How to Properly Clean and Maintain your Leather Shoes

How to Properly Clean and Maintain your Leather Shoes

Clean leather shoes

Leather shoes are a timeless fashion staple that can elevate any outfit, but they require special care to keep them looking their best. Over time, dirt, dust, and other contaminants can accumulate on the surface of your leather shoes, which can lead to cracks, discoloration, and other unsightly damage.

However, with the right tools and techniques, you can easily clean and maintain your leather shoes to keep them looking brand new for years to come. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the step-by-step process of properly cleaning and maintaining your leather shoes so you can enjoy them for many seasons to come.

Whether you’re a seasoned shoe care expert or a newbie, read on to discover some useful tips and tricks for taking care of your leather shoes.

What Do I Need to Properly Maintain My Leather Shoes?

If you have regular leather shoes, you can use a few things to keep them clean. But if you have suede shoes, you need to be careful. You can read our blog about cleaning suede shoes for more information.

To clean regular leather shoes, you will need:

  • A brush to get the dirt off
  • Another brush to apply Combi Foam
  • Combi Foam to remove salt and water stains
  • Shoe polish to shine your shoes and make the color look better
  • Shoe protector spray to keep your shoes clean and dry
  • A soft cloth

If your shoes are not too dirty, you can use soap and water to clean them. But if they have tough stains or marks, you should use special products that you can get at shoe stores.

Here Are 6 Steps to Care For Your Leather Shoes

While there are additional measures you can take to extend the life of your shoes, like conditioning the leather or seeking help from a cobbler, these six easy steps can do most of the work. You’ll be amazed at how much longer your shoes can last if you take good care of them.


alternate your shoes - holding a second pair

Just like your skin, leather needs to breathe too. It’s important to avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day. Instead, try to rotate between at least two pairs of shoes.

Your feet sweat throughout the day, and the leather absorbs the moisture. When leather is damp, it’s more likely to stretch, get scuffed, creased, or stained. By giving your shoes a break every other day, they have enough time to dry properly. This helps increase the lifespan of your shoes by a lot.


Brushing shoes clean - how to care for leather shoes

It’s a good idea to keep a shoe brush or a microfiber cloth nearby, so you can quickly clean your shoes after each time you wear them. This will help prevent dirt or grime from building up on the leather over time, which can cause stains that are difficult to remove later.

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Leather shoes with a shoe tree - how to care for leather shoes

Using a cedar or poplar shoe tree is a crucial part of taking care of your shoes, but many people forget to do it. Leather can absorb moisture and odor, which can cause it to deteriorate over time. By using a shoe tree, you can prevent this from happening. The tree absorbs moisture and odor, while also helping to maintain the shape of the shoe, which prevents creasing. By doing this one simple step, you can significantly extend the lifespan of your shoes.


Putting on Swims galoshes - how to care for dress shoes

It’s best to avoid wearing leather shoes in heavy rain or through salt and snow in the winter. Even waterproofed shoes can get stained by water, and wet leather soles can easily get damaged on rough surfaces like concrete.

If you have to wear them in the rain or snow, wear a pair of galoshes to protect them all around. We suggest having a pair of Swims at home and in your car, just in case.

If your shoes get wet, don’t try to dry them quickly by putting them near a radiator or in direct sunlight. The heat can crack and damage the leather. Just let them air dry naturally, and use a shoe tree to help them keep their shape. It usually takes a couple of days for them to dry completely.


Polishing shoes - how to care for dress shoes

It’s important to keep your leather shoes moisturized and not let them dry out as it can cause cracking. A simple way to maintain a healthy balance is by using shoe polish every six wears or so.

Shoe polish moisturizes the leather and adds a layer of protection against dust and water. It can also restore color and hide scuffs and blemishes. You can choose between cream or wax polish, or use both.

Cream polish is more moisturizing and gives a natural finish, while wax polish provides better protection and a higher level of shine, but it can be more drying. We suggest starting with a cream and finishing with wax, but the choice is yours depending on the finish you want.

To apply the polish, use a microfiber cloth and rub it in circular motions onto clean shoes. You can also use a pig hair brush to work it in deeper. Finish off with a polishing glove or brush to buff the shoe and bring back the shine.

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Dress shoes stored in dust bag

Over time, dust can get into leather shoes and cause staining and damage. If you’re not going to wear your shoes often, store them in a fabric dust bag that allows air circulation but also protects them.

While there are additional measures you can take to extend the life of your shoes, like conditioning the leather or seeking help from a cobbler, these six easy steps can do most of the work. You’ll be amazed at how much longer your shoes can last if you take good care of them.

How to Clean Your Leather Shoes at Home

Make sure to put down newspaper or a towel on your working surface before you begin to avoid any mess or damage. Once you’re ready, you can follow these steps:

1. Remove the laces from your shoes

Taking out the laces from your shoes before cleaning them will protect them from getting wet or dirty. However, if the laces are dirty, you can either put them in the washing machine or use a new pair instead.

2. Brush off dirt and debris

Dirt can damage the fibers of your leather shoes and cause irreversible cracks, so it’s important to remove loose dirt, mud, or salt from the leather surfaces using a shoe brush. When cleaning, pay attention to scuffs and scrapes to avoid further damage. Regularly brushing off dirt after each wear will make it easier to buff and polish your leather shoes later on.

3. Use soap to remove tough stains

To clean the outside of your leather shoes, use a soft shoe brush or cloth dipped in water mixed with a little bit of soap. Another option is to use a product like Combi Foam, which comes with a special brush. Shake the can and rub the foam in small circles on the shoe’s surface, being careful not to get the leather too wet. If dealing with stubborn stains or scuff marks, dab them with the cleaning solution and then gently rub them with a bit of pressure. It’s better to repeat the process with less water and soap rather than using too much at once.

4. Wipe off the soap

After removing all the stains, use a dry cloth to clean away the soap or Combi Foam. Allow the shoes to dry completely before polishing, which might take around 20 minutes to an hour. Additionally, you can use shoe stretchers to maintain the shape of your leather shoes.

5. Use polish and rub them in with a shoe brush

To protect, nourish, and enhance the color of your leather shoes, use a clean, soft cloth and apply a clear or similarly colored polish in a circular motion across the entire shoe. However, be cautious around stitching that may be a different color. To avoid discoloration, it’s best to test the polish on an inconspicuous area before using it.

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6. Shine the shoes

When you’re finished, let the polish soak for a couple of minutes. Afterwards, take a new clean soft cloth or a buffing brush to properly shine the shoe with short but steady swipes.

7. Let dry

Let your shoes and boots dry in the open air. Be careful not to place them in the sun (or a heater) as this causes discoloration or cracks in the leather.

8. Spray in with protector spray

To keep your leather shoes clean and protected, use a protector spray on them after polishing them. Spray from a distance of 30 cm to make them waterproof and supple. It’s best to do this at least four times a year, especially if you live in a rainy area.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that timing is crucial when it comes to caring for your leather shoes. To prevent lasting dirt and stains, it’s best to clean your shoes immediately when they become soiled. This will help extend their lifespan. Cleaning and polishing your leather shoes is simple, as long as you take care of them in a timely manner.


Cleaning and maintaining leather shoes is essential to keep them looking good and prolong their lifespan. To properly clean and maintain leather shoes, start by brushing off any loose dirt or debris with a soft-bristled brush. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe away any remaining dirt or stains.

Next, use a leather cleaner specifically formulated for shoes to clean the leather thoroughly. Apply the cleaner to a soft cloth and rub it into the leather in a circular motion. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the product.

After cleaning, allow the shoes to dry completely, away from direct heat or sunlight. Once dry, use a leather conditioner to restore moisture to the leather and prevent cracking or drying out. Apply the conditioner evenly to the leather and allow it to be absorbed.

Finally, use a waterproofing spray to protect the leather from water damage. Spray the shoes evenly, and allow them to dry completely before wearing them again.

It is also important to store leather shoes properly when not in use. Keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, and use shoe trees to help maintain their shape. With proper care, leather shoes can last for many years and always look their best.

Written by Dusty Jewels

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