Leather Shoe Care Guide

How to clean & polish leather shoes.

No time for a pro shine? Our in-store shoeshine expert shows you how to get your shoes in shape to make a smart impression.

Giving leather shoes the proper TLC not only makes them look better, but helps them last longer. Protect your investments with three easy steps, once a week or whenever they need a quick touchup.

Leather care toolkit for shoes.
  • Terry cloth rags
  • Mild sudsing cleanser or saddle soap
  • Small horsehair brush with handle
  • Polishing cream
  • Large horsehair brush
  • Protective cream or wax
Cleaning leather shoes.

Brush off any dust so you don't rub it into the shoe. Apply a small amount of cleanser to your rag and wipe the entire surface of the shoe. Limit the amount of time the cleanser is on the shoe so it doesn't start to soak in.

Conditioning leather shoes.

Moisturizing your leather keeps it supple and prevents cracking. Use your small brush to apply a small amount of polishing cream all over the shoe; rub for about 30 seconds and let dry for a few minutes. Brush off any excess cream with your large brush.

Note: Polishing creams come in different colors to match leather shades. Be sure to test a small area before applying; otherwise, you could change the color of your shoe. If your shoes have lighter stitching, use a neutral polish.

Protecting leather shoes.

Leather is very porous, so it's important to protect your newly cleaned and polished shoes from the elements. Use your small brush to apply a protective cream or wax; use a circular motion. Buff to shine with your large brush.

Note: Use wax for a shinier finish on calfskin or patent leather. For softer napa and tumbled leathers, use cream.

Shoe-care hacks for cleaning leather shoes.
  • A pencil eraser will clean off minor marks and spots, especially on white leather.
  • Hair spray helps remove ink and pen marks—just blot with a paper towel.
  • For sugar or alcohol spills, a solution of white vinegar mixed with an equal amount of water can be particularly effective.
  • Spray-on spot removers can help clean off oil and grease stains.
  • Rubber cement is another good oil-spot remover. Apply over the spot, let dry and then rub off (do not use this treatment on suede).
  • If you get caught in the rain, let your shoes dry naturally, away from any direct heat source. Stuff the toe area with paper towels to absorb moisture and help retain the shape of the shoe.

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