How to Clean and Care for Suede Boots

Suede can be sensitive to water, so cleaning this autumnal classic can be tricky. Experts share how to keep suede boots looking as good as new.

Photo: Brian Henn

As the weather cools, you may want to bust out your fall wardrobe must-haves—especially footwear. But how do you clean last year's suede boots or shoes to make them look as good as new? And how do you buy suede shoes that won't get damaged after one stroll in the rain? We asked footwear experts about all things suede, from how to buy the best suede boots to the best suede pretreatments that'll prevent water damage and salt stains.

How Often to Clean Suede Boots

How often you wear your suede boots will dictate how often you need to clean them. But as a general rule, clean them weekly to keep dirt and gunk from building up on them.

What You Need:

  • Water-resistant spray, like Kiwi Suede Protector ($8;
  • Suede brush, like the Kiwi Horsehair Shine Brush ($6,
  • Sponge

How to Clean Suede Boots

Step 1: Pretreat

Apply a water-resistant spray. If boots get wet prior to treatment, water stains may be sealed in.

Step 2: Brush Up

Sweep boots weekly in one direction using a suede brush to remove dirt and imperfections.

Step 3: Store Properly

During the off-season, keep your boots in dust bags in a cool, dark area to help prevent dust buildup and fading.

How to Repair Suede Boots

Erase Water Damage

Gently rub a suede brush in circular motions across the affected area when it's dry. This will help fix discoloration.

Reverse Salt Stains

Rub the spot in circular motions; alternate between using a barely damp sponge and a suede brush. Stuff boots with newspaper while they dry. (If at-home repair techniques don't work, take boots to a pro.)

Protect Soles

When soles become worn, have your boots resoled. You can even ask the cobbler to add durable rubber outsoles to the existing thin leather soles.

How to Buy Suede Boots

Step 1: Select Your Suede

Cow suede is generally more casual and often heavier, while goat or sheep suede is usually lighter and dressier.

Step 2: Check the Heel

Stacked leather heels tend to last longer than suede-covered heels, which may tear more easily.

Step 3: Choose a Tone

Earthy taupe and olive go in and out of style; black and dark brown are timeless and less prone to staining.

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