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The Best Ways to Clean Suede & Leather Tennis Shoes

author image Leigh Good
Leigh Good has been writing for magazines and newspapers for more than 10 years. Her work has been published in numerous print and online publications. Good has a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Georgia State University.
The Best Ways to Clean Suede & Leather Tennis Shoes
A pair of leather sneakers on a ladder. Photo Credit: Sergantstar/iStock/Getty Images

Keep your suede or leather tennis shoes looking their best with regular cleanings. Pick the right cleaning tools and products and treat your tennis shoes to a nice scrub. You'll loosen and remove dirt and debris that stick to leather and suede and prevent your shoes from getting stained or discolored.

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Smooth Leather

Keep your smooth leather tennis shoes clean using a cream or polish made just for leather. First, dust any dust off your tennis shoes using a soft cloth. Brush away dried mud and dirt using a soft brush. If you have stains on your shoes, use a damp cloth to gently buff away the marks. Make sure your shoes are completely dry before you polish them to avoid damaging the leather. Stuff your wet shoes with newspaper to help the leather keep its shape while the shoes dry. Once your shoes are dry, use a soft cloth to rub a coat of leather polish into the leather. Buff with a flannel cloth to restore the shine to your cleaned and polished shoes.


Dirty suede sneakers can be tough to clean, since getting suede too wet can ruin your shoes. If you have small stains or dirt on your suede tennis shoes, use an old, dry toothbrush to gently brush away the marks. For stubborn stains that don't respond to brushing, pick up a suede shampoo and use a damp sponge to apply a small amount of suede cleaner to your stained shoes. To keep the color of your suede tennis shoes looking fresh, follow the cleaning with a coat of suede conditioner.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck and durabuck are soft types of leather that you should clean differently than typical smooth leathers. If your tennis shoes are made from soft leather, clean the shoes as if you were working with suede. Use a soft brush to remove dirt and debris regularly to keep your shoes clean. If a stain gets a chance to set in, you may be able to remove it using a very fine grit sandpaper. Rub a piece of 600 grit sandpaper gently over the stain. Wipe away the leather dust with a soft cloth to remove the stain.

Imitation Leather and Suede

Synthetic leather and suede are more durable than their authentic counterparts. If your fake leather tennis shoes get dirty, you can suds the surface up with a toothbrush dipped in a solution of cold water and a gentle soap. Stuff your shoes with newspaper and let them dry completely.

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