How to remove stains from suede shoes

Suede shoes are stylish and comfortable, but the delicate material can easily become stained. Luckily, there are several methods you can use to safely remove stains from suede without damaging the material.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover how to remove all kinds of stubborn stains from suede shoes, including:

  • Oil and grease
  • Food and drink
  • Mud and dirt
  • Biological stains
  • Ink

We’ll also provide tips to prevent future stains. With the right techniques and products, you can keep your suede shoes looking pristine.

remove stains from suede shoes

Assess the Stain

The first step is to take a close look at the stain and identify what caused it. Different types of stains will require different removal methods.

Here are some of the most common stains found on suede shoes:

  • Oil and grease stains – Cooking oil, motor oil, makeup, lotions
  • Food and drink stains – Coffee, wine, juice, ketchup, mustard, salsa
  • Mud and dirt stains – Wet and dry soil, dust, mud
  • Biological stains – Blood, grass, sweat, urine
  • Ink stains – Pen, marker, highlighter, lipstick, permanent marker

Determine the severity and age of the stain:

  • Fresh stains (noticed immediately) are easier to treat compared to set-in, dried stains
  • Old stains (set-in for hours or days) will need more intensive treatments

For older stains, you may need to use a suede cleaner or take it to a professional leather cleaner for treatment.

Prepare the Suede

Before applying any cleaning solution:

  • Prepare the suede by loosening up the fibers using a suede brush or an old toothbrush
  • Gently brush the stained area in different directions
  • This will help lift the stain from the base of the fabric

If the stain feels crusty or dry:

  • Use a suede eraser to rub off any dried residue
  • Suede erasers gently lift dirt and restore the nap
  • Test an inconspicuous area first to ensure color is not removed

For wet stains like mud:

  • Let the shoes fully air dry before brushing
  • Heat from a hairdryer can set in a stain

Remove Oil and Grease Stains

Oily stains like makeup, lotion, and restaurant grease are common on suede shoes but can be removed with homemade oil-cutting solutions:

  • Mix 1 part dish soap with 1 part white vinegar or rubbing alcohol
  • Apply the mixture with a clean cloth or toothbrush
  • Use a circular motion to work into the fibers
  • Let sit for 1-2 minutes to break down the oil


  • Blot firmly with paper towels or a microfiber cloth
  • Repeat process until stain stops transferring
  • Avoid scrubbing aggressively


  • Brush area with a suede brush to restore texture
  • Let shoes fully air dry so vinegar/alcohol can evaporate

Tough Oil Stain Removers

For really stubborn oily stains, try these commercial products:

  • Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner – $8.99
  • Pink Miracle for Suede – $19.99
  • Shoe Clean 101 XL Suede Eraser – $9.97

Remove Food and Drink Stains

Food and drink spills like coffee, ketchup, wine, and juice can leave behind sticky residues or permanent stains:

For coffee, wine, or juice:

  • Blot up excess liquid immediately
  • Mix 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts water
  • Dab solution on stain with clean cloth
  • Vinegar breaks down and lifts stain

For ketchup, salad dressing, sauce:

  • Use an enzyme cleaner like Capture or OxiClean
  • Check label to confirm it’s suitable for suede
  • Apply and let sit 5-10 minutes to lift oils and proteins
  • Gently blot area with a soft cloth

After applying cleaner:

  • Always brush suede with a wire brush
  • Helps restore texture and remove residue

Remove Mud and Dirt

Mud and dirt can grind deep into the pores of suede but can be removed with thorough cleaning:

For mud:

  • Let muddy shoes fully dry
  • Brush off dried chunks with suede brush
  • Mix warm water and small amount of dish soap or detergent
  • Use toothbrush to scrub mixture onto stain
  • Rinse brush frequently
  • Wipe area with damp cloth and dry with towel
  • While damp, use suede brush to revive texture
  • Stuff toes with paper towels
  • Allow to fully air dry

For stubborn dried-on dirt:

  • Use an art gum eraser to lift residue
  • Gently rub over dirty spots
  • Wipe away any eraser crumbs

Remove Biological Stains

Suede tends to absorb bodily fluids like blood and sweat, leaving crusty brown stains:

For dried sweat stains:

  • Mix 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts rubbing alcohol
  • Scrub with toothbrush
  • Let dry fully
  • Brush vigorously with suede brush

For blood stains:

  • Make paste of 1 part cornstarch and 1 part cold water
  • Let sit 1-2 hours to absorb blood
  • Wipe with damp, soapy cloth
  • Repeat as needed

For tough biological stains, visit a professional leather cleaner for enzymatic cleaners.

Remove Ink Stains

Pen and marker ink can leave frustrating stains on suede but many can be removed at home:

  • Blot fresh ink immediately with paper towel
  • Avoid smearing
  • Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol and 1 part water
  • Use toothbrush to scrub onto stain
  • Blot area with paper towels/cloth once ink is loosened
  • Apply suede cleaner like Saphir Omnidaim to draw out residue
  • Wipe with clean cloth

For stubborn stains try:

  • Atsko Suede and Leather Ink and Stain Remover – $13.99

If ink stain remains, it may be permanent – try professional leather cleaner for stronger chemicals. Risks include color loss.

Prevent Future Stains

Once shoes are clean, take measures to prevent new stains:

  • Apply suede protector spray to repel oil and water
  • Avoid wearing in rain or snow
  • Use stain repellent like 3M Scotchgard – $7.98
  • Re-apply protector every few months
  • Handle suede gently and brush regularly
  • Store on cedar shoe trees to help hold shape
  • Bring severely stained/damaged shoes to professional cleaner for deep conditioning and restoration

The Best Suede Cleaning Products

Having the right suede cleaning products on hand will allow you to treat stains right away. Here are some top-rated cleaners for suede:

Suede Brush

  • Premium Suede Nubuck Eraser Brush Kit – $12.95
  • Rugged Material Horsehair Brush – $9.99

Suede Eraser

  • Kiwi Suede and Nubuck Eraser – $5.88
  • GUM White Rubber Eraser, Large – $7.95

All-Purpose Suede Cleaner

  • Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner Brush Kit – $16.95
  • Pink Miracle All Natural Suede Cleaner – $19.99

Ink Remover

  • Atsko Suede and Leather Ink and Stain Remover – $13.99
  • Stardrops The Pink Stuff – $10.44

When to Call a Professional

In some cases, professional suede cleaning services are the best option:

Consider a professional suede cleaner for:

  • Very old, set-in stains that do not respond to home treatments
  • Stains covering a large area of the shoe
  • Signs the suede is damaged like bald spots or ripped fibers
  • Expensive designer shoes where mistakes could be costly
  • Ink stains that may require chemicals that can compromise color
  • Pet stains like urine that require enzymatic cleaners
  • Full restoration services like re-coloring and conditioning

Professional suede cleaning services include:

  • RYLT Suede and Leather Cleaning
  • Leather Surgeons Cleaners
  • Restoration Station

While many common stains can be removed at home, professional services have access to powerful cleaners, conditioning treatments and repair services for badly damaged suede.


With some basic cleaning products and techniques, light stains can often be removed from suede shoes at home.

For best results:

  • Identify stain and act quickly on fresh stains
  • Prepare suede before cleaning by brushing and removing dried residue
  • Use homemade oil-cutting solutions for grease stains
  • Try vinegar, enzyme cleaner, or specialty ink remover depending on stain
  • Stuff with paper towels and let shoes fully dry after cleaning
  • Apply protector spray to help repel future stains

With proper care for the delicate material, your favorite suede shoes can maintain their stylish look for many wears. Just remember to act quickly when stains happen!

Sharing Is Caring:

As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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