I am so glad that winter in finally over and that the weather is getting nice and warm again, but there are still some reminders around the house that winter is not that long ago. There are mittens to be washed and tucked away, a winter coat to go to the dry cleaners and some nasty salt stains on my favorite suede sneakers and boots. It’s inevitable in our climate to get salt stains as most sidewalks and roads are treated with rock salt, but even with the snow gone, those white chalky marks are glaring back at me.
Thankfully, I have a easy, inexpensive way to clean salt stains off of my favourite suede sneakers and faux suede boots – they look like new again!
What you’ll need:
- white vinegar
- diluted water
- small bowl
- clean soft cloth
- suede brush or an old clean toothbrush
- protective spray for suede and leather
Start by brushing off any loose dirt with a suede brush or an old clean toothbrush.
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a small bowl. Dip a wash cloth or cotton balls into the solution and use it to buff out the salt stains on your shoes/boots. You want to get it just damp enough to wash off the salt. You don’t need to get it soppy wet. Stuff the insides of the shoe with newspaper to help them keep their shape while they dry. Always let suede air dry and never put it near heaters to speed up the process, which can alter the shape of your shoe. After you’re done, clean the suede brush in the vinegar solution, rinse it and set it aside to dry.
Allow the shoes to dry completely and then restore the nap of the suede by brushing it with the clean suede brush or an old clean toothbrush.
Now I do something a little unconventional with my black suede sneakers after I clean them and they’re completely dry – I touch them up with a black permanent marker. I’m sure it isn’t something that shoe care pros would approve of, but I find that it really does make them look just like new.
Look at the difference from the shoe on the left (which has been touched up with the marker) and then the one on the right with hasn’t been touched. Over time, black suede seems to loose it’s colour and this helps to restore it. Just make sure that you’re using a true black permanent marker (like a Sharpie), as some can have an almost purple colour to them.
I let the shoes dry completely overnight and then the next day I spray them with a protective spray made for suede and leather. This helps to protect them against the elements and should keep nice and clean longer.
For the product that I use, I spray the entire shoe in a circular motion from about 15-20 cm away. You don’t need to saturate the surface. I let it dry for about 30 minutes and then repeat.
My suede shoes look just as good as when I got them. I usually repeat the process every 3-4 months in the winter (or as often as needed) and then store them in the summer. By doing this process regularly, these shoes have already last me about 4 years, with regular use.
After the sneakers, I moved onto my favourite faux suede boots from Rocket Dog. These are my go-to boots and get lots of wear and tear. With the winter weather, the salty water seems to always splash up and stain the back.
I was able to clean it off using the same cleaning solution of half water, half vinegar applied with a soft cloth.
Don’t forget to wash the heel too!
After the first round, there was still a couple of spots that I missed, so I used the solution a second time. They second time seemed to get out everything. I stuffed them with newspaper and let them air dry overnight.
For these boots, I didn’t use my marker trick because I think they look better with a rough look, but I did make sure to give them a spray of the protective spray.
Ready for a night out on the town!
After seeing how my shoes and boots turned out, I offered to clean Garrett’s boots for him too. He didn’t think they were dirty at all, but after I did one boot he was convinced. Just look at the difference!
I finished the other boot, stuffed them with newspaper and let them air dry. A couple of coatings of the protective spray and the looked great!
As with any cleaning method, I recommend that you test it on a small area first to make sure the material your footwear is made of will be okay with this cleaning process. I’ve done this on both suede and leather with great results.