How to Take Care of Leather Shoes


Care of leather shoes is not only about making them look good and new, but it’s also about preserving their quality and making sure they last longer. Whether it’s a highly expensive pair of leather shoes or one within a budget, you need to ensure you take care of leather shoes so they remain as shiny and beautiful as always.

Why Do You Need to Care for Your Leather Shoes?

If you don’t do the proper care of leather shoes, the leather can dry out and eventually, it may form cracks or worse, fall apart. You will see how the quality degenerates over time with no proper maintenance and your shoes will look old and beaten. You may no longer want to wear them outside your house. Also, you might end up buying a new pair when you could have used them for longer.

While some people tend to just apply some shoe polish from time to time to make their leather shoes nice, it’s really important to take the extra steps to make them look their best at all times. In summary, there are at least 4 important things you need to do regularly to keep your leather shoes looking shiny and new. You need to clean them, condition them, polish them, and lastly, preserve or weatherproof them. We will discuss those steps in detail.

Care of Different Types of Leather Shoes

Because there are a few different types of leather shoes, some of the steps in the care of leather shoes may vary. There are smooth type of leather shoes, suede, there are those made of exotic skins and nubuck. But essentially, following the general instructions will ensure the long life of your shoes.

What You’ll Need

Here are some of the essential items you will need for the care of leather shoes. Some of them may vary and you may not need all depending on the type of leather shoes you have.

  • Gloves
  • Soft Cotton Cloth or Rag
  • Soft Shoe Brush
  • Shoe Cleaner
  • Leather Conditioner
  • Shoe Polish
  • Leather Protectant

How to Take Care of Leather Shoes?

So let us take a look at how to take care of leather shoes depending on the leather type.

  • Cleaning

    First, you need to clean your leather shoes, especially if they have accumulated dirt and dust. For smooth leather shoes, remove the dirt by using a leather cleaner that is specially made for smooth leather. They might be the same as what you might use for furniture but look carefully because it what you may use to polish leather sofas may not be suitable for your shoes. There is also a different product if you want to polish a leather jacket as well as leather totes. You can also use saddle soap.

    Shoe cleaners can be made of gel, or sometimes they come in foams, sprays, liquids, or creams. They usually include an applicator or you can use a soft brush to remove the dirt on the surface for the care of leather shoes.

    After cleaning, let your leather shoes dry before you start shining them with a cotton cloth or a special shine cloth for leather.

  • Conditioning

    Once your leather shoes are clean, you would have to condition them. This will soften and moisturize the leather so that it’s protected from drying out and cracking. Some leather shoes especially those that are worn in dryer climates might need more conditioning.

    There are cleaning products that also conditions leather shoes but if you want to give your shoes full treatment, it’s still better to use a separate conditioner. Look for a natural conditioner that is easily absorbed instead of synthetic ones that only sits on the surface.

    To condition, rub small amounts of the conditioner on your shoes until all surfaces have been covered. Wait a couple of minutes then wipe out any residue. Be warned that some products may contain toxic chemicals so be careful not to ingest them and keep them away from pets.

  • Polishing

    Now you can polish your leather shoes to make them look extra shiny and nice. This is how to shine leather boots particularly. For other types of boots’ material, you may also check out our guide on how to polish boots.

    Shoe polish can come in liquid form or cream. The liquid polish dries quickly but they’re not always available in different colors and may not last as long. Paste lasts the longest but it can be messy. The cream is a great alternative and is always available in lots of colors.

    Rub the polish on your shoes with a soft cloth and let it dry. Shine your shoes by buffing them using also a soft cloth or special shoe brush.

  • Waterproofing

    The last step on how to take care of leather shoes is to protect them or weatherproof them. You can use different products but make sure they’re appropriate for the type of leather that you have.

    Beeswax provides protective layers on your shoes. It will be a barrier against weather conditions but could alter the appearance of your shoes. There are also spray protectants for moderate weather conditions as well as dirt, and the barrier is breathable.

As an additional tip, if you’ve just bought a new pair of leather shoes, you may want to do the conditioning step before even wearing them. This will protect your shoes from the start and make future cleaning easier.

Cleaning and Conditioning Products for Leather Shoes

Bickmore Bick 4 Leather Conditioner – Best Since 1882 – Cleaner & Conditioner 

Kiwi Saddle Soap

Leather Cleaner by Leather Honey: The Best Leather Cleaner for Vinyl and Leather Apparel, Furniture, Auto Interior, Shoes and Accessories

As a final note on how to take care of leather shoes, if your shoes accumulate old polish buildup over time, you can use a pre-cleaner. Do not use leather shoe polish to try to change the color of your shoes. You can consult a shoe repair shop if you’re wanting to have the color changed. Also remember to remove laces before you start cleaning, conditioning, and polishing your leather shoes. You can clean the laces separately and replace them if they’re in bad shape.