You love your leather shoes, and you want to keep them beautiful and shiny for years to come. To keep your shoes looking their best, clean them regularly, particularly in harsh weather like snow and ice. Condition them every month or so to moisturize the leather, and then polish them for that lovely sheen. You may want to waterproof your shoes, though many modern shoes already come with a protective layer. When you put them away, store them properly, which will keep them pristine.
EditCleaning Leather Shoes
- Remove dirt with a soft cloth. Rub off as much dirt and grime as you can with a clean, dry cloth. Try to scrape off any loose mud, for instance, and wipe away any excess salt.
- Apply a cleaner with a soft brush. If the cleaner comes with an applicator top, use it to rub the cleaner into the shoe. If it doesn't have one, use a soft brush or cloth to rub it in. Make gentle circles with the brush or cloth. Use a little water when applying saddle soap or other similar soaps.
- Saddle soap or any smooth leather cleaner will work for unfinished or finished leather. Smooth leather refers to any leather that isn't textured. For instance, suede is a textured leather, so it's not considered "smooth."
- With finished leather, almost any mild soap will work, such as a laundry detergent meant for fragile clothing.
- Don't use sponges, as they can contain chemicals that may damage your leather.
- Deal with salt stains using water and vinegar. Mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water. Gently rub the mixture into the salt stains using a soft cloth or brush. Keep adding the mixture to your shoes to remove the stain.
- Salt stains leave a white residue on your shoes.
- This method will also strip your shoes of wax polish if you have a buildup.
- Allow your shoes to air dry at room temperature. Leave your shoes out to dry thoroughly before you apply polish, conditioner, or weather proofer. Don't use heat, however, as it can damage the leather.
- Leave them alone for at least 15 minutes, though overnight is better.
EditPolishing Your Footwear
- Remove the laces from the shoes. Laces can prevent the polish or conditioner from spreading evenly across the shoe. If your shoes have laces, gently pull them out from the eyelets one by one until you've separated them from the shoes.
- Condition your shoes at least every 25 wears. Conditioning helps moisturize the leather. As it dries out, it can crack, leading to damaged shoes. Use a clean cloth to rub the conditioner in using small circular movements. Remove any excess conditioner once you've conditioned the whole shoe.
- If you live in a place with harsh weather, such as a place with icy winters and salty sidewalks or a very dry climate, you should condition your shoes after you wear them 5 to 10 times. In less harsh climates, do it every 15 to 25 wears.
- Apply a polish to your shoes once a month for protection. Using light pressure, use circles to add small amounts of polish to the shoe. A soft cloth or horsehair brush is good for this task. Keep applying the polish until you've covered the shoe. Wipe any excess off.
- A wax-based polish will provide more protection for your shoes.
- Make sure you match the color of the polish to the color of your shoes. Once you think you have a good color, apply a little polish in an inconspicuous place to see if it matches.
- Try a spit shine for shiny shoes. For a spit shine, tightly stretch a cloth over your fingers. Add a little bit of water. Rub it over one area on your shoe, which will begin to harden the wax already on it. Keep rubbing until the area shines, and continue with the rest of the shoe.
- Typically, a polishing last about a week.
EditWeatherproofing for Snowy and Icy Weather
- Use a beeswax product to weatherproof your shoes thoroughly. Weatherproofing products with beeswax provide a good seal against the weather. Apply the product to the shoe with a clean cloth or brush, and rub it in using small circles. Wipe off any excess, and let your shoes dry.
- Apply these products about once a season.
- Some products come with an applicator that you can use to apply the beeswax product to the shoe.
- Use plain beeswax for a cheap option. Melt plain beeswax in a wax warmer, and apply it to the boot with a brush. It will leave a thick, ugly layer because it dries quickly, but you'll use the heat gun or blow dryer to melt the layer again. Use a heat gun or blow dryer to melt the wax on the boot, and rub it in with the brush.
- Beeswax was a common waterproofing material before modern waterproofing pastes were created.
- Apply wax about once a season.
- Try a spray-on product to weatherproof with a prettier finish. Spray-on products don't leave as thick a layer as beeswax products, so choose them for a prettier finish. Hold the spray-on polish about away from the shoe. Spray the product in a steady, even layer. Let the product dry before you wear the shoes.
- These products don't waterproof as well or last as long as beeswax products so you'll need to reapply them several times throughout the season.
- Put galoshes on to protect your leather shoes in wet weather. If you're worried about an expensive pair of leather shoes, then your best bet is to put galoshes on over your shoes, particularly if you live in a rainy climate where you're required to walk a lot. You'll be able to avoid the majority of the moisture and the salt.
- Galoshes come in many shapes and styles so you can find a pair that fits your fashion sense and look.
EditCaring for and Storing Leather Shoes
- Give your shoes a break between wears. Leather tends to absorb moisture from sources like rain, sweat, and dew. Giving your shoes a break between the days you wear them allows them time to dry out.
- Try alternating pairs of leather shoes if you prefer to wear leather everyday.
- Insert shoe trees when you're not wearing the shoes. Leather can lose its shape if it doesn't have support, particularly if it's wet at all. A shoe tree will draw out some of the moisture and help your shoe keep its shape at the same time.
- Shoe trees are the inserts that are shaped like a human foot. Pick unfinished cedar inserts to wick water away, as plastic will not absorb the moisture.
- Wadded up newspaper will work to absorb moisture in place of a shoe tree, but it won't work as well to keep the shoes in shape.
- Clean your shoes or have a professional do it before you store them. If you plan on storing your shoes for the summer, clean them first. Otherwise, the stains on them will set in and be nearly impossible to clean when you take them out of storage.
- Have them cleaned by a professional to ensure they're really clean.
- Store your shoes in breathable fabric. Leather needs air to help rid itself of moisture. If you place it in a plastic bag, the bag seals that moisture in. Instead, choose something breathable, such as a fabric bag.
- Most shoe boxes do not provide enough fresh air to keep leather dry, so avoid storing leather shoes in them.
- Avoid wearing your leather shoes on very wet days to keep them from getting soaked.
- Many of these tips will also work on second-hand leather shoes. With a bit of work, you can have a beautiful pair of leather shoes, and no one will know they came from the thrift store.
- Maintain Faux Leather
- Protect Suede Boots
- Polish Shoes with a Banana
- Repair a Scrape on Faux Leather Shoes
EditSources and Citations
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