How to Clean Leather Shoes to Perfection: 8 Easy Steps Guide

Last Updated: January 01, 2024 | Author: James Leigh

How to Clean Leather Shoes

Leather shoes are a timeless and versatile addition to anyone’s wardrobe, but they require proper care to maintain their luster and durability. This article will guide you through the meticulous process of cleaning leather shoes, focusing on different types and materials like suede and patent leather. Dive in to discover how to keep your leather companions looking pristine and why it’s worth every bit of your effort!


WORKING TIME: 15 - 30 mins

TOTAL TIME: 1 day, 1 hr - 1 day, 2 hrs

SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate


What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools Suede Cleaning Patent Leather Cleaning White Leather Cleaning General Leather Cleaning
Suede brush ✔️
Soft cloth or sponge ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Soft-bristled brush ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Microfiber cloth ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️

Materials Suede Cleaning Patent Leather Cleaning White Leather Cleaning General Leather Cleaning
Suede cleaner ✔️
White vinegar Optional Optional Optional
Leather conditioner ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Leather cleaner ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Baking soda Optional Optional ✔️ Optional
Dish soap Optional Optional ✔️ ✔️

Key Takeaways: Keeping Your Leather Shoes in Prime Condition

  • Regular cleaning and maintenance can significantly extend the life of your leather shoes.
  • Different types of leather require specific cleaning methods; suede needs a gentle approach, while patent leather can be cleaned with soap and water.
  • Addressing stains immediately and using the right cleaning products can prevent permanent damage.
  • Proper storage is crucial; use shoe trees and avoid exposure to direct sunlight.

Understanding the Essence of Leather Shoe Care

Leather shoes, whether they are suede or genuine leather, demand a certain level of attention and care. Regular cleaning not only keeps your shoes looking like new but also extends their lifespan. Here, we will explore various methods to clean leather shoes, focusing on removing stains and maintaining the shoe's surface integrity.

Cleaning Suede Shoes vs Patent Leather Shoes

Aspect Suede Shoes Patent Leather Shoes
Cleaning Agent Suede Cleaner Dish Soap and Water
Tool Soft Brush Soft Cloth
Method Gently brush to remove dirt and stains Wipe with a mixture of soap and water
Drying Let the shoes air dry Wipe away excess water with a dry cloth
Conditioning Use a suede protector to prevent stains Use a leather conditioner
Polishing Not applicable Can be polished for extra shine
Frequency As needed, when dirty or stained Regularly, especially when scuff marks appear

Why Clean Leather Shoes?

  • Preservation of Quality: Regular cleaning maintains the leather’s quality, ensuring the shoes can last for years.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Clean shoes are visually appealing and can significantly enhance your overall appearance.
  • Prevention of Damage: Regular cleaning prevents the accumulation of dirt and debris, which can lead to irreversible damage.

Step-by-Step Guide to Clean Leather Shoes

    Step 1Remove Shoelaces

    Start by removing the shoelaces or laces from your pair of leather shoes to access the entire shoe surface. This step is crucial as it allows you to clean every nook and cranny of the shoe, ensuring no dirt or debris is left behind.

    Step 2: Brush off Dirt and Debris

    Use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush off any loose dirt and debris from the surface of the shoe. This step is essential to avoid scratching or damaging the leather when applying cleaner. Focus on areas where dirt and stains on suede or leather are visible, and make sure to brush the suede areas gently to maintain the texture.

    Step 3: Prepare Cleaning Solution

    In a small bowl of water, add a drop of dish soap to create a mild soapy water solution. This solution is effective in removing tough stains without damaging the leather. You can also sprinkle baking soda on stubborn stains and let it sit for a few minutes to absorb the oil before brushing it off.

    Step 4: Apply Leather Cleaner

    Dip a clean cloth or soft sponge into the soapy water solution and use it to gently wipe your shoes, focusing on stained areas. If you have a leather cleaner, apply a small amount to a clean cloth or brush and gently work it into the leather, ensuring the shoes are cleaned thoroughly. For suede areas, use a specialized suede cleaner and a suede brush to restore the texture and remove stains.

    Step 5: Wipe Away Excess Cleaner

    After cleaning, use a second clean cloth to wipe away any excess cleaner from the leather's surface. This step is crucial to prevent any residue from attracting more dirt. If you used baking soda, ensure it is completely brushed off.

    Step 6: Condition Your Leather

    Once the shoes are clean, apply leather conditioner to keep your leather soft and prevent it from drying out and cracking. Let the conditioner sit for several minutes for the conditioner to be absorbed and then wipe away the excess with a dry cloth.

    Step 7: Dry and Polish if Necessary

    Let your shoes air dry for several hours or overnight, avoiding direct sunlight which can cause the leather to fade. Once dry, if you desire extra shine, you can buff the leather with a clean cloth and apply a suitable polish, following the product's instructions. For suede shoes, use a suede brush to gently brush the suede to maintain its texture.

    Step 8: Maintain and Store Properly

    After cleaning and drying, place them in a mesh bag or shoe trees to maintain the shape and keep your shoes fresh. Store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Follow these tips and tricks regularly to keep your leather shoes looking like new and to prolong their life.

The Art of Cleaning Different Types of Leather Shoes

Different types of leather require distinct cleaning methods. From suede to patent leather, each has its unique characteristics and cleaning needs.

Suede Shoes

Suede shoes are delicate and require a gentle approach. Use a suede cleaner and a soft brush to remove dirt and stains. Avoid using water as it can cause the suede to lose its texture and color.

Patent Leather Shoes

Patent leather has a shiny finish and is easier to clean. A mixture of soap and water along with a soft cloth can remove scuff marks and stains, leaving the shoes looking shiny and new.

White Leather Shoes

White leather can easily show dirt and stains. Use a mixture of baking soda and water to gently rub away any stains, and then wipe away the residue with a clean cloth.

Addressing Stubborn Stains on Leather Shoes

Sometimes, leather shoes might acquire stubborn stains that are hard to remove. For such stains, a mixture of white vinegar and water can be used. For suede shoes, a suede eraser can be gently rubbed on the stain to lift it.

Maintaining Your Leather Shoes Post-Cleaning

After cleaning your leather shoes, it’s crucial to store them properly to maintain their shape and quality. Use shoe trees to maintain the shape of your shoes and keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can cause the leather to fade.

List of Best Leather Shoes

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How can I remove salt stains from suede shoes?

Use a mixture of white vinegar and water and gently dab it on the salt stains with a cotton swab, then let the shoes air dry.

2. Can I use dish soap to clean patent leather shoes?

Yes, a mixture of dish soap and water can effectively clean patent leather shoes, removing scuff marks and stains.

3. Is it necessary to use a suede cleaner for suede shoes?

Yes, using a suede cleaner is recommended as it is specifically formulated to clean suede without damaging it.

4. Can I use a toothbrush to clean the soles of my leather shoes?

Yes, a soft-bristled toothbrush can be used to remove dirt and debris from the soles of the shoes effectively.

5. How often should I condition my patent leather shoes?

Conditioning patent leather shoes every few months can maintain their shine and prevent them from cracking.

Author Box
James Leigh

James Leigh

James Leigh is a certified health professional, physiotherapist, and a seasoned runner who wins Boston Marathon, with a wealth of experience under his belt. Passionate about sharing his expertise with fellow runners. James is your go-to expert for your health, wellness and running tips.