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How To Clean Leather Shoes

Updated on May 5, 2009

Shoe Brushes

Caring For Your Shoes

Not too long ago, shoes were made of Leather, canvas for sports shoes or rubber for wellington boots, they came in very few colors, Black, Brown or White and cleaning them was a simple affair wax polish brushes and a cloth for leather, water and a cloth for wellingtons and a whitener for your sneakers.

These days though Shoes come in many different materials and in so many different colors that cleaning them and caring for them has become something of a science in itself.

If you know which cleaning materials to use then cleaning your shoes should only take around 5 minutes of your time and 10 minutes to clean boots.

Shoe polish

Shoe Wipes A Quick Fix For your Shoes

Cleaning Leather Shoes and Boots

The Old Fashioned Way

In years gone by back in the days when leather shoes came in either Black or Brown, you would buy a wax polish with a black or brown dye mixed into it depending on your shoe color, The wax polish really brought a great shine to your shoes and because of the colored dye in it, it also covered up scratches and scrapes on the surface of the shoe.

These days you can purchase a clear wax polish to use leather shoes of any color and the results are just as effective as they were in the past.

Cleaning with Wax Polish

When cleaning your shoes using a wax polish you will need a damp cloth, 2 soft shoe brushes(optional you can use 2 dry clothes) and of course the wax polish.

1) Remove the laces from the shoes, this ensures access to the tongue of the shoe.

2) Use the damp cloth to remove any dirt on the shoes and then leave the shoe to dry.

3) Using a soft brush or a cloth press it into the wax polish and then apply it to the shoe using a circular motion.

4) let the polish dry on the shoe for about 5 minutes, the shoe will become dull and faded looking.

5) Use the second brush or dry cloth to remove the excess polish and to buff up the shoe in a brisk forward backwards motion until the shoes look as good as the day you bought them.

Quick Fixes

If you are out and about, or you just don't have the time to give your shoes a good old fashioned polish, then a damp cloth to take off any dirt and buffing your shoe with a dry cloth will bring the shine back to your shoes, but not very many people walk about with 2 cloths on their possesion.

Although only a temporary fix purchasing a pack of Shoe wipes can give your shoes an instant shine, they come in packs which are around the same size a pack of wet wipes, a quick wipe over the shoes is enough to bring the shoes back to their best.

Shoe wipes not only work on leather shoes but they work well on plastic and fake leather shoes too.


Cracked Leather

Caring for Leather Shoes

Leather has a habit of cracking when it dries out and although polishing your shoes or boots regularly helps them to keep looking good you also have to take precautions to stop them drying out.

once a month you should treat your leather shoes with a moisturiser which soaks into the leather to prevent it drying out, there are some creams that you can purchase specialy made for this purpose, but you can save some money by using a dab of petrolium jelly and buffing it into the shoe once a month before polishing your shoes in the normal way.

olive oil or even a dash of cooking oil can also prevent your leather shoes from drying out.

Soft Leather

Leather Sneakers or sports shoes, ladies and gents sandals, leather slippers, a quick once over with a damp cloth sometimes just isn't enough to clean soft leather shoes, and throwing them into the washing machine for a quick wash is a bad idea, the detergent in the machine can react with the glue leaving your shoes in danger of falling apart as you walk along.

For stubborn stains on soft leather a cream cleanser such as Cif Cream is a good way to remove them but gently does it, you don't want to scratch them, following the clenser you should wash it of with a damp cloth to get rid of the powdery residue, then moisturise your shoes with olive oil or petrolium jelly and buff them.

Suede Shoes

Cleaning and Caring for Suede Leather Shoes and Boots

Although suede and leather are in essence the same thing, cleaning them is a totally different kettle of fish altogether, using a Wax polish on suede would ruin it in seconds.

Cleaning suede takes a little more time than hard leather and a little more care.

1) wipe the suede with a damp cloth, for stubborn stains and allow to dry.

2) rub stubborn stains with a pencil erazer, which will either remove the stains altogether or make them less noticeable.

3) Suede leather has a nap, rub the shoe to the nap to cover any shiny or damaged spots.

4) Condition with a suede conditioner.

5) Use a waterproofing spray specialy made for suede.

9 Times out of 10 when buying Suede shoes the sales person will offer to sell you a suede care kit, this although being a sales tactic it is a good idea to buy it.


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    • profile image

      Thelma Sullivan 5 years ago

      I still have the wooden box with the wax tins.

      Jikes! I dropped melted butter on my beautiful light leather shoes. How can I get rid of the 3 big round spots on the shoes???? Any sugestions pleease!

    • profile image

      Kapil 6 years ago

      How to remove lquide polish spots on lether shoes pls give me any suggestion

    • profile image

      alex 6 years ago

      My leather brown shoe' color changed to dark brown after one year, how can I change it to first day I bought it?

    • wavegirl22 profile image

      Shari 7 years ago from New York, NY

      a pencil eraser. . hmm I never thought of that . ...what a great tip. . and wouldn't you know I need to do exactly that to a pair of my suede boots! Good thing we are followers otherwise I would never have stumbled upon this great hub!

      Thanks Jimmy . you just made my whole night (and saved my favorite suede boots;)

    • profile image

      scheng1 8 years ago

      Fortunately my leather shoes are in good condition

    • P Morgan profile image

      P Morgan 8 years ago

      Not bad. Needs a new video :)

    • Patti Ann profile image

      Patti Ann 8 years ago from Florida

      My husband uses Pam to clean his leather shoes. It works pretty well.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Like Teresa, this brought back old memories. My Uncle Gene used to have an old wooden box with brushes and those flat cans of wax. We'd line all the shoes up and polish away, he'd sing and tell me about the old days.

    • funwithtrains profile image

      funwithtrains 8 years ago from USA

      Great hub, Jimmy!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      This really brought back memeories. Elementary school, my leather shoes were always polished and I was never certain whether I liked the smell or hated it. Then in high school marching band - more polishing and that was a good experience.

      Thanks for the memories and a nicely formated, informative Hub. Thumbs up.

    • Ryan Hupfer profile image

      Ryan Hupfer 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Wow -- very informative and clean Hub, Jimmy. It's like you've done this a few times or something. :)

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Great one, Jimmy. I always think of my dad getting out his wooden box of polishes, brushes, and buffing cloths and saying "Right! Give me those shoes; you can't go out with your shoes like that!" and he would then polish the hell out of the shoes. I still think it's cheating to use the clear stuff. . . .