Shoes are expensive! Whether leather, suede or canvas, you’ll want to know how to clean shoes to keep them looking their best.
“When I was young, it was my job to shine my dad’s shoes. He gave me a shoe-care kit that was basically a wooden box to hold polish, cloths and a shoe brush. There was even a footrest on top of the lid to hold the shoe in place as I worked on it.” Steve Wilson, CEO Master Clothier
Today, caring for shoes isn’t just about polish. Shoes are a necessity that unfortunately has gotten so expensive we have to treat it as an investment! Whether leather, suede or canvas, you really should know the proper way to clean and care for your shoes.
Tips on how to clean shoes to keep them looking like new.
How to Clean Leather Shoes
1. Protect your work surface in case of accidental spills. You want to clean your shoes—not the counter or floor!
2. Remove and wash laces either by hand or in the washer. If using the washer, you may want to first place them in one of those mesh laundry bags made to safeguard fine items—it’ll keep them from getting tangled or snagged.
3. Brush off dirt with a stiff dust brush made for shoes.
4. Apply a commercial leather cleaner, saddle soap or mild soap with a paper towel or cloth.
5. Wipe away excess using a clean, slightly damp cloth.
6. Apply a leather conditioner while shoes are still damp. Allow shoes to air-dry away from sunlight, which may cause the leather to crack.
7. Once dry, buff with clean cloth.
How to Polish leather shoes
1. Protect your work surface.
2. Apply a thin layer of polish with soft cloth or dauber. Rub in a circular motion and be sure to get inside all the creases. For really tight spots you may want to use a cotton swab.
3. Allow shoes to dry, remove excess with a horsehair shine brush then apply a second coat of polish. Most people mistakenly think one coat is sufficient but it’s not! After all, the goal is to keep your shoes looking brand new.
4. Once dry, buff again till it sparkles.
How to Clean suede shoes
1. Because suede is a type of leather with a nap to it, use a nylon suede brush to remove dirt. Always brush in one direction to keep the color uniform rather than appearing as light or dark blotches.
2. Remove small scuffmarks using a suede eraser but again, don’t use a circular motion. Larger spots too difficult to remove may require professional help.
3. Remove salt stains with a slightly damp cloth that has been dipped in white vinegar.
4. Remove mud by first allowing it to dry then carefully scraping it off with a dull butter knife.
5. Once shoes are free of stains and dirt, apply commercial suede cleaner or gingerly dampen with a solution of mild soap and water.
6. Stuff shoes with newspaper to absorb moisture then allow them to dry.
7. Once dry, remove paper then brush to restore the nap.
How to Clean canvas shoes
1. Remove and wash laces either by hand or in the washer. If using the washer, you may want to first place them in one of those mesh laundry bags made to safeguard fine items—it’ll keep them from getting tangled.
2. Remove any loose dirt or dried mud by scraping with a dull butter knife.
3. Canvas shoes can be cleaned in a washing machine but, if done often enough, it will eventually take its toll on the rubber soles. Cut the amount of detergent you normally would use in half and use a gentle cycle. It helps to throw a few other items in the load to reduce the amount of noise you’re guaranteed to hear.
4. If hand washing, make a solution of mild liquid detergent and water. Dip but don’t completely submerge each shoe into the solution then scrub with a toothbrush or similar bristled brush. Don’t forget to scrub the soles!
5. Rinse with warm water then stuff with newspaper or shoetrees to retain the shape of the shoes.
6. Air-dry away from the sunshine and, unless you enjoy the smell of burning rubber, not in the dryer! Heat weakens the glue used in the shoe’s construction.
If you plan to use commercial cleaners or waterproofing products, please read the labels!! There are different products for each type of material. What works on one may damage another. As with any investment, there’s a chance you may take a loss.