We’ve all owned a pair of black shoes in our time, and it’s likely we’ve all got frustrated by the stubborn marks that sometimes appear on them. A scuff or a stain can feel like the worst thing to ever happen to a black shoe, especially if it’s for a formal occasion. But there are ways to overcome them.
There are a few things to bear in mind when cleaning black shoes, the main thing to consider being the type of material your shoes are made from. A pair of leather shoes won’t have the same needs as a pair of canvas shoes for example.
In a bid to answer some frequently asked questions, here we’re going to take a look at how to get the best from your black shoes, discuss the sort of techniques that can help increase their longevity and maintain their appearance as well as cover what not to do with your black shoes.
How To Clean Black Shoes
A common curiosity, but for many knowing how to clean black shoes starts and ends with a wet cloth and a tin of shoe polish. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there are a huge number of other techniques for cleaning, polishing and protecting black shoes. Below is a list of the most common types of materials and the techniques that we feel will provide you with the best results, let’s take a look:
Leather – Dust with a soft brush to remove any debris, then use a soft cloth and toothpaste to remove any stubborn scuffs, rub in gently. Baking soda will also do the trick if you need to remove any grease or oil marks, just sprinkle on the affected area and leave it overnight to absorb.
Suede – Use a soft brush and brush gently to remove dirt, a more vigorous brush will help remove scuffs and revitalise the suede. A pencil eraser will also help remove tough stains like salt. DO NOT use water to clean suede. If you do happen to get your suede shoes wet, sprinkle talcum powder on them to soak it up.
Canvas – Use a small amount of diluted laundry detergent with a toothbrush to remove any marks or stains, they can then be dried using old newspapers.
Leather – If you want your shoes to shine like a soldier’s, the old fashioned methods are the best. Using an old towel or sock, apply a small amount of shoe polish… make sure you’ve picked the correct colour – black of course! Once this is done, use a polishing brush to vigorously buff the surface of the shoes. Brushing after the polish has been applied will not only help to distribute the polish more evenly, it will also help it to get into the grain of the leather, allowing the oils to nourish more deeply. Once this has been done, use a clean cloth to buff and refine the surface of the shoes. If done correctly, it should leave you with an almost mirror finish!
We wouldn’t recommend using polishing techniques on suede or nubuck shoes, doing so will affect the napped effect of the material and it could also leave black shoes permanently stained. With that, polishing canvas wouldn’t be advisable either.
Leather – A good quality oil or oil based balm is the starting point for protecting leather shoes. Using oil will nourish the leather and prevent it from drying out and cracking, keeping leather soft will also make for a more comfortable pair of shoes. It’s recommended that oil or balm is applied once every 2 to 3 months with a soft cloth. Another great way to keep leather shoes supple is to avoid direct heat sources, don’t be tempted to place them in front of a radiator to dry if they get wet as this can cause cracking and stiffness, use newspaper or a cedar shoe tree to soak up any excess moisture.
Suede – Use a spray specifically formulated for suede boots. A protective spray will effectively seal the newly cleaned suede, helping to prevent stains and discolouration. It’s recommended that that suede shoes should be brushed and resprayed every couple of months. You should avoid wearing suede during the winter months or in wet weather, salt and water can cause stains which will affect the integrity of the material and make it harder to keep them looking fresh.
Canvas – You’ve cleaned canvas shoes and they’re thoroughly dried. Now it’s time to protect them against the elements. One of the biggest issues for canvas shoes is their lack of waterproofing. While we would always recommend avoiding wet days, there are certain things you can do to help protect against them. Rub clear beeswax into the shoes, using a hair dryer to melt it into the fibers. To protect against staining and dirt build up use a fabric protector spray, reapplying as often as required.
How To Restore Black Shoes
There are a number of reasons why black shoes may need some restoration in terms of colour, unfortunately, black is one of the easiest colours to dilute and when it comes to footwear it’s easy to see why it might happen.
One of the biggest culprits is water damage, this is particularly true of canvas and suede/nubuck shoes. So try to avoid these conditions where you can. In winter, salt is often put down during icy and snowy weather, this is a big problem for leather and suede footwear, creating unsightly white marks and discolouration. The best thing you can do under this circumstance is to follow the above cleaning tips as quickly as possible, this will help prevent permanent damage. Another culprit that isn’t really thought about when it comes to shoe care is light damage. If your shoes are stored in direct sunlight, over time it will begin to bleach them which can leave you with odd looking shoes.
The most effective way to restore black shoes that have faded is with a specially formulated shoe dye. There are different variations on dye depending on the material of your shoes, so be sure to get the correct one when buying. Using either a fine brush or cotton wool, apply the dye liberally all over the shoe. To avoid getting dye on the soles of the shoes, use medical tape to add protection.
Once the dye has dried completely, you can either apply another coat of dye or brush them to remove any debris to soften the material. Use a protective spray to set the dye and prevent it from running. This is particularly needed for suede and nubuck shoes.
When it comes to owning black shoes, preventatives are definitely better than a cure. There are many shoe care options out there and by following our top tips, we’re certain your shoes will help you put your best foot forward for many more years to come.