How to Clean Leather Shoes

Leather is a popular material for shoes because of its versatility and sturdy nature. Although leather provides a strong foundation for a shoe, it also requires care. As the wrong cleaning products can stain or weaken leather, proper upkeep is essential for the life of the shoe.

Old shoemaker is polishing a shoe
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How to Clean Leather Shoes

General Leather Shoe Cleaning

Remove routine dust and dirt from leather shoes with a gentle spot cleaning. First, use a soft towel or shoe brush to remove any loose dirt. When you're satisfied nothing else will come off, dampen a cloth with warm water and lightly rub any stains until they're gone. Add pressure if needed, but avoid using an abrasive pad or hard brush that can scratch or tear the leather. Soft shoe brushes can help remove stubborn stains and get in nooks and crannies without ruining the shoes.

If water isn't enough to remove the soiled area from the shoes, try a soap that's specially formulated to clean and condition leather. Read the label to make sure the product is right for your shoes and follow all the instructions. Apply a leather conditioner after cleaning to protect the shoes and keep them soft.

How to Remove Salt Stains from Leather

Road salt can leave stubborn stains on leather shoes. Moreover, when salt gets on the surface of a leather shoe, it can bring out any interior salt used in the leather tanning process. With this in mind, it's a good idea not to wear leather when weather conditions might bring out the salt trucks.

A solution of one part vinegar and two parts water can help remove road salt from leather shoes. Dampen a cloth with the solution and gently rub to remove any stains. Repeat as often as necessary until the salt is gone. If the salt isn't coming off with a vinegar solution, a leather soap can help. Read the label before purchasing to ensure the product does, indeed, remove salt. Once all the salt is gone, condition the shoes to protect them for future use.

How to Remove Oil Stains from Leather

Baking soda can help to remove oil stains from leather. Sprinkle baking soda on the stain and leave for several minutes while it absorbs the oil. Remove the baking soda and oil with a damp cloth. If there's still oil on the shoe, apply more baking soda and let it sit for a longer time to absorb more oil. Repeat the process as often as necessary. If the stain isn't coming off with baking soda, look for a leather soap that handles oil and grease stains.

Routine Leather Shoe Care

Routine care can help leather shoes last a long time. Deal with stains as they happen rather than allow dirt to become embedded in the leather. Wipe off any debris before putting shoes away each night, and clean and condition them every two to three months to protect them from the elements.

Deborah Ng

Deborah Ng

Deb Ng is a freelance writer and published author with over 17 years of experience in creating content for the web. Prior to her freelance career, she worked for over 12 years in traditional (print) publishing. In her spare time, Deb is an avid gardener who loves nothing more than bringing flowers and vegetables to life. She doesn't have as much time to spend outside as she'd like, however, because she's also assisting her husband with the DIY projects needed to complete their family home. See Deb's gardening and home improvement articles at LoveToKnow, Wisegeek, and Alloy.