Person holding a suede handbag

How to clean suede in 5 steps

Suede is a soft, luxurious fabric most often used for clothing items like hats, shoes and jackets, as well as home goods like couches and pillows. Although suede is delicate and can be more demanding to clean, its beautiful look and feel makes it an excellent addition to your closet or living space. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to care for suede and discover a step-by-step guide for how to keep it clean.

What is suede?

Suede is a high-quality fabric made from the soft underside of hides, similar to leather. It’s used to make items like shoes, jackets, purses and even upholstery. Sheepskin, pigskin and cowhide are some of the most common forms of authentic suede, not to be confused with microsuede, which is an imitative fabric.

Microsuede is more durable and easier to clean than authentic suede. When caring for any type of suede item, always reference the care label to make sure you’re cleaning it properly.

Can you clean suede?

Using a bristle brush, suede eraser and suede cleaners can help you clean suede and keep it looking like new. Make sure to be gentle and patient while cleaning suede items as this fabric is fragile and can become damaged if it’s not properly cared for.

Because suede is a natural fabric that easily absorbs moisture and dirt, it’s notorious for being difficult to clean. If you notice any dirt or grime on your suede items, clean it as quickly as possible. The earlier you clean soiled suede, the more likely you are to successfully restore it.

Does suede need to be washed?

Suede can be incredibly durable if it’s properly cared for, however, it’s also very delicate and susceptible to staining. You should avoid machine washing suede items because it could develop water stains. Instead, spot-clean suede, have it dry-cleaned or gently clean it by hand.

Select Whirlpool® washers, like this Top Load Washer, feature a Pretreat Station that can help you prewash clothes directly in the washer. When hand washing your suede, use the built-in faucet to help remove loose soils.

Cleaning suede: A step-by-step guide

Whether you have a coveted pair of suede sneakers or want to best care for your family room’s suede upholstery, understanding how to gently clean this fragile fabric and what solutions are safe to use will help your items look like new for many years to come.

  • White vinegar
  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Dish soap

  • Cornstarch

  • Baking soda

  • Bristle brush
  • Suede eraser

  • Microfiber towel

  • Suede water-repellent treatment

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Step 1: Read the care label

If your suede item has a care label attached to it, review the label to find the most appropriate way to care for that specific item. This will also help you learn whether your suede item is authentic or made of artificial material, like microsuede.


You can always consult an in-depth guide on the care label symbols to better understand what they mean. Some symbols may instruct you to use a specific setting on your dryer, while others might direct you to exclusively dry clean your suede items.

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Step 2: Brush away excess dirt

If there’s a build-up of dirt and grime on your suede item, brush away the loose particles before you start using cleaning solutions. Soft bristle brushes and clean microfiber towels are ideal for this step. Use either one to gently brush away the dirt or grime from your item with light pressure.

Eraser icon

Step 3: Use a suede eraser

Suede erasers are made of rubber and can help remove dried dirt or grime from your suede. Much like a typical eraser, this suede-specific tool lifts away particles. Gently rub your suede eraser against your fabric, wiping in the same direction as your suede fibers. This should help buff away any additional stains from your suede.

Hand and towel icon

Step 4: Spot clean your suede

Spot cleaning is an ideal way to clean suede, since machine washing is not recommended. The types of cleaning solutions you should use depend on the type of stain. White vinegar, baking soda, dish soap and cornstarch may help you during this step. Blot dish soap away completely and refrain from soaking suede in water when rinsing.


You can use dish soap when cleaning dried oil or grease stains. You can also sprinkle cornstarch on a wet oil stain and let it sit to soak up the oil before gently brushing it away. Remove water stains by blotting them with a towel soaked in white vinegar or rubbing alcohol.

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Step 5: Treat your suede with a water repellant

Once you have cleaned stains and dirt from your suede, it can be helpful to then use a water repellent designed for suede. Water stains are the most common problem people have with suede, and it can be tedious to have to treat them repeatedly. Instead, use a water repellent to avoid excessive water damage.


Follow the directions on your water-repellent product to ensure you apply it correctly. Even with a water repellent, try to avoid exposing suede items to water as much as possible, as the fabric is still quite delicate and can be ruined if it is water-soaked.

How do you clean suede naturally?

Common household items can be helpful when it comes to cleaning suede. White vinegar can help you clean tough stains on suede, but it may alter the fabric’s color before it dries completely. You can test this method on a small portion of your suede before using it to clean the entire item.

Can you clean suede with just water?

Exposing suede to too much water can easily damage this delicate fabric, making it stained and stiff. Instead of using water to clean suede, opt for white vinegar, dish soap or rubbing alcohol. You can also look into treating your suede items to make them resistant to water stains.

Should you let suede air dry?

When drying suede, always reference the care label for directions on how to care for it. Oftentimes, care labels for authentic suede items will direct you to blot your item with a towel or will advise against using direct heat as this could dry it out. Tumble drying is also not recommended when drying suede.

How to store suede items

Store your suede items in a dry area that isn’t exposed to any water. You should also keep suede in a dark location, so it doesn’t become damaged or discolored from prolonged sun exposure.

Explore Whirlpool® washers

Select Whirlpool® washers feature built-in water faucets to help you pretreat clothes right in the washer. Pretreat Stations give you an instant water stream that can help remove loose soils, soak, scrub and wash with built-in faucets and an added brush.

Learn more tips for washing clothes with Whirlpool brand

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