Leather Shoe Care Guide in 2020
Properly caring for leather shoes is an art form. The good news is you don’t need to be an expert or dedicate a huge amount of time to make sure your shoes are well looked after (also see our complete guide on shoe care and maintenance).
Leather shoes are a bit like a watch in that if you invest in quality you want to make sure you protect that quality. There is little point in investing in shoes to then let them degrade quicker than is necessary. With the right type of maintenance, a good pair of leather shoes can last you for a decade or even longer.
Below is a primer, or simplified guide on the best practices of leather shoe care. Employ even a few of these tactics and you’re bound to be paid dividends.
Six quick tips
- Have your shoes gotten waterlogged? If your shoes are wet, stuff them with newspaper or a rag ASAP. Also be sure to keep them away from direct heat sources. Exposure to strong heat in these conditions can lead to the leather cracking or faster decay of the adhesives in the shoe.
- Some people think that by keeping their shoes in the original box they are protecting them. Ditch the box. Storing leather shoes in its original packaging for extended periods of time will likely cause them harm (because of humidity). Opt for a shoe rack, or floor of your closet instead.
- Rotate usage. Wearing your loafers 5 days a week is definitely not going to help prolong their lifespan. Let the shoes take a day off now and then to “breathe”.
- Put trees in your shoes, no literally. After conditioning and cleaning, using shoe trees made from cedar is one of the best things you can do. They help the shoe to retain its shape over the long haul, smooth out creases and absorb odors. For best results look for shoe trees made from unfinished cedar.
- It’s possible that your grandfather might be the only person you know who owns a shoe horn, but your grandfather is smart. Using a shoe horn is not only more comfortable for your feet but also protects the heel of the shoe which is a place shoes commonly wear out.
- And the last our quick six is add taps to the shoe. Shoe taps are extremely cheap and act as a buffer material between your heel and ground. This can prolong the life of the shoe, but be sure not to throw taps on until your soles have conformed to your feet.
Beyond whats mentioned above there are four critical steps to leather shoe care that we see, and those are clean, condition, polish and weatherproof.
Clean: sporadic cleaning of your leather shoes is imperative to keep them in tip top shape. Resist the temptation to use regular soap or water and go for a leather cleaning product made specifically for smooth leathers. Saddle soap can be used in a pinch.
Many of these products come with applicators built on them, if not you can you a dull tooth booth or any brush without sharp edges. Once you’ve removed all the dirt let the shoe stand for a bit, preferably in the open air.
Condition: Conditioning your shoes is the process by which you moisturize and ensure smoothness. Of course you want to look for some type of conditioner that is specific to the type of shoes you have. Our experience shows that all natural products tend to work better than ones containing harsh chemicals. It’s better for the environment too : )
Cover the entire shoe with a light layer of conditioner, wipe away any excess and let stand for an additional ten minutes or so.
Polish: now for the step that everyone is well familiar with, polishing. Polishes typically come in a cream or paste (occasionally as liquid). Obviously you’re going to want polish that is as close a match to the color of your shoe as possibly, Many shoe shops or drug stores have decent selection, and if you can find what you want there’s always amazon.
You’ll need two soft rags for polishes the shoes. First take a conservative amount of polish and apply it gently to all surfaces of the shoe. After giving it a second, take the second rag and puff the polish (this is what you see being done at stands where the shoe shiner quickly moves the rag back and forth across the shoe). It needn’t be perfect, but put some good elbow grease in to ensure a nice finish.
Weatherproof: The nice thing about leather shoes is that they are pretty water resistant in their own right. But if you want to add the extra bit of insurance and protect the material itself, waterproofing your shoes can be a good idea.
Depending on how hung up you are on aesthetics you can use beeswax to coat your shoes. This is an all natural, cheap and easy way to get the job done but the end product might not look quite as glossy as some other options. If you really care about this detail a spray on product might end up looking a bit less visible.
A few final tips
- Remove any laces before cleaning polishing or conditioning. Laces can be cleaned separately, and this allows better access to all of the shoe. Plus if the laces are a different color you run a risk of staining them.
- Follow all of the above steps when you first purchase a pair of shoes, this will reduce the amount of work you need to do later on.
So there you have it, our quick guide to leather shoe maintenance. A lot of this is common sense, but some parts require a bit of technique and know how. We hope you’re now better prepared to care for your shoes.