There are two tricks to cleaning suede shoes. The first is that even before you do up your laces for the first time, you absolutely have to spray it with a suede protector and leave it to absorb for 24 hours before use.
The second trick to cleaning suede shoes is that, unlike regular leather shoes, no creams or cleaners are of importance: only the brush and your technique are important.
In terms of technique, you should check out my article on How to Clean Suede Shoes, and in terms of the brush you should use, here is my favorite selection.
- Simple Shine Premium Suede Shoe Brush – a complete set of brushes of premium quality, although a little bulky and on the expensive side.
- Shake Suede and Nubuck 4 Way Brush plus Erasers – the best value for money package and a completely worth the money because of the extra erasers.
- Shake Suede and Nubuck Leather Brush Cleaner – a more affordable version of the Shake suede brush, and in a more luxurious finish.
- Ralyn Brass Suede Brush – the most affordable suede shoe brush on the market, but clearly not a complete solution to cleaning suede. You will need to buy separate brushes and erasers.
- Cadillac Premium Suede Boots Cleaner – similar in design with the Shake brushes, but of a sturdier design recommended for boots.
What to Look for in a Suede Shoe Brush
There are several things I take into consideration when looking at a suede shoe brush, and I will walk you through each of the above products in individual revues. Before I do that – and, by the way you can find the reviews just by scrolling a little lower – let me highlight a few generalities first.
The Handle of the Suede Shoe Brush
Cleaning suede shoes is not difficult at all, but it does require quite a bit of elbow grease. For that reason I generally prefer a brush without a separate handle. That way you are pressing down on the shoe and the work gets done faster.
The problem with a handless shoe brush is that it can’t have different brushes on different sides. Three sides are used for gripping and one side has the brushes. That means you will need at least 2 brushes and a dedicated eraser.
If you are going to choose a suede shoe brush with a handle, you should make sure that the brushes are big enough and that the manufacturer has used the extra space wisely. The brushes in my collection all have nylon and brass brushes on one side, a rubber eraser side, and a dedicated smooth side that can erase stubborn stains and get in the nooks and crannies of the shoes.
The Bristles of a Suede Shoe Brush
Besides a general inspection to make sure that a brush has all of the accessories it needs, I tend to look at the Amazon reviews for a brush. Almost every manufacturer will, at times, ship a brush whose bristles are not attached properly, and they come out at the first attempt of using the brush.
The important thing is that this needs to be just an accidental occurance. When looking at other buyer’s reviews I am interested to see how many people report getting a broken brush. I am particularly interested in those 3 to 4 star reviews because that is where you will find users who complained to the manufacturer and got a new brush that did the job. They will still ding a star or two, but they will talk about how good the new brush is.
Now, on to the reviews:
1. Simple Shine Premium Suede Shoe Brush
If I had but one brush to buy, this set is the one I would go for. Personally, I own or have owned all the brushes on this list except number 4, the Ralyn. However, the set that I really like is the Simple Shine one.
As you can see it has the handless design I was talking about earlier so it is a lot easier to use and to control the pressure you apply as you clean. The bristles themselves are a little on the rigid side, but, because you can perfectly control how much pressure you apply, that only means you can be gentle with your dress shoes and a little bit rougher with your hiking boots.
The only problem I have with this set is that it is twice as expensive as any of the other complete brush systems. It is also the only set that has individual brushes for each job so I can see why they would have such a higher price point.
2. Shake Suede and Nubuck 4 Way Brush plus Erasers
If you already have the erasers just scroll down to the next product because in terms of the brush itself that is a slightly better choice. However, make no mistake, the difference I am talking about refers to the design, and the erasers are important.
The Shake suede shoe brushes are some of the best brushes I have ever used. The handle is very light and yet sturdy so you can really apply as much force as needed to get the job done. Also, I have owned a Shake brush for at least 10 years and the bristles never gave any indication that they would want to come off. Plus, the Shake Suede Erasers are just the right combination of pours and rigid material to remove any stains.
3. Shake Suede and Nubuck Leather Brush Cleaner
I have already praised the Shake quality in the previous review, so let me just reiterate here how important an eraser is. Any cleaning process will remove some color off suede shoes, which is why, whenever possible, you should just use an eraser.
If you already have an eraser than this Shake Suede Brush Cleaner is the better choice because of the lower price point and the design. It may just be me, but I tend to like it when my shoe brushes are made of varnished shoes. Cleaning shoes is a bit of a dying art, and this brush celebrates a time when people would put in the effort to keep their shoes clean.
4. Ralyn Brass Suede Brush
As mentioned before the Ralyn is the only brush I have never owned. I started by using 4-way brushes and then moved on to the Simple Shine set.
However, a brass suede brush is all you really need to clean your shoes. You will not be able to correct small blemishes with an eraser, and you won’t be able to gently brush the hairs after the suede protector has been applied, but this is the cheapest brush on the list.
I should also note that, although not recommended, some people use the horse hair brush that was designed for leather shoes, in place of the crumpled rubber brush. If you are planning to do that, just make sure that you clean it of any residual shoe polish before taking it to your suede shoes.
5. Cadillac Premium Suede Boots Cleaner
I have tried in vain to discover if this company is in any way related to the Cadillac car company. What I can tell you is that this is my go-to brush for my suede hiking boots. The reason I like it so much is that it has much stronger bristles and it makes light work of the hardened mud I inevitable drag in.
You should consider buying a second brush for the, particularly dirty shoes because it is simply safer for your dress shoes not to have to come in contact with your boots brush. In my experience, no matter how much you clean it, a brush that has had to deal with real mud will leave some marks of its own on softer, dress shoes, particularly if they are black.
As a conclusion, let me finish by saying that I currently use the Simple Shine suede shoes brush set and the Cadillac for the boots. I have loved the Shake brushes, but, as our family’s suede shoe collection grew, I had to go with a slightly more professional set.