How to Clean Suede Shoes With Vinegar

Suede shoes get dirty pretty easily, but they’re not as easy to clean. Sit back and learn how to clean suede shoes with vinegar like an expert.

Suede shoes are favorites for many, and one of the main reasons for this is that they always look great. However, this advantage disappears when the shoes get dirty, as dirty suede shoes are just as bad as clean ones are gorgeous.

Of course, you don’t have to replace your shoes each time they get dirty. Instead, you only need to clean and disinfect them with the recommended cleaning agent, which is vinegar in most cases. But how exactly do you clean suede shoes with vinegar to retain the original shine?

In this article, you’ll learn all you need to know about cleaning suede shoes with vinegar. Firstly, I’ll debunk any myths you must have heard about vinegar and suede shoes and then show you how to clean suede shoes with vinegar inexpensively.

Does Vinegar Ruin Suede?

Before cleaning your suede shoes with vinegar, you may want to learn if the liquid is capable of ruining your shoes. That makes sense since suede shoes are known to be so weak that cleaning them with an excess of certain liquids is capable of damaging them completely.

Before shying away from vinegar as a potential cleaning agent for your suede shoes, it’s crucial to note that it’s one of the best. If you have enough time to go through the cleaning instructions for your shoes, you should see vinegar listed as one of the recommended agents for cleaning.

Since this section isn’t about the advantages of using vinegar on suede, we should probably discuss how it may ruin your shoes. Here are some of the reasons why vinegar may ruin your suede shoes.

1. It can discolor suede shoes.

If you’re cleaning your suede shoes with vinegar improperly, you may cause them to fade or warp due to oversaturation. Vinegar is a powerful chemical capable of chemically altering the look of your shoes to give them a slightly less pleasant look.

To avoid discoloring your shoes, you should consider diluting the vinegar with a less powerful liquid like water. Also, do not soak your shoes in a vinegar solution and test out a small area of your shoes before using it on the entire shoe.

2. It leaves a distinct vinegar smell.

If you don’t want shoes that smell vinegary, you should probably find another solution for cleaning your shoes. Some people are flat-out allergic to the smell of vinegar, and if you’re one of them, the vinegar smell that remains on your suede shoes after each wash would be unbearable.

While all of these disadvantages may apply to vinegar, they aren’t just enough to make you ditch vinegar. Unless you’re allergic to its smell, vinegar is the cheapest, most common, and the most effective cleaning agent that you can use to rid your suede shoes of dirt.

Clean Suede Shoes With Vinegar

How to Clean Suede Shoes with Vinegar

Now that you understand all of the risks of cleaning your suede shoes with vinegar, it’s time to clean out your shoes. Before embarking on this exercise, however, I’d love to remind you that it mightn’t be as easy as you think.

The fundamental process for cleaning suede shoes doesn’t change very much, but you should identify the type of stain before cleaning anyway. The processes for removing different kinds of stains from your shoes will differ, depending on the nature.

While we’ll go through the process of removing individual stains, here are the steps for general cleaning of your suede shoes with vinegar.

1. Get the required ingredients.

You’re not expecting to learn how to clean your suede shoes with just vinegar and a brush. Many other ingredients would simplify the process and reduce the possibility of any damage to your suede shoes.

While you don’t need to get all of these materials ready, getting most of them would be a great help. Here are some materials you need to clean your suede shoes effectively, with vinegar as the main ingredient.

  • Tissue paper
  • White vinegar
  • Suede brush
  • Water
  • Microfiber cloth

Since this list is pretty short, you should try getting everything on it for a seamless cleaning experience. Otherwise, you can improvise, as tools like a toothbrush may suffice in the place of a suede brush. You can also find some alternatives to tissue paper, but vinegar and water are necessary.

2. Remove the dirt on the shoes’ surface.

Using the suede brush you got earlier, brush away the dirt on the surface of the suede shoes in one direction before introducing vinegar at all. The more dirt you’re capable of removing without using vinegar or any other cleaning agent, the better your shoes will look after cleaning.

To remove the dirt effectively, brush to one direction vigorously using the suede brush to remove as much dirt as possible. Then, brush again in the opposite direction to remove any dirt that may be lurking under the surface.

If the shoes look as clean as new after brushing them with a suede brush, you may not need to use vinegar at all. However, you can move on to the next step if there are some stubborn stains that you still need to get rid of.

3. Clean the shoes with vinegar

If stubborn stains persist after cleaning with a suede brush, you may need to introduce vinegar. Dampen the microfiber cloth slightly with vinegar, rub it on the stain, and leave the affected area to dry. You can use your suede brush to repair the area after drying to retain the natural look.

Rubbing alcohol also works well if you don’t have access to vinegar. However, you should avoid using water to clean your suede shoes as water only stains suede, making the shoes look even worse than they were before you attempted cleaning.

Can You Use a Toothbrush Instead of a Suede Brush?

Suede brushes may be effective for cleaning suede shoes, but they’re also expensive and rare unless you’re willing to search for them proactively. Since toothbrushes sound pretty close to suede shoes, can you clean your shoes with a toothbrush instead of a suede brush?

As long as you’re using a firm toothbrush, the answer is yes. You can always use an old toothbrush to clean your suede shoes if readymade suede brushes are unavailable. While they might not work as well, toothbrushes do a great job of keeping unwanted dirt away from your suede shoes.

When using a toothbrush, you should always remember that you’re improvising. With that said, you’ll need to exercise extra care when cleaning your shoes with a tool that’s not meant for it. Also, never let your toothbrush get wet, as that would be akin to washing your shoes in soap and water.

How Do You Clean Suede Shoes without a Suede Brush?

A suede brush is a necessary piece of equipment for keeping your suede shoes clean, but not everyone has one at home. If you don’t have a suede brush, you can always improvise by using something similar that won’t damage your shoes.

A popular alternative to a suede brush is a toothbrush, which is generally available in most homes. Of course, you don’t want to clean your shoes with the same toothbrush you use every morning; any old toothbrush will work for that.

Simply brush your suede shoes like you would if you had a suede brush, and you may never have to buy a dedicated brush again. If possible, however, always try to have a suede brush handy, as it’s the equipment made for cleaning suede.

Can You Wash Suede Shoes with Soap and Water?

Throughout this article, the recommended way to clean your suede shoes has been using vinegar and a suede brush. However, is it possible to use soap and water if vinegar is unavailable?

In most cases, you should generally avoid washing suede shoes with soap and water unless the cleaning instructions specifically say so. Suede is very delicate and prone to damage if you don’t follow the cleaning instructions to the letter.

When using vinegar, alcohol, or any other recommended liquid to wash your shoes, you should avoid soaking them in the liquid. Using an appropriate suede brush to clean them carefully without saturating them with water is always the best way to get the dirt off your shoes.

By extension, wearing suede shoes in the rain may also cause damage the same way that soaking them in water will. If there’s any indication of potential rain, your suede shoes won’t be the best shoes for an outing.


While suede shoes can be joyful to wear, they’re a real pain to wash, especially when the fabric has many stains. The only way to clean tough stains on suede is by using vinegar or rubbing alcohol, but it’s not in the way that you think.

This article explains how to clean suede shoes with vinegar to retain the original shine. If you don’t have a suede brush for the initial dust removal, you can always use a toothbrush instead. Similarly, rubbing alcohol works well instead of vinegar, as it doesn’t stain the fabric on the shoes, unlike soap and water.

And that concludes the process of cleaning suede shoes with vinegar. Want some more outfit ideas and guides? You might be interested in these blog posts.

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