Updated on August 30, 2022 by Sarina
At the best of times, Shoes lose their shine. And at their worst, they end up looking like this.
Shoe care basics
Leather shoes can become brittle, and crack in places and feel as hard as a board. Some shoes get chipped painted surface. Some get scuff marks when shoes rub against hard surfaces. Some get soggy and wet in rain, never to be renewed to their good old looks. They can dull overtime. The texture can become quite rough.
When psychologists vouch that people judge a person’s personality from his or her shoe most of the time, don’t you want to take more care of your shoes. Can you keep them shining at home ?
10 cardinal rules in shoe care
- Shoe care basics
- 10 cardinal rules in shoe care
- Keep the shoes clean
- Store shoes the right way
- Get good cleaning /caring supplies for shoes
- Remove old polish before applying anything new
- Use shoe polish the correct way
- Use stain removers correctly
- Use shoe cream/conditioner to Condition leather shoes
- Dry the shoes if it gets wet
- Waterproof and insure your leather shoes
- Buy quality shoes
Keep the shoes clean
There is nothing as vulnerable to dirt as your shoes. They are always on it. If you find any dirt on your shoe, you need to clean it first and foremost. This is for all kind of shoes – plastic, cloth, leather, rubber.
Many people do clean the dirt with brush after every wear. Good for them and their shoes.
You can at least clean your shoes with a brush every week or so or whenever you find it has got dirty. You can do this with all shoes, on a weekend, as a ritual. Cover all nooks and corners with the brush. Keep a newspaper to catch all the dirt. Throw it away and clean the brush when done.
Use a clean and slightly damp cloth(soft muslin cloth is ideal) to clean the dirt more thoroughly.
With leather shoes, you can use specialized leather cleaners. You can also use home-available cleaners like baby oil, petroleum jelly, baby wipes (at your own risk). Saddle soap is a special soap used to clean leather.
Suede shoes should only be cleaned with a clean brush and brushed with the nap. Do not clean with water as it will leave a mark. Read more on suede cleaning tips here.
You can wash some of your shoes like canvas shoes, plastic shoes, trainers – look at the care label ( if you have not discarded it) – this will tell you whether you can wash it or not.
Remove the laces and brush off the dirt before soaking them in a very mild detergent solution in cold water. Soak for 30 minutes. Rinse completely and then dry naturally. Stuff with plastic covers as they dry, to retain the shape. If there are hardened stains dip a soft-bristled brush into detergent and use it to clean the outside of the shoe. Soles of shoes can be scrubbed hard with a brush
Remove all knots on your shoe laces and clean them when they look dirty.
Store shoes the right way
Keeping the shoes in an organized way in storage is another way to prevent dirt. Store shoes in a covered shelf or bag. In fact, shoe bags made of natural fabrics like soft cotton is the best for shoe storage as they keep mold and dust out.
Do not pile shoes on top of each other on the floor. All the shoes on top leave their dirt on the shoes and the shoe laces.
And keep them away from the front of the door. Anybody can step on it and leave more of their dirt on your shoes.
Use Shoe trees for keeping your precious shoes in good shape.
Never store shoes inside plastic – Shoes can attract mold if oxygen supply is cut off and humidity is trapped – this can happen inside closed closets or plastic bags. Shoe bags made of natural fabrics can be used.
Get good cleaning /caring supplies for shoes
You need to buy good quality cleaning supplies for caring for your shoes.
A brush is a prime necessity – you need to clean dust with it, use it with polish, apply wax. Keep it covered and protected from outside dust. (It can happen that the brush is more dirty than the shoes).
Remember that if a brush has been used with a black polish you cannot use the same brush on a light brown shoe or worse a suede shoe. Shoe care is expensive, yes. But then, so is your shoe.
Buy soft brushes for fine finishes. With a hard brush, you will never get that soft touch and buttery finish. And toothbrushes and low-quality brushes may even damage the surface. Soft Plastic (Nylon) brushes are ok for removing dirt. You get soft brushes made of natural fibers like horsehair brush /pig hairbrush/ goat hairbrush. A goat hair brush is considered the softest.
If your shoes are made of suede, nubuck, and other specialty leathers, you will need special supplies meant for these leathers. Using different cleaners not meant for these products can damage the material beyond repair.
You can use a soft cotton cloth like a fine muslin to wipe your shoes. Old cotton t-shirt scraps also work very well.
Buy the best quality shoe polish. Buy one with a matching color as your shoe. Soft, neutral wax with good moisturizing content can condition most shoes.
Many people use home available products like olive oil (instead of commercial polish) to take care of their shoes, instead of buying costly commercial products. But they should be used with caution as oil and other home-based things may even stain shoes and leave you with more work.
Remove old polish before applying anything new
If the previous wax or polish is too thick and looks chipped, you may want to use soap to remove it – You can use a mild fabric cleaning liquid on a small fabric piece and start with a small area and clean with another cloth as you proceed. Sometimes you may even have to use a solvent to remove hardened old polish.
Use shoe polish the correct way
A shoe polish gives you instant shine. A very easy way to make your shoe look new again.
How to apply polish
I have read that a shoe aficionado may polish shoes for about an hour or more to get that beautiful mirror polish. If you are the kind who leaves anywhere at the last minute this may be impossible. You get half a minute to apply polish and then go and then still be late.
It is better to remove the lace from the shoe completely as you apply the polish.
Remember that before applying any polish/wax or conditioner the shoe should be completely dirt-free. Use a brush to dust or in case of too much muck, use a damp cloth. If you have used a damp cloth, let all traces of dampness dry before using polish on top.
To apply a polish you need to have a brush and a soft cloth/sponge. No compromise. Use the soft cloth to spread the polish on the shoe surface. Then use the other side of the cloth to clean up the shoes and take off whatever is in excess. Buff using a soft brush. The rapid movement of your brush and the soft heat will bring a shine to your shoes. A 10 minute of application is good enough. One hour is for people with OCD or one who is a perfectionist or a shoe ‘crazy’ lover.
A wax cream is added on to the shoes for added shine. Using too much wax on the shoe can make it look tacky. If you want to apply more, add it in thin layers.
Use stain removers correctly
Remove stains as soon as possible.
Many people suggest many things to remove stains – like milk, baby wipes, make up remover towels, vinegar, even potatoes. Use stain removers with caution or use only specialized shoe stain removers.
Salt stains on leather shoes are removed using water and vinegar solution.
Use shoe cream/conditioner to Condition leather shoes
You need to condition(moisturize) leather shoes at least 2 times a year – this is a necessary step many try to circumvent but then complain that their shoes do not last. Conditioning the leather of your shoes makes it last long, make it look like new again. The conditioner also softens hard leather. The advantages are great for a small enough job.
Get a leather conditioning cream for this. Petroleum jelly is said to be a good moisturizer for cracked leather. People also use coconut oil /vegetable oil as conditioner. If you none of these use hair conditioner.
Use a soft cotton cloth (mulmul/muslin is best) to apply the cream methodically, carefully. Too little is better than too much with regard to these creams. Try a little at first and then go on to more rather than the other way around. Use the cream like you would a moisturizing cream on your face (with mindfulness and intent) – massaging slowly so that the cream works its magic on the skin. Experts recommend a slow circular motion. Remove excess. Buff with a soft brush.
Dry the shoes if it gets wet
Do this thoroughly before you do anything. Air dry till water and its traces evaporates.
But that does not mean you need to keep it out in the sun. That may prove damaging. Sun rays are not just bad for our skin.
You can stuff the shoes with old newspaper to absorb any excess water.
Some leather shoes should never be wet.
Waterproof and insure your leather shoes
Waterproofing the leather is done to protect shoes from the worst of the usual wear and tear. It allows shoes to be waterproof also. Polish with regular shoe polish is water repellent to an extent. But it is better to waterproof with another application of water repellent cream. You may have to do it every 3 months for maximum effectiveness.
You can do this with beeswax or mineral oils like lanolin. Beeswax is a natural product and very popular for this purpose. But beeswax may discolor colored leather.
To apply beeswax or any commercial wax/cream, take the cream/oil/wax on a soft cloth (never use any cream directly on the shoes. Always soak it on fabric and then apply). Apply it bit by bit all over the shoes, rubbing in a small circular motion. Wait for an hour or so. Use another soft cloth to massage the cream/wax and take off the excess from the shoe.
Some people apply a water repellent spray like Scotch guard (meant for shoes) on the shoes as soon as they are bought – Do not use the spray too close to the shoe – keep the nozzle some 8-12 inches from the surface and spray many thin layers than one thick layer. Keep on moving as you spray these thin layers.
Buy quality shoes
If you buy cheap shoes, they will only last so long. You will find a great deal of price difference between leather shoes and non leather shoes; between full grain leather shoes and corrected grain leather shoes. They all indicate quality differences.
Check out this post on the questions you should ask when you want to buy leather