It seems that every winter, I get those nasty salt lines on my suede leather shoes and boots from the salt used to combat ice on sidewalks and streets. Prevention is the best method, but there are ways to clean these unsightly stains to have your shoes back in top shape and looking great again.
Water Proofing: The key to keeping suede and nubuck in top condition is preventative maintenance. Before you wear them in sloppy weather, spray the footwear with a water-repellant coating, (found at shoe or department stores), to prevent stains from occurring. Check the label to be sure the spray is designed for suede and nubuck and be sure to allow time for the spray to dry before you wear the shoes. You may have to retreat the shoes with the spray over time if you notice that water is no longer beading up on the surface.
Brushing: Use a plastic or rubber-tipped brush regularly to restore the nap and remove surface dirt before it sets in. Be gentle brushing nubuck. It is softer than suede and is easily damaged. With oiled nubuck, use a nubuck conditioner to replace some of those oils on a regular basis.
Stain Removal: If you get a stain on suede or nubuck, try to remove it immediately with a solvent-based cleaner made specifically for the material. Oil absorbing blocks are also available. These blocks abrade the leather to bring back the nap and remove stains. Use a less aggressive block with nubuck because of its more delicate nature. You can also rub off overall dirt with a very soft eraser, or just lightly sand away stains with an emery board. With more serious stains, you might be better off taking the shoe to a shoe repair professional.
With suede you can’t use oil based cleaners as they will stain the suede more than the salt. To clean pesky salt lines from suede shoes, try a mild blend of 1 teaspoon each of dish washing detergent and fabric softener in two cups of warm water. First brush the suede with a shoe brush to loosen and remove any salt and dirt that may be removed. Spray some of the solution on evenly over the suede and lightly brush it in. Wide off with a cloth dampened with clean water.