How to Clean Leather Shoes – Full Restoration Guide

Do your dress shoes look old and worn?

Is the leather dull and covered in small marks or scuffs?

I’ve been there, too. There’s nothing worse than seeing a polished pair of shoes slowly look like a 5th-grade science project.

But, don’t worry. I’m going to teach you proper leather shoe care techniques that will keep your shoes lasting longer and looking better.

Tie up your laces and let’s get into it!

How to Clean Leather Shoes

Step 1: Remove The Laces

You don’t want to damage the laces or wear them down, so this is a very important step in cleaning leather boots or shoes. You can clean them separately, but you wouldn’t want products that clean leather touching rope or waxed laces. Put these aside, afterward.

Tep 2: Wipe With A Damp Cloth

When you begin polishing and conditioning a shoe, anything on the surface might further rub and scratch the leather. This is why you should wet a small cloth and gently remove anything on the surface of your dress shoe. Rub in circular motions and get all over the upper and sole.

Step 3: Use A Soft Brush

While a cloth will get most of the dirt and little things off your shoes, a brush can penetrate deeper to remove dirt and buildup. I recommend purchasing a brush that’s made specifically for cleaning shoes to do this. Wait until your shoes are dry after the second step before you do, however.

Gently brush all over the upper, making sure to go over any cracks and small areas where debris can easily build up over time. You should notice an improvement in appearance just from wiping and brushing the shoe. This brings me to my next point.

4: Apply Leather Conditioner

You’re now going to need to apply conditioner for the next step of the leather shoe care process. Leather is skin, after all. It needs moisture just like we do, or else it dries up and cracks. Not conditioning your shoes will hurt their appearance and longevity.

Most leather conditioners should come with an applicator. You only need to apply a dime to a quarter-sized amount. You can either put it directly on the shoe and spread it out, or squeeze some onto a cloth. Either way, spread the conditioner evenly all over the shoe. Take your time here. You want the leather to get plenty of moisture and for the product to deeply penetrate the pores.

Next, wait upwards to 30 minutes. You always want your shoes dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 5: Apply Shoe Polish

Your shoes are now clean and moisturized. They probably look brand new compared to when you began. Now it’s time to apply polish to add that beautiful shine everyone is after. This is a finishing touch, and some gentlemen opt to not apply any polish at all. It’s a purely personal preference. However, if you’d like that extra sheen, keep reading.

You’re going to apply the polish just like you did the conditioner. Polish typically comes in a small round container and should be put on a brush to begin the application. Cover the shoe evenly, and ensure that you get all those little nooks and crannies for full coverage. Let your shoes or boots dry for up to 20 minutes after this step.

Now, some gentlemen also like to add extra shine to the toe box. If you would like to add a little more flair and pop to your shoes, follow this next step: Get some polish onto a cotton ball and rub it in a circular motion on the toe. Slowly you will notice that it has more shine than the rest of the shoe, creating a subtle but elegant contrast.

How To Clean Suede Shoes

I love suede. It looks incredible and has a buttery texture that feels like silk. However, there’s one downside to suede. It wears easily. That’s why you need to have a consistent shoe care routine if you’re going to sport suede footwear on a regular basis. Even if you only wear them on rare occasions, you’ll want to know how to properly clean them. Here’s how.

Step 1: Do All Of The Basic Cleaning Mentioned Earlier

Just like with standard leather, you need to remove the laces of your shoes before cleaning them. You will also want to take a cloth and clean the outside to get any surface debris off. I highly recommend investing in a suede brush, as well. These are specifically made to get deep into the suede fibers to bring out any buildup.

Step 2: Use A Suede Shampoo

Yep, you read that right. You will need a special suede shampoo to clean this type of leather. It helps to keep it appearance, moisturize it, and make it look like brand new. Simply take a damp cloth and apply the shampoo on it, covering the entire shoe. It will foam up, so you will also need to use your wet cloth to remove as much of it afterwards as possible.

Step 3: Let It Air Dry

Once you’re done shampooing your shoes, place them in a cool and dark area. Avoid sunlight or any warm environments, as this can warp leather. It’s also wise to place shoe trees in them to ensure they keep the proper shape.

Frequently Asking Question

Is Suede Waterproof?

Absolutely not. However, you can and should be applying the protective spray, which will help it to prevent damage from water. There are brands like Aquatalia that focus on weatherproofed footwear, and they do offer some suede models. On average, though, suede is not waterproof.

Is Suede Durable?

Here’s the thing about suede. Unlike traditional leathers, it’s taken from the underside of animals like lambs, calfs, and goats. The underside doesn’t have a tough exterior, making it more supple and soft. As a result, it isn’t as durable, either. Suede shoes need to be taken care of meticulously or you risk ruining them very quickly.

Is Suede Warm?

Suede is a fantastic material for many reasons, but it is not the warmest. It is thinner and softer, meaning that your feet will be more susceptible to getting cold if you sport them in the cool months. You can always combat this with a thick pair of socks, though.

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