A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of wearing my suede Sam & Libby boots out after it had rained. I’d been pretty careful with them, avoiding rain and snow and mud, up until this fateful day. My dogs excitedly greeted me after I let them out, jumping to say hello and not bothering in the least to wipe their feet first. To my horror my boots ended up looking like this:
Gorgeous, right? You definitely want to wear these with a pair of brightly colored skinny jeans and a cute cardigan. Or not. I temporarily despaired believing they were ruined and then I thought, “There has to be a way to clean them!” I was right. There is a surprisingly simple way you can clean your suede boots at home with very little expense.
Here’s What You Need:
- Suede Cleaning Kit (or a soft brush that has no chemical residue. I’d personally use one I’d never used before)
- Suede/Leather Water Protector
- Soft Toothbrush*
- NON-BLEACH All-Purpose Cleaner (409, Simply Green, Baking Soda & Vinegar mix, or similar)*
- Paper towels or a cleaning rag*
Wait for the mud to dry. This seems almost counter-intuitive. It’s mud! Get it up as soon as possible! But suede is much easier to dry brush. It’s nearly impossible to wipe clean. Not to mention if you wipe it clean, you could press the mud deeper into the fabric, which will just cause problems later. 24 – 48 hours should be plenty of time.
- Stuff your boots. If your boots are floppy and don’t hold shape well (which is the case with most suede boots, I think), they’ll be easier to clean if you stuff them with newspaper, shopping bags, fabric scraps… whatever you have handy. After this, I actually started storing my boots stuffed as well, to help lower the wear and tear on the fabric.
- Lightly brush the mud off with your soft brush. It came off easier than I expected. In fact, it only took a couple of minutes for each shoe. Even the spots of dog drool (TMI?) were brushed off with no problem. If you have breathing problems or allergies, you may want to wear a mask while doing this, because it creates a fairly impressive dust cloud. Also, be prepared to sweep or vacuum after finishing this step. Dirt will fly everywhere.
A word of caution: don’t brush too hard. You can ruin the nap on your suede. This should take no more elbow grease than brushing something like flour off your jeans. Short quick strokes in multiple directions seem to work the best.
At this point your boots should be clean, though the nap of the suede may look distressed as if it’s been picked out. This is where purchasing the suede cleaning kit is a good idea!
Grab the thing that looks like a giant soft eraser out of the suede cleaning kit. It feels like soft rubber and it flakes off very easily. Take it and rub it over your boot. There doesn’t seem to be one right way to do it, though multiple directions (easiest to achieve with circular motions while rotating your boot), yields better results. This magical eraser restores your suede almost to brand new, causing the previously picked out nap to bunch up and soften again. It’s not a perfect fix as you can tell from my pictures, but it’s pretty darn close.
- Optional: use an old toothbrush and your NON-BLEACH all-purpose cleaner to clean the sole of your boot. You’ll want to apply the cleaner directly to the brush itself and scrub to avoid getting any part of your boot wet with cleaner. If your sole is thin and you’re worried you’ll get cleaner on the suede you could simply dry brush it as well, but it likely won’t get as shiny clean as if you use some sort of cleaner. Do yourself a favor and avoid bleach based cleaners just in case your sole is made from rubber. Chlorine can cause rubber to harden, crack, and crumble, and we’re here to save our boots, not ruin them! Once you’ve finished scrubbing use a paper towel or cleaning cloth to wipe the sole dry.
- Apply a water proofing agent. Wally World sells several in their shoe section with formulas specifically for leather and suede and some that are all-purpose. I picked up an all-purpose one with intent to use it on my Chucks, as well. Apply 1 – 3 thin coats, allowing a couple of minutes of drying time between each coat. Your boots should not feel wet at all after using the spray; the best description I can give is that they should feel “dusted” with cleaner. These sprays will help prevent stains in the future.
- Sit back and relax. That’s it. You’re done. Even as bad as my boots looked the entire process took me maybe 15 minutes in total.