What’s the Best Way to Clean Leather Shoes?

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As much as leather shoes tend to be costlier than their synthetic alternatives, you simply cannot go wrong with them. A quality pair of leather shoes will significantly enhance your style, whether you are attending a casual or a formal occasion. But just like everything else, your leather shoes will not always look new and clean. After a few uses, faded bits, scuff marks, wrinkles, and spots will appear. The good news is that your leather shoes or boots only require simple maintenance at regular intervals, to keep them in great condition. And you don’t even need fancy tools, expensive products or complicated methods. If you own a pair of leather shoes, here are some tips on how you should clean and maintain them properly.

Cleaning Your Boots

Dirt and grime are the biggest enemies of your leather shoes. However, this is not to mean that you should be wearing your leather shoes sparingly so that they don’t become dirty. You can wear your leather shoes or boots as many times as you want and regardless of the weather conditions. You just need to clean them as soon as possible. So, what’s the best way to clean your leather shoes? Well, you have numerous options to consider when it comes to cleaning leather shoes. The method you will use will depend on how dirty your shoes are and whether they have any stains on the surface. Some of the cleaning methods that you can use include:

Soap and Water

If your leather shoes only have a few spots of dirt, then you can simply use soap and water to clean them. First, remove the laces from the shoes, and then use a soft piece of cloth to wipe the entire surface, making sure you focus on the areas that have the dirt spots. Circular motions will work best to remove the dirt and grime lodged on the surface. Once you’ve removed all the dirt, you should then allow your leather boots to dry, away from direct sunlight. Never dry your shoes using a drier. The direct heat from the drier will not only destroy the leather but it might also weaken the glue used to hold the different parts together, thus shortening the life of your shoes.

Lemon Juice and Tartar

When mixed together and in the right amounts, lemon juice and tartar can provide a powerful cleaning solution for your leather shoes. This cleaning solution is most effective for spot cleaning. To prepare this cleaning solution, you will have to mix equal amounts of cream of tartar and lemon juice and stir them thoroughly. You will then use a clean piece of cloth dipped in this solution, to wipe your shoes. If some spots remain, you should let your shoes sit for a few minutes, and then repeat the process again. If the method fails to work, you will need to use a tougher cleaning solution.

Vinegar and Water

Vinegar is present in almost all households, thanks to its versatility. It’s arguably one of the most effective cleaning solutions for leather shoes. It can remove most types of stains and dirt. However, it’s best used to remove salt stains from leather shoes and leather boots. Just like other cleaning solutions, you will simply mix equal parts of water and vinegar, and then use it to clean the entire surface of your leather shoes. Stains don’t come out easily, which means you will have to wipe the affected areas more than once, to remove them. Once you’ve finished cleaning your shoes, you will have to condition them, and then allow them to dry away from direct sunlight.


Do your leather shoes have oil stains? If yes, you can use cornstarch to absorb those stains. However, this method will not work on older stains. First, you need to apply cornstarch directly on the stained spot, and then rub it vigorously. Keep rubbing the stains while adding more cornstarch if needed. Once you’ve applied cornstarch on all the stains, you should then let it sit for 24 hours or more. At the end of that period, cornstarch will draw out the oil stains from your leather shoes, leaving them looking clean and spotless. If you don’t have cornstarch, you can use any other absorbent powder such as talcum powder. Regardless of the method that you use to clean your shoes, avoid getting them too wet. Soaking your shoes in a bucketful of water and leaving them there for hours may damage them

Moisturizing Your Leather Shoes

Apart from cleaning leather shoes, it’s also a good practice to moisturize them regularly. Just like your skin, your leather boots or shoes can become. And when that happens, they will become brittle and cracks will start to form. Dirt will eventually accumulate in those cracks, making them wider and your once cute leather shoes will start looking dull and aged. Fortunately, you can avoid all that by applying a leather conditioner to your shoes. There are different types of leather conditioners on the market, designed for different types of leather. Therefore, ensure you choose one that suits your specific leather shoes. Once you’ve acquired the conditioner, apply it evenly on your leather shoes, wipe off any excess and then allow your shoes to air dry. Once your shoes are completely dry, you should then buff them using a dry, soft piece of cloth. After that, your leather shoes will look as good as new.

Polish Your Shoes

If you have a pair of dress shoes, cleaning them regularly and conditioning them will not be enough to keep them in good condition. Your leather shoes will also need regular polishing. If you work outdoors, your leather shoes will come across different types of dirt. After cleaning and conditioning them, you will need to apply shoe polish, specific to your leather shoes. The application of shoe polish will restore the shine and luster in your shoes. Regular application of shoe polish will also go a long way in prolonging their life.

Waterproofing Leather Shoes

Protection is usually the most effective method of taking care of your shoes. While there are literally hundreds of waterproofing products that you can use, it’s highly advisable to opt for the ones made of beeswax. Apart from creating a protective barrier between your leather shoes and water, the beeswax will also condition your shoes, thus helping to prolong their lifespan. To waterproof your shoes, you just need to apply the beeswax evenly on the leather, using a soft shoe brush, followed by light buffing. In case you don’t have beeswax, you can simply use vaseline petroleum jelly. You can also opt for commercial water repellant sprays, which are available in almost all footwear outlets.

Storing Leather Shoes

Leather is malleable in nature, which means it can lose its form and shape quite fast. While you may be cleaning your shoes regularly, failure to store them properly will lead to leather damage. So, how should you store your leather shoes? First, avoid storing your shoes in moist conditions or in areas that have direct sunlight. Such extreme conditions will ultimately damage your leather shoes. Instead, you should store them neatly on a shoe rack, on a shelf or at the designated area on your wardrobe. As noted above, leather shoes can lose their form and shape quite fast. Shoetrees are an effective solution for keeping your leather shoes in their original form and shape. In case you don’t have shoe trees, you can stuff your shoes with some old newspapers to maintain their shape.

Closing Remarks

As you can see, cleaning leather shoes is not as hard as we imagine. Cleaning and conditioning them regularly will be enough to keep them in great shape while prolonging their lifespan. However, always make sure you use the right products, as well as proper cleaning methods, depending on the leather used to make your shoes.

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