How To Clean Leather Shoes: A Step-By-Step Guide
Whether your go-to leather shoes are a pair of loafers, boots, or sneakers, knowing how to properly maintain and care for leather shoes is of the utmost importance if you want them to retain a clean and classic look. Being that leather is known for being a rather durable and long-lasting material, they are meant to maintain their quality for a long while, ensuring that you’re getting your money’s worth.
From getting scuffed to stained, there are several different ways that your leather shoes can find themselves blemished, meaning you need the best way in which to clean them up and repair them. In order to give you a helping hand, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide on how to clean leather shoes so that your footwear can remain spick and span no matter how often you take them for a spin.
What You’ll Need
- Horseshoe Hairbrush – A horseshoe hairbrush is needed for buffing the shoe. The larger the brush, the more friction you will generate, making your cleaning job much easier and faster.
- Polishing Cloth – If you don’t have an actual polishing cloth or chamois, just use an old white cotton t-shirt.
- Leather Conditioner – Though good conditioners can be a bit of a splurge, they are seriously worth it. In addition to assisting with the cleaning process, leather conditioners also add some hydration and shine.
- Shoe Cream Polish – If you need to add some pigment or fill in some small scratches, shoe cream provides a quick and easy fix.
- Spray Bottle Filled with Cold Water – Being able to lightly spray your shoes with cold water is the first step to a thorough cleaning.
- Toothpaste – If you find that your leather shoes have gained a scuff, dab some non-gel toothpaste on the affected area and rub with a soft cloth.
- Baking Soda – For grease stains, gently rub some baking soda into the stain and then leave overnight. The baking soda should absorb the grease.
- Rubbing Alcohol – If you’re dealing with an ink stain, dip a cotton swab in some rubbing alcohol and blot the stain. Make sure that you avoid rubbing since you could easily spread the ink to new places, which is the exact opposite of what you’re wanting to do.
- Lemon Juice & Cream of Tartar – Though this is a very specific and somewhat strange combo, using lemon juice and cream of tartar can have a mild bleaching effect, meaning it is only to be used on light-colored leathers. If you’ve got a weird stain that won’t seem to come out with any other solution, give this paste a try.
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Step 1: Remove Laces (If Applicable)
If you are dealing with a pair of leather shoes that have laces it is not a bad idea to remove them so as to ensure that they do not get damaged during the cleaning process. Though it is not totally necessary, it is the first thing you should do if you prefer to have them out of the way.
Step 2: Spray With Cold Water
Next, spray the shoe with cold water and rub with your cloth to ensure that any surface level dirt or dust is removed before going in with the horseshoe hairbrush.
Step 3: Use Brush
Using your horseshoe hairbrush, buff the shoe by brushing in circular motions to remove any grime or dirt that did not come of with the cold water and cloth.
Step 4: Apply Solution
Depending on the type of stains and blemishes you are dealing with, this is when you would want to apply your specific solution. If you are just trying to go for general cleaning, mix some warm water and dish soap and then wipe the surface of the shoe with the solution. However, if you are dealing with a more specific stain, use the appropriate solution which you can find listed above under “What You’ll Need.” For example, if you are tackling a grease stain, you’ll definitely want to have some baking soda handy.
Step 5: Wipe Off Solution
Using another clean, damp cloth, wipe off either the soap or solution used for cleaning.
Step 6: Use a Leather Conditioner
Once the shoe has been wiped of soap and solution, apply your leather conditioner to add some extra protection and shine to your freshly cleaned footwear. Though you can make your own conditioner out of vinegar and linseed oil, we recommend finding a good quality one for purchase. Leather Honey and Lexol are both popular and high-quality brands.
Step 7: Air Dry
Finally, allow your shoes to dry in the open air. Avoid putting them next to a heater or in direct sunlight as that can end up drying them out and causing more damage or discoloration.
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