Care of leather shoes is not just about making your shoes look good, which would be reason enough to take care of them. It's also about preserving and adding to the life of your leather shoes.
Whether you spend a lot on your shoes, or don't have much to spend, taking care of your leather shoes makes sense.
Why Caring For Leather Shoes is Important
Without proper conditioning and care, leather can dry out until it eventually cracks and falls apart.
Cleaning Smooth Leather Shoes
Remove dirt by cleaning with a leather cleaner made specifically for smooth leathers. You can use saddle soap or a smooth leather shoe cleaner.
After cleaning, let the shoes dry for a few minutes and begin shining the shoes with a soft cotton cloth - either a shoe shine cloth, or even an old t-shirt, as long as it's soft and made of cotton.
Conditioning Leather Shoes
Conditioning your leather shoes will help soften and moisturise the leather, and protect it from drying out and cracking. Certain types of leather, and shoes worn in dryer climates might need to be conditioned more often.
Rub small amounts of conditioner into the shoe, until the entire shoe has been covered with conditioner. After a couple of minutes, wipe any remaining conditioner off of the shoes, as the leather will only absorb what it can.
Polishing Your Leather Shoes with Traditional Shoe Polish
Apply the polish to a small, less conspicuous area of the shoe to test and be sure the colour is right.
Rub the polish into the shoe with a soft cloth, and allow it to dry thoroughly.
After the shoe polish is dry, shine your shoes by buffing them with a soft cloth or brush made specifically for shining shoes.
Weatherproofing your leather shoes will help to protect them from water and other elements that can ruin the finish and shorten the life of your shoes.
The Right Protectant for Your Shoes
Beeswax products form a protective layer over the surface of the shoe or boot instead of being absorbed into the leather. This provides a better barrier against water, but the additional layers can alter the appearance of the shoes.
If the appearance of the shoe or boot is of more importance than the weatherproofing properties, a spray protectant should do the trick. By providing a breathable barrier against mild to moderate wet conditions and dirt, this type of weatherproofing product is virtually invisible on your shoes or boots
Additional Tips for Leather Shoe Care
If your leather shoes have a lot of old polish buildup, you may want to use a pre-cleaner.
* Please note the list of cleaning methods are no way a guarantee for restoring your shoes and returning them to as new condition, we will not be held responsible for any damage caused to any footwear by following any of the instructions detailed below.
Cleaning Dirt and Scuff Marks
1 Get a suede brush and make sure your shoes are dry. Suede has a soft grain that is best cleaned with a special brush, which you can purchase with a suede cleaning kit. If your shoes have a care label, use whatever the manufacturer suggests. Suede is also very sensitive to water, so basic dirt and scuffs are best dealt with when the shoes are dry.
2 Brush gently to remove dirt. Use the suede cleaning brush to lightly brush away dust or dirt that has accumulated on your shoes. Don't go back and forth: brush repeatedly towards the same direction. Once you get off this layer of grime, your shoes will already look newer.
3 Brush vigorously to remove scuff marks. When you scuff your shoes, the suede's grain can get pressed down in one direction. Lift the grain by brushing scuffed areas vigorously back and forth. Again this is best done with a suede brush.
For scuffs that are too matted down to respond to the brush, try scraping the area with a knife to lift the nap.
4 Use an eraser for stubborn marks. Scuffs and marks that won't brush out can often be removed by rubbing with a pencil eraser or a piece of crepe rubber (the crinkled rubber that many shoe soles are made from). You can also by a special suede eraser designed for just this task. Apply a moderate amount of pressure and increase as tougher marks require.
5 Protect your suede. Once they are clean (or when you first get them), spray a coat of suede protector spray on your shoes. This will help prevent further stains and marks. Follow the manufacturer's directions.
Removing Water Stains
1 Wet the entire outside of the shoe. Apply a light coat of water with your brush. Water can discolour suede, but properly applied water can also remove those stains.
2 Use a sponge or dry cloth to soak up excess water. Dab gently until the leather is evenly wet without visible water stains.
3 Stick paper and shoe trees in your shoes. Especially if you used a large amount of water, put dry paper in the shoes to help blot out excess water on the inside. Shoe trees (or just wads of paper) will help the shoes retain their original shape. Do not use newspaper because excess ink can soak into your shoes.
4 Let the shoes dry at least overnight. Put them in a dry, well ventilated spot and let the water evaporate.
5 Once dry, go over the shoes lightly with a suede brush. This will help shake out the grain back to its original look.
Removing Difficult Stains
1 Get out oil or "unknown" stains with a nail brush. Use a suede brush to scrub the stain as you would for a scuff. Then use a nail brush to scrub stubborn stains with warm water. Grease stains can be particularly difficult to remove from suede, and badly stained shoes may never look good again.
Some recommend cornstarch for oil stains if the oil is still wet. Sprinkle it over the stain and then leave it overnight. The next day brush away the starch and mist the stain with an iron.
2 Let mud dry before cleaning. Wipe away the excess mud without pushing too hard against the suede, then leave your shoes to dry in a sunny spot. Once the mud has hardened, you should be able to break off the larger chunks with your hands. Then use a suede brush to break off the remaining dirt particles.
3 Put shoes in the freezer for wax and chewing gum stains. If you get gum stuck to your shoes, put them in freezer for a few hours. The gum will eventually become hard enough that you can chip it away in large chunks. Finish off with a suede brush.
4 Lift blood stains with cotton balls and peroxide. Dab at the stain with a peroxide-soaked cotton ball slowly until the blood comes out.
5 Get at ink before it sets—then use sandpaper. If you spill ink on your kicks, grab a towel and try to blot it up quickly. If it sets, scrape the stain off with sandpaper. A cotton ball with rubbing alcohol can also help in these dire circumstances.
1 Apply white vinegar to recalcitrant stains. If a stain is giving you trouble with normal methods, apply a modest amount of vinegar with a soft rag or towel. Let it dry and then agitate with a suede brush. This can also be a good method for getting rid of salt lines.
2 Use steel wool on dry stains. Brush steel wool vigorously against dry stains. However, be aware that this may require roughing up the rest of the shoe for an even look once the stain is removed.
3 Try an emery board and steamer. If you don't have a suede brush, agitate the suede with the emery board nail file, then steam it with a kettle or iron. The heat should help open up the pores of the suede and make cleaning easier.
If you're not going to be wearing your shoes for an extended period, wrap them in tissue paper and place them in a shoe box. Store them away from excess humidity and light, as suede can become mouldy in moist conditions, and bright light may discolour your shoes.
Avoid suede dyes. If you aren't able to clean your shoes with any of the above methods, the odds of fixing the problems with suede dyes is extremely low and may damage your shoes further in the long run.
If you catch it fast, you can prevent a water stain by applying pressure patiently with a paper towel right.
If your laces get dirty, you may be able to put them in the laundry, depending on what they're made of.