For many of us, our shoes are a way to express our personality and style. Whether you’re at school, work, or on a night out – the shoes you choose are a reflection of who you are. This is why it’s so important to look after your footwear, especially if you own a pair of leather shoes or leather boots!
How to Clean Leather Shoes
Knowing how to clean is great, but you also need to know WHEN to clean your leather shoes. This involves knowing what to use, how long to clean for, and when to condition your leather shoes. If you’re dealing with the leather footwear that your children wear to school then you will have to deal with mud, scuff marks, dirty laces, and the rest! If you’re dealing with your favourite pair for work or on the go then you’re probably hoping to maintain them for as long as possible. Keeping these shoes clean and in good condition is no easy task, so we’re here to help show you how.
To help you clean your leather shoes, here is a step by step guide:
Remove the laces from the shoes (wash if needed)
Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any loose dirt from your shoes
Create a combination of washing-up liquid and warm water and apply to the leather
Use another damp cloth to remove the soap from the leather
Apply leather conditioner
Allow your shoes to dry naturally (do not apply heat)
You can buy leather conditioner or you can make your own using vinegar and linseed oil in a ratio of 1:2. The correct way to do this is to apply the solution to your shoes, wait 15 minutes, and then remove with a soft cloth until the shoes begin to shine! Knowing when to polish leather shoes is just as important as knowing how to clean them. Polishing should always be done after the shoes have been cleaned and dried. So, if we’re already washing and conditioning, then why also polish leather shoes? We do this to give your shoes a beautiful shine and to keep them in great condition. You can clean leather shoes without polishing them afterward, but to keep your pair looking great it is advised.
Hand washing your leather shoes may sound like a lot of work but it’s the best way to keep your shoes in the best possible condition.
The final step to keeping your footwear in tip-top condition is protecting them against water! The right time to waterproof leather shoes is after they have been cleaned. Brand new shoes are normally waterproofed already, so you will only need to do this after you have worn them for a while. To save time, buy a leather shoe polish that also waterproofs.
What If My Leather Shoes Get Wet?
The problem with having a favourite pair of shoes is that you want to wear them all the time. This can cause wear and tear to your footwear over time, especially if they’re subject to the elements. The worst culprit that can damage shoes is water. When leather shoes get wet it can develop a ‘stain’ with tide marks becoming visible; this is where the stain develops a strong edge. Knowing how to remove water stains from leather shoes is key to keeping them looking fantastic. To remedy this, take a damp cloth and slowly rub the edge of the tide mark to soften and reduce its look. Then allow the shoe to dry.
Ultimately water stains are only superficial issues. However, water damage on leather shoes is a very real danger. What happens when leather gets wet is that it can dry out and crack; this is something that can’t be repaired. This applies to leather shoes also. To avoid this happening to your pair, allow the shoes to dry naturally in room temperature (avoid the urge to use a heater) and apply a leather balm or cream.
With that in mind, we’re going to break down how to dry leather shoes to ensure your shoes remain intact:
Towel dry any excess water from the outside of the shoe
Insert balled up newspaper or a small towel inside the shoe if moisture is inside
Replace the newspaper/small towel every hour until all the moisture is drawn out
Leave your shoes away from a heat source in a room temperature location
So, you can get your leather shoes wet without damaging them; but it is how you look after them that is important. Fortunately, if your leather shoes get wet you know what to do! Remember, you don’t HAVE to look after your footwear, but if you want it to last for a while then we recommend it. Similarly, although it’s optional, leather shoes need to be waterproofed for longevity.
What If They Smell?
Here is the bad news: all shoes that are worn often enough will eventually smell. Leather shoes are no different. Here is the good news: they don’t have to! When it comes to odour, there are pros and cons to your leather shoes. The benefit of leather is that this material is known for being more breathable than others. But there is a reason why leather shoes can smell. That‘s because the leather grains can also absorb more than other materials which can lead to your shoes developing ‘that’ smell.
If you’re wondering what to do when your leather shoes smell then you’re in the right place. Here’s a useful remedy for smelly leather shoes. As smells are created from bacteria (often produced by sweat) you will benefit from choosing a pair of socks that won’t cause your feet to sweat too much. We also recommend using a leather shoe deodoriser to help prevent smells from making their way into your shoes. If the smell is already present then try and find a shoe sanitiser for leather shoes, preferably one that kills a high percentage of bacteria.
These are the best ways to get leather shoes to stop smelling and to prevent this issue from happening again! If you do find that your feet smell in leather shoes despite these then the problem could lie in your choice of sock.
Can I Stop Leather Shoes Squeaking?
Squeaky shoes are more common in men’s leather shoes than women’s leather shoes. The good news is that it’s an easy problem to solve. Understanding why leather shoes squeak is half of the battle; the cause of this is due to sections of the shoe rubbing against each other. Knowing how to get leather shoes to stop squeaking is the other half, and can save you a lot of embarrassment. So, here’s a quick and easy solution. Apply baby powder to the sole and around the edges of the inner sole. This makes the sections a touch more slippery which can prevent friction and the eventual squeak.
Repairs, Resoling and Restoring Leather
We always recommend trying to repair your shoes whenever there’s an issue. Knowing how and when to look after your shoes is very, very important in helping your footwear last as long as possible. One of the common issues that you can fix is a worn sole, so this is what to look for to know when to resole leather shoes:
The centre of the sole feels weak and spongy
The sole appears worn out
Any holes on the sole
When to resole your leather soled shoes also depends on how often you wear them. If you wear your pair frequently and see these signs then you’re best off getting them fixed ASAP.
The leather itself is also repairable if you catch it early enough. Here’s how to restore leather shoes if they’ve begun to crack:
Firstly, wash your shoes with saddle soap. Use as little water as possible for the best result.
Let the shoe dry naturally, don’t apply any heat.
Stuff the shoe with newspaper to retain its shape.
When Are They Beyond Repair?
Sometimes your shoes are past the point of repair. It’s important to know how to tell if your shoes are worn out and when to throw away your leather shoes. If you think it’s time to replace your pair but you’re not 100% sure then look for very deep cracks in the material or tears. You may decide that your current pair needs to be replaced, or you might be told that they aren’t worth repairing. When this happens all depends on how often they’re worn and how well they’re looked after. You might find the average lifespan of your shoes to be anywhere from 3 months to 3 years, or even longer if you only wear them for special occasions.
Now you have all of the information you need to keep your leather shoes in great condition and to keep your favourite pair for as long as possible. Don’t forget to show your footwear the care it needs as you’ll ultimately get much more wear from your shoes if you do.