We will explore the best practices and techniques for cleaning leather shoes, ensuring they remain in top-notch condition. From routine cleaning to handling stubborn stains, we’ve got you covered with expert advice and personal experiences to help you become a leather shoe care pro.

Leather shoes are a timeless fashion staple that exude class and elegance. Whether you own a pair of leather dress shoes, boots, or casual loafers, proper cleaning and maintenance are essential to preserve their beauty and extend their lifespan.

How to Clean Leather Shoes?

Leather shoes can be delicate, and using the wrong cleaning methods may cause damage. Follow these steps to clean your leather shoes safely and effectively:

1. Gather Your Supplies

Before diving into the cleaning process, ensure you have all the necessary supplies ready. You will need:

  • Soft-bristle brush or cloth
  • Mild soap or leather cleaner
  • Clean water
  • Soft, dry cloth
  • Leather conditioner
  • Shoe polish (color-matched)
  • Shoe brush

2. Remove Dirt and Dust

Start by using a soft-bristle brush or cloth to remove any loose dirt, dust, or debris from the surface of the leather shoes. Gently brush or wipe in the direction of the leather grain to avoid scratching the material.

Remove Dirt and Dust

3. Test Cleaning Solution

Before applying any cleaning solution to the entire shoe, test it on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration or damage. This step is crucial, especially if you’re using a new cleaner.

Test Cleaning Solution

4. Clean the Shoes

Dampen a clean cloth with water or use a mild soap/leather cleaner to clean the leather shoes. Wipe the shoes in gentle, circular motions, paying extra attention to stained or soiled areas.

Clean the Shoes

5. Rinse and Dry

If you used a soapy solution, wipe off any residue with a damp, clean cloth. After cleaning, allow the shoes to air dry naturally. Avoid using direct heat sources like hair dryers, as they can cause the leather to crack or lose its luster.

6. Apply Leather Conditioner

Once the shoes are dry, use a high-quality leather conditioner to moisturize and nourish the leather. Apply the conditioner evenly with a soft cloth, following the product instructions.

7. Polish the Shoes

To restore the shine and color of your leather shoes, use a color-matched shoe polish. Apply the polish in small, circular motions using a clean cloth or brush. Allow it to dry, and then buff the shoes to a brilliant shine.

8. Store Properly

When not wearing your leather shoes, store them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Use shoe trees to maintain their shape and prevent creases.

Tips for Specific Types of Leather

Different types of leather require specific care methods. Here’s how to clean and maintain various types of leather shoes:

1. Smooth Leather Shoes

Smooth leather shoes are the most common and relatively easy to clean. Follow the general cleaning steps mentioned earlier for this type of leather.

2. Suede Leather Shoes

Suede requires a more delicate approach. Use a suede brush or eraser to gently remove stains and dirt. Avoid using water on suede, as it can leave marks. Instead, try using a specialized suede cleaner for more stubborn stains.

3. Nubuck Leather Shoes

Nubuck leather is similar to suede but with a finer grain. Use a nubuck brush to remove dirt and stains, and consider using a nubuck cleaner for better results.

4. Patent Leather Shoes

Patent leather has a glossy finish, making it prone to visible scratches. Use a soft, damp cloth to clean patent leather shoes, and avoid abrasive cleaners.

5. Full-Grain Leather Shoes

Full-grain leather is durable and water-resistant. Follow the standard cleaning steps, and consider using a leather protector spray to enhance its resistance to stains and water.


Caring for leather shoes is an art that requires patience and the right techniques. By following the steps and tips provided in this guide, you can keep your leather shoes looking pristine and enhance their longevity. Remember to choose the appropriate cleaning method for your specific type of leather and avoid using harsh chemicals. With proper care, your leather shoes will remain a statement of timeless elegance for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I clean my leather shoes?

The frequency of cleaning depends on how often you wear your shoes and the environmental conditions they are exposed to. As a general rule, clean your leather shoes every 1-2 weeks.

How do I remove salt stains from leather shoes?

To remove salt stains, mix equal parts of water and white vinegar and dab the solution on the stains. Wipe it off with a damp cloth and let the shoes dry naturally.

Can I use household cleaning products on leather shoes?

No, household cleaning products can be too harsh and may damage the leather. Stick to mild soap, leather cleaner, or products specifically designed for leather shoe care.

David Alexander
I am David Alexander and I have been reviewing shoes for the past 2 years. Living in California, I have a wide variety of shoes to choose from and review. I enjoy sharing my thoughts on different types of shoes with others who are looking for information before making a purchase.