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How To Care For Leather Shoes: The Complete Guide

February 17, 2022

Want to learn how to care for leather shoes? When taken care of, leather shoes can last for many years–even decades. If you're hoping to get the most out of your footwear, proper care will go a long way.

Don't worry - today, we're going to teach you everything you need to know about caring for leather shoes. Whether you've got a pair of Italian dress shoes, luxury Italian loafers, or Italian sneakers, the advice we share below will help. 

Learning How To Care For Leather Shoes Should Not Be Taken Lightly

We want to start by stressing the importance of proper care for any type of shoes - be it leather, velvet, or suede. If you're here reading this guide, it's probably because you're proud of the shoes you own. That feeling you got when unboxing them and slipping them on for the first time is indescribable.

But with time, the leather will start to age. The good news is that leather shoes are one of the few things in life that just get better with age. The color, firmness, and texture evolve in the most beautiful and unexpected ways. 

But sIs there anything you can do to ensure the leather shoes don’t get too dirty along the way?

Yes - that is where proper care comes in. There are all sorts of things you can do to maintain your shoes and keep them looking glorious. Unfortunately, these things take a bit of time and effort. But make no mistake - it's worth it. When you consider how much you spent on your shoes,  the 5 minutes you spend here and there to keep them looking beautiful is well worth it. So - let's dive in!

How To Care For Leather Shoes: What All Owners Need To Know

A large part of caring for leather shoes is cleaning. But first, we're going to talk about a few preventative measures you can take to keep your shoes fresh and clean. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Follow these tips:

Protect Your Shoes From These Three Leather Killers

There are three things that can wreak havoc on leather. It's up to you to protect your shoes from these three elements:

  • Excess Sun or Heat
  • Excess Moisture
  • Harsh cleaning agents

If you can keep these three things away from your shoes, you'll do wonders in preserving and maintaining their quality year after year. Easier said than done, but we'll provide additional tips throughout this article.

Only Wear Your Leather Shoes Under The Right Circumstances

You shouldn't wear your favorite shoes in harsh conditions. Rain and snow will wreak havoc on the leather over time. Save them for drier, sunny conditions - and you'll do wonders for keeping them clean and shiny.

Quickly Clean Leather Shoes After Each Wear

This preventative measure keeps them looking clean and prevents stains from accumulating. Every time you get home, take your shoes off and give them a quick cleaning. You don't need to whip out all your cleaning products or a polishing kit. Just wipe them down to remove any dirt or muck you just accumulated in your travels. We'll talk about more robust cleanings later on. But, these quick cleanings will prevent them from really getting dirty in the first place.

Use A Shoe Tree To Preserve The Shape And Structure Of Your Shoes

After you wipe your shoes down, put them away with shoe trees inside them. So many people overlook the importance of shoe trees - do not make this mistake. Not only will these do wonders to maintain the shape and structure of your shoes. But, they will also work to absorb moisture and odor that accumulates inside the shoe.

Use A Dust Bag When Storing Your Leather Shoes

If you're putting your shoes away for a few weeks - or longer - store them in a dust bag. Even if you think your home is the epitome of cleanliness, dust can still work its way into your leather shoes over time. This leads to rapid degradation and fading of the leather. Dust bags are especially protective when packing your shoes in your suitcase. 

Polish Your Leather Shoes Regularly

In terms of caring for the leather on your shoes, regular polishing with a leather conditioner is the most important step. We recommend polishing your shoes every 6 wears. We'll talk more about this in the next section - how to clean leather shoes.

How To Clean Leather Shoes: Quick Tips

One of the biggest aspects of learning how to care for leather shoes is learning how to clean them. That's why we're going to run you through a few quick tips to keep your leather looking new and shiny. Let's start with deodorizing them.

Step 1) Deodorize The Interior Of Your Shoes If Needed

First things first - even if you wear socks with your shoes, a stench may accumulate over time. For some people, letting the shoes air out in an open area for a day or two will be all it takes.

For others, you'll need the help of baking soda. You can sprinkle a small amount inside the shoes and let it sit for a bit. After some time, dump it out of your shoes and wipe away the excess with a cloth. While some experts recommend vinegar for odor removal, we do not. Vinegar can dry out your leather.

Step 2) Proceed With A Thorough Dry Brush

As far as actually cleaning your shoes goes, start with a dry brush of the entire shoe. This will loosen up dirt and stains on the surface. Don't forget to get the bottom of your shoes - just because you can't see it, that's where most of the dirt and gunk will live.

Step 3) Clean The Leather With Mild Saddle Soap (or Quality Shoe Cleaner)

This is the tricky part - actually cleaning the leather material. Like we said earlier, harsh chemical cleaners should be avoided. These can cause damage and degradation of your leather - the last thing you want. Instead, find a good saddle soap. Saddle soap is great because it's completely safe for leather - yet does an exceptional job of pulling out stains, dirt, wax, and oils. Just make sure that the manufacturer recommends use of the soap on leather. 

Now, you might be thinking - don't I want those waxes and oils to stay in my leather? As such, you'll want to use this product only on waxy, oily leather. If your leather is particularly dry as is, saddle soap may not be the right product for your shoes. Instead, find a certified leather shoe cleaner. These are quite a bit more expensive, but they're worth it.

Once you've acquired your cleaning agent, and you've done your dry brush, you can start cleaning the leather. Use a soft-bristled brush and start lathering your shoes carefully - going panel by panel. Then, remove all the soap with a dry microfiber cloth. It's important to get rid of all the soap, as any residual soap will start to dry your leather out.

Step 4) Allow To Dry Naturally

You don't want to put your shoes out in the sun to dry - remember, the sun is an enemy of leather. And so is heat - meaning a blow-dry is out of the question. Instead, let your shoes air dry in a well-ventilated area.

Step 5) Finish By Conditioning & Polishing Your Leather Shoes

Now comes the fun part - conditioning and polishing your leather shoes to restore their shine. The leather conditioner is important for restoring any oils that you removed during the cleaning process - particularly if you use saddle soap. When using your leather conditioner, just apply a small amount and spread it evenly. A little goes a long way.

To apply a polish, you'll need to finish up with a polishing agent and a soft-bristled shoe brush. This final step is where you will restore that shine you fell in love with upon unboxing that pair of shoes. Remember to wipe away any excess conditioner or polish with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. 

Final Thoughts On How To Care For Leather Shoes Properly

It is time-consuming to care for leather shoes, no doubt about it. This is why so many prefer to drop their shoes off at a professional cleaner - known as a cobbler. If you can afford it and don't want to waste your time - or risk doing more harm than good - it's a worthy investment. Of course, we also recommend the time honored tradition of visiting a shoe shine to keep your shoes looking great. 

When you're ready to upgrade your shoe game and treat yourself to a pair of quality men's Italian shoes, take a look at our collection. We have the finest selection of Italian shoes online. We use premium Italian Napa Leather that looks and feels incredible. Get yourself the leather shoe you deserve today at Del Toro.