I know these are more streetwear style shoes, being Y-3's, but the process can be applied to any type of light colored suede.
very comfortable and light weight, these shoes are a fun take on a classic basketball shoe. an interesting detail is that the outsole is trimmed with white leather. with a cream and black striped canvas, cream suede, and white leather accents, the materials and colors used in this shoe present their own joys and... challenges. namely keeping them clean.
I've had these shoes for 2 and a half years. since purchasing these shoes I've learned a few things. like what a terrible combination new raw denim and light colored suede is, and how important applying suede protector probably is (I wouldn't know because I never applied any). I've worn them quite extensively. they were one of my first high end purchases. I once rapped for 10 and a half hours straight, breaking a world record, while wearing these. they've been through a lot and they have a dear place in my heart, so I figured it was time to try to clean them up and get them to a wearable state again.
at this point in time they were looking pretty beat up:
after doing some research I decided to do some field tests
I had previously tried brushing with a stiff nylon suede brush. not stiff enough I guess :/
I tested scrubbing with a toothbrush and dry baking soda. no good.
toothbrush and slightly wet baking soda. oh the futility.
tried using a liquid stain remover - probably a bad idea, and I think stained the spot where I tested it. it works great on my white shirts though!
from what I've read and my own personal experience it seems like cleaning suede mostly consists of dry scrubbing dirt or stains off of it. basically abrading the surface until you reveal the clean layers underneath. I saw some stuff about special 'suede stones', which seem to basically be pumice stones used to scrub suede clean. sounds great, but I'm impatient so I turned to sandpaper.
I know this could damage the shoe but like my mom has said before, YOLO.
I went in the garage, found some sandpaper and started sanding.
it looked pretty good so I finished sanding the first shoe:
on the second shoe I did half of it first to show the contrast:
after several hours of sanding, first with a coarse grit and then a fine grit to make it even and remove the scratches, they look pretty darn good and I'm happy with them :D
the sanding process did destroy some of the stitches but so far they haven't started falling apart.