How to Get Stains Out of Leather And Suede Shoes

A good pair of leather or suede boots should be a staple in every woman’s closet. Whether you’re wearing those cute, suede ankle booties, or prefer to turn heads with a pair of knee-high leather boots, suede and leather footwear is a must-have!

However, authentic leather and suede shoes are expensive and notoriously difficult to clean. Who wants to spend all that money on an expensive pair of boots when they’ll only get dirty and ruined after a few outings? Many women worry they’ll destroy their leather and suede shoes unless they pay to have them professionally cleaned. Don’t worry! When it comes to cleaning suede and leather shoes, there are actually some really simple tricks that will have your footwear looking as good as new!

You read that correctly! You can actually clean leather and suede quite easily and keep your stunning footwear looking its best for years to come! Use the following 5 methods to keep your footwear looking pristine!

Make sure you check out this post on how to wear jeans with boots!


Method # 1 | Removing Dirt and Scuffs

Suede has a softer grain, while leather is tough and susceptible to scratches. This means you are going to want to invest in a good suede or leather brush. Make sure your shoes are dry before you start cleaning them! Both materials are susceptible to water damage, so cleaning simple dirt marks and scuffs will work best when the shoes are dry.

Simply take your brush and lightly brush away any dirt or dust that has built up on the surface. Avoid using a back and forward brushing motion, as it can lead to scratching. Instead, you should brush in the same direction. Brushing in one direction may take a little bit more time, but it is worth it!

If you’re dealing with some really stubborn dirt, try scraping the surface layer off with something a little sturdier. You can use a butter knife, but try your best to avoid scratching at the actual leather or suede.
Bonus tip: a white eraser will actually loosen up some of the most stubborn scuffs!

Killer Brown Boots, Fashion Blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a camel sweater dress by Nordstrom Signature with a Valentino waist belt and brown Paris Texas croc-embossed boots in Telluride, CO, Get Stains Out of Leather and Suede Shoes

Method #2 | Removing Stubborn Water Stains

Water stains are the worst! If your leather or suede shoes have annoying water stains, you should first start by making sure you have cleaned the dirt and dust off the surface of the shoe. Then take your brush and apply a light coat of water across the surface of the shoe. While water can ruin leather and suede, if you use it properly, it can be used to remove water stains. After the entire shoe is evenly and lightly covered in water, you can use a dry cloth to gently dab the surface until it is evenly wet and the water stains are no longer visible.

Now it’s time to let your footwear dry the proper way. Put scrunched up and dry paper inside the shoes (avoid inky newspaper). If you have a shoetree, this will work better than paper. You want the shoe to retain its shape as it dries. Let your shoes dry in a well-ventilated spot that does not get hit with direct sunlight.

Vince Camuto Sale, Fashion blogger Erin busbee of wearing the Modesie Knee High Boots from Vince Camuto, carrying the robin tote from Vince Camuto wearing white jeans and camel sweater in Santa Fe, NM

Method #3 | Removing Unknown Stains

Unknown stains can be pretty intimidating! Was it that wine spill, or did you step in something gross? To remove these stains use a simple nail brush to scrub the shoe with warm water. If the stain is still wet, you can try to soak some of it up with cornstarch and give it a proper cleaning the next day.

If you suspect the stain might be ink, you can try tackling it with a light-grain piece of sandpaper. You want to use this method as a last resort, as it will likely scratch the suede or leather.

Stepping in chewing gum is gross, but don’t worry, you don’t have to let it ruin your shoes! One of the easiest ways to remove gum stains is to put the shoe in the freezer. Let it sit for a few hours until the gum has hardened and can be chipped away. Afterward, just do a standard cleaning with a suede or leather brush.

Bootie Trend, how to wear your ankle boots with dresses and jeans featuring white booties with a cone heel by Vince Camuto paired with a reversible faux fur coat, white turtleneck and Mother dazzler jeans, Get Stains Out of Leather and Suede Shoes

Method #4 | Remove Stuck on Stains with Vinegar

If you have tried everything and just can’t seem to clean that stubborn stain, you can try removing it with white vinegar. This is a good last resort if you just can’t seem to get a particularly tough stain out. Simply apply your white vinegar to the stained area and let it air dry. Take out your trusty suede brush and vigorously rub in a single direction. You can repeat this technique until you start to see some results.

Again, this is only for the worst stains, so don’t use it just to get a bit of dirt and mud off your shoes!

ankle boots for walking in Bison brown with low block heel and comfort, cushion technology by ECCO on fashion blogger in black joggers by Norma Kamali and black off shoulder top with brown crossbody bag

Method #5 | Cleaning Without a Specialty Brush

Let’s be honest, you’re not always going to travel with a leather or suede brush. If you’re in a pinch, there are ways to clean your leather and suede shoes with items you would find in your purse or a hotel room. You can tackle dirt, dust, and grime by agitating it with a standard emery board nail file. This should remove some of the dirt, but if it doesn’t, you can steam it with a kettle or iron. The heat from the steam will help loosen up the stain and help you remove it from your shoes.

The best part about this cleaning method is you can use it while you’re on vacation or away at a work conference. Most hotel rooms come equipped with irons and you probably have a nail file in your purse. If you don’t, you can easily pick one up.

Dirt and stains are unavoidable, but you can help protect your shoes by weatherproofing them with an appropriate spray. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and only use a product that explicitly says it is designed for use with leather or suede!

How have you cleaned your suede or leather shoes? Please share in the comments below!

To get my blog posts delivered directly to your inbox, along with some awesome freebies, be sure to sign up for my newsletter here.

Thank you for stopping by!

Erin Busbee signature

Join the Conversation

One thought on “How to Get Stains Out of Leather And Suede Shoes

  1. For black leather that is scuffed beyond help, CAREFULLY using a sharpie will CAMOUFLAGE well for everyday boots. Particularly good for riding boots that get scuffed quickly from riding.

Explore More

Posts You'll Love

How To Battle Weight Gain During Menopause

Sharing how to battle weight gain with the best vitamins and diet tips for women…
Read Post

5 Best Vegan Makeup Brands You Need to Know About

Beauty brands are focusing on cleaning up their ingredient list and these are some of…
Read Post

How To Get That Natural & Effortless Makeup Look

Sharing some must-know makeup tips to get a super natural look!
Read Post

5 Simple & Chic Hairstyles That Make You Look Youthful

Sharing my five favorite youthful hairstyles for women over 40!
Read Post