How to Use Vinegar to Clean Suede Shoes

Vinegar is a kitchen staple but is probably best known for its junior partner in salad dressing with oil. However, this versatile liquid is having its moment in the sun – you can’t scan a supermarket checkout line magazine display without seeing articles touting the miraculous healing power of vinegar, and particularly apple cider vinegar. It is now touted as a cure-all for ailments from diabetes and jock itch to constipation, psoriasis, and even the common cold.

Vinegar has a number of other household uses, including cleaning and disinfecting. While it does have bleaching properties, when used sparingly and diluted properly, vinegar is expected not to damage suede. It is often recommended as an effective substitute for commercially available products designed specifically to clean suede shoes and other clothing items, because of its non-toxic ingredients.

To use vinegar to clean your suede shoes, start by removing any dirt or marks with a soft brush or eraser. Next, blot the area of the shoe with a cloth or sponge dampened with vinegar, making sure to not oversaturate the fabric. If the spot is still visible, gently rub it with a pencil eraser, working in circular motions to remove as much of the stain as possible. Allow the shoes to dry fully before using or wearing them again.

For stubborn stains that a brush or eraser can’t touch, try pouring a small amount of white vinegar directly onto the spot. The vinegar’s acidic composition is great for breaking down particle clumps and staining, and it is expected not to damage the material or change its color. Blot away any excess liquid and let the suede fully dry before using again.

A spray bottle of 50/50 white vinegar and water is another effective solution for removing stubborn stains from suede. Spritz the solution directly on the affected area of the item, and then leave it to dry. For heavily soiled items, it may be necessary to repeat this process a few times, or even use the product a few days later to eliminate the last trace of staining. Alternatively, for items that are particularly delicate or expensive, it may be more effective to take the item to a professional suede cleaner and follow their directions to clean the item safely.

If you have a pair of suede shoes that have become stained or smelly, you can also try soaking them overnight in baking soda. This can help absorb the foul odors and staining from the fabric, and it can also make them smell fresher and more appealing to wear. Then, blot the shoes with a cloth dampened with a one-to-one mixture of white vinegar and water to remove the baking soda. Lastly, blot the shoes with a dry cloth to remove any remaining vinegar, and then allow them to air dry completely before wearing them again.

A regular regimen of cleaning and care can keep your favorite suede clothing looking new, with minimal effort. Just be careful not to oversaturate the item when using vinegar or other cleaning solutions, and don’t neglect to regularly brush and fluff your suede items to remove tarnishing, dust, and other abrasions.