Everyone knows suede as a cool, stylish leather material, but it can be temperamental when it comes to scuffs, stains, and water marks. So what to do when you get your suede boots or shoes dirty or stained? First, breathe. You’ve got this. It just takes some household items to get your boots and shoes back in shape, clean, and looking good. Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to clean suede leather boots and shoes.

You Will Need:

FOR MOST NEEDS: A soft bristle brush or suede cleaning brush (a toothbrush will work); A clean cloth or bath towel; Newspaper or something else to stuff the boot; Water (for water stains)

FOR TOUGH STAINS AND SCUFFS: A pencil eraser (for tough scuffs); White vinegar (for tough stains)

TO PREVENT FUTURE STAINS: Suede protector; Water proofer if you live in an area with snow

Step By Step: How to Clean Suede Boots & Shoes

1. DRY THE BOOTS OR SHOES: To clean suede boots and shoes, they need to be dry first. If they aren’t already dry, stuff your boots (or shoes) with newspaper—it’ll help keep the boots’ shape while they dry. (Definitely keep them out of direct sunlight.) If the boots are completely saturated with water (oops), remove the insole and place a towel or paper towel inside. Those impatient among us might get crazy with a hair dryer, but just be careful not to overdo it since you can burn the leather.

2. STUFF THE BOOTS OR SHOE: If you haven’t already, stuff each boot or shoe with newspaper or something that serves a similar function so that the boot maintains form while you brush or wet the boot (for water stains).

3. BRUSH TO REMOVE DIRT AND DEBRIS: Using a soft bristled brush, brush gently against dried dirt and scuff marks. Make sure to brush in the same direction, unless you come across tough scuffs, where you may need to brush back and forth to loosen the grain. If that’s the case, make sure to finish by brushing with the grain (in the same direction you were brushing before) to leave consistent brush marks and make everything, well, look good.

4. WIPE DOWN WITH A DRY, CLEAN CLOTH: Following your brush work, wipe the surface with a dry, clean cloth to remove any dust or small particles that stubbornly remain. Just like when you were brushing, make sure to wipe down in the same direction to leave a clean, consistent grain pattern. All good to go? Lucky you, you can skip to step 8. If you still have scuffs or stains, continue reading. (Sorry.)

5. REMOVE TOUGH MARKS WITH A PENCIL ERASER: For scuff marks or dirt that you can’t brush out, use a pencil eraser and rub vigorously back and forth on the area. Finish off by using your brush again and brushing down the grain.

6. REMOVE WATER STAINS BY WETTING THEN DRYING: Water stains are no joke. If water has discolored an area of your boots, wet a bush or clean towel and gently wet the exterior of the boot around the stain. Once done, remove excess water with a dry towel. Stuff the boot with newspaper and let dry overnight.

7. REMOVE TOUGH STAINS AND SALT MARKS WITH WHITE VINEGAR: If your boots and shoes have fallen victim to salt stains or other marks, you can use white vinegar to try and dislodge the stains. Wet a towel or cloth with white vinegar and apply to the stained area. Let the boot dry (stuffed, of course) and then use your brush as you would to remove other marks and revive the grain.

8. APPLY SUEDE PROTECTOR (AND WATER PROOFER IF YOU LIVE IN AN AREA WITH SNOW): Don’t let this all this work be for nothing. It’s time to make sure you should protect them from future damage (and yourself from future work.)

SUEDE PROTECTOR: There are a number of suede protector products available out there, such as Ariat Water and Stain Protectant or Kiwi® Suede Protector, which are usually applied with a spray bottle. Before applying, always test the product first on an inconspicuous spot such as the inner part of the shoe or boot.

After you’ve made sure the suede protector doesn’t ruin your boots, then it’s time to apply. Make sure your boots are dry and cleaned to your liking (or as good as you can get them), and then apply suede protector to all exterior areas of the boot.

WATER PROOFER: If you live in an area where it snows, protecting your boots with a water proofer is a good, if not great, idea, as it helps prevent salt stains. Don’t be scared: The water proofer will darken your boots when first applied which may freak you out, but they will lighten again over time. Keep in mind that water proofer only helps repel water and needs to be reapplied from time to time.

Voilà! Your suede has been revived and you can continue rocking your favorite suede leather footwear once again. You’re welcome.

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