How to Clean Water Stains Off Suede Shoes and Boots

Stepped onto rock with brown suede shoe on
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I really love the elegant appearance and soft touch of my suede shoes, but I quickly learned that they are notorious for collecting water stains. So I wondered: how can I clean off water stains from my suede shoes?

I did some research to establish how to remove the unavoidable water stains from my favorite shoes. Soon I learned that removing the stains is a simple DIY task. Apparently, all that’s needed is to have dedicated suede brush. Then, gently rub the stain using the brush in one direction until the stain disappears.

True, suede shoes pick up stains easier than other shoes due to their porosity. But for those of us who are die-hard fans of suede shoes, nothing can put off from wearing, or even buying these comfy shoes. Knowing how to clean off these blemishes will make your shoes remain spotless, without blemish.  

One single brown suede shoe

Simple steps to managing suede shoes

Suede shoes are made from animal skin just like regular leather. The suede material is extracted from the underside of the animal skin. Lambskin is the preferred skin for making suede material because of its tender fiber content. Other animal skins used are from goat, calf, and deer. This makes for a soft, thin and pliable type of material. Due to its soft velvety texture, it easily becomes dirty and stained by liquids. We love suede shoes so how then do we manage this delicate yet fashionable shoes?

Common types of suede shoe problems:

  • Stains: Water, Alcohol, Blood, Oil
  • Dirt: Dust, Mud
  • Scruffs
  • Scratches

Water stains:

Keeping suede shoes from getting water stains is next to impossible. We find water at every corner, especially during the wet and rainy season. Staining of suede by water is a common occurrence, and almost all of us have experienced this. Water leaves ugly stains on the shoes and also hardens the shoes making the shoe lose its shape. You can, however, fix this in a few easy steps. Now then let us do the fixing.

A pair of blue suede shoes on a hardwood floor

Step 1

Gather the following items:

  • A small bowl of water.
  • A suede brush. Most shoes will come packed with one in a kit.
  • A clean absorbent cloth or a sponge.
  • Shoe trees or wads of dry and clean non-colored paper.
  • A can of suede protector spray.

Step 2

  • Dry the shoes. The sooner the shoes are dry, the sooner you can start cleaning them.

Step 3

  • Confirm the shoes are dry. If they are, proceed to the next point.
  • Brush gently in one direction using the suede brush to rid them off of any dirt that the shoes may be having.
  • Repeat the brushing until you notice a cleaner look on the shoe.

Step 4

  • Take a little water in a bowl.
  • Apply a light coat of water on the shoes using the brush. Remember to keep the motions in one direction. Too much water can discolor the shoes, put just enough water to remove the stains.
  • Soak up any excess water using a clean cloth or spongy material.
  • Repeat the dubbing until you can see no more water stains and the suede material is evenly wet.

Step 5

  • Stuff the shoe trees or wads of clean and dry non-colored paper on the inside of each shoe. This step helps in ensuring the shoe is restored to its original shape.
  • Now place the shoes on a clean surface to dry. Preferably outdoors or in a well-ventilated space.
  • Once the shoes are dry, brush the shoes again, moving the brush in one direction. Doing this will give the suede shoes a brilliant restored look.

Step 6

  • Spray a layer of suede protector over your shoes. The protector creates a film like a layer that keeps the shoes from soaking in liquids.
  • Your suede shoes should now be restored and ready for you to wear.
Girl standing on log wearing pink suede shoes

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the best brand of suede cleaner I can use?

While you will find many brands of suede cleaners at the store, using water for cleaning your suede shoes is the best approach. Water has no chemicals and is well proven for cleaning most grime from suede accessories. You will find there are many readily available suede cleaning remedies found in the home. All you need is to know the right steps.

How do I get rid of blood stains on my suede shoes?

To clean blood stains off your suede shoes you will need peroxide and some cotton balls. Soak the cotton balls in peroxide and dab at the stain until it clears. You may then brush the whole shoe to get an even look.

How often do I need to use the suede protector?

I recommend you spray the shoes when they are new before you put them on. You can after that spray them each time you clean them.

Which is the best protector spray available in the market?

Silicone based protector sprays are the best to use. They build a tight film on the suede surface keeping liquids from soaking into the suede. This spray may, however, give your shoes a slightly darker look. The protector spray should be used evenly and in small quantity.

A pair of brown suede hiking shoes

I went to the beach in my suede shoes, and they now have salt on them. What can I do?

Take a soft cloth or towel, pour a small amount of vinegar on it and then let it dry. Once the vinegar has dried, rub the area thoroughly with a suede brush. The salt lines should clear. Now take a look to make sure the whole shoe looks the same. If it does not, brush the entire shoe to create a seamless look. Brush in motions towards one direction only.

Could I use a nail brush in place of the suede brush?

Yes, a nail brush could do. However, it is best to get a suede brush.

I have an old pair of suede shoes that have stains on them. I haven’t worn them for a long time, they’ve just been stored away; can they be revived?

Most suede-like leathers can be revived with the correct treatment. If the shoes are not damaged in any other manner but have only dry stains, you can revive them.

Normal dry stains can be removed using steel wool. You will need to rub the steel wool on the dry stains. You may need to rub hard to get the stains off and then on the entire shoe to get an even look when done. But do this very carefully, as rubbing too hard with steel wool can damage the suede permanently.

Each time I keep my suede shoes in my wardrobe, they become moldy. Help me, how do I make sure they do not get moldy?

When storing your suede shoes, keep them wrapped in tissue paper and in a shoe box. Avoid storing them in humid places and under direct light. Light discolors shoes and humidity will make them moldy.