. If there is still a stain, use corn starch, rub it in, let it sit for a few minutes and brush it out.

If you brush wet dirt or mud, it will rub it in and make it worse.
Susan from ThriftyFun

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By (Guest Post) 02/26/2006

Got salt and slush on a pair of good suede shoes. Let them dry off but by then, they were well-marked with the salt. Tried using Kiwi Suede Cleaner but got rings around the spots and turned the salt lines hard. Is there ANYTHING I can do to make these shoes look good again? If I can't, can a cobbler do it?

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By Janine (Guest Post) 04/18/2006

I have a pair of expensive light tan suede boots and they have seen better days and have various minor marks etc. I wanted to know if I could dye them a darker colour navy or black?

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By Sylvie kelly (Guest Post) 05/28/2006

how can i get guiness stains off tan leather shoes

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By danielle (Guest Post) 11/25/2006

this lil boy i babysit marked my tan suede boots with a green do i get it out?

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By Danielle 1 02/05/2007

i have a spot of hennesey on my timbs, how can i get it out???

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By (Guest Post) 08/26/2007


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By Kingsley (Guest Post) 10/01/2008

I had the most stubborn spot on LL Bean comfort mocs (buckskin) Magical solution for me was about 5' away. Windex Spray with vinegar Multi-Surface.
Two or three spritzes, wipe with cloth. Let dry.
While drying, I used a suede brush. Maybe not necessary. When dried, not a trace of the spot nor any stain. Magic.(quote)
Suede might be a little different, but a couple of spritzes of Windex with vinegar worth a try. Spot test it in a more obscure area.

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