How To Clean Leather Shoes At Home

 how to clean leather shoes at home

A nice pair of leather shoes goes a long way in enhancing your personality and makes you look presentable. The fact is, they add a certain charm to the person wearing them. If you learn to care for your leather shoes, they go a long way in serving you. A good pair of shoes is like a true friend, which keeps protecting you and is always by your side. To nourish a friendship you also have to care for your friends. In the same way, your shoes will go a long way if they are regularly cleaned and polished. But not everyone goes to a shoe shiner to get the shoes cleaned and polished. You can do it yourself in the privacy and security of your home during this pandemic phase.

Types of leather shoes and the process to clean and polish them:

Leather shoes come in different varieties such as wingtips, oxfords, jackboots, combat shoes, and cowboy boots. These shoes are made of different types of leather such as Genuine Leather, Patent leather, Suede leather, etc. How to clean the leather shoes is an easy process to figure out. Identify the type of leather your shoes have and follow the tips provided below.

1. Genuine leather/Grain leather shoes

This type of leather is used quite frequently in making leather shoes. The quality of full-grain leather is considered the best, with top-grain and genuine leather following next. Follow the below process to clean them up.

  • Take the laces out of the shoes so as not to smear them with polish. If they are dirty then you can wash them separately with water.
  • Take a shoe brush with soft bristles and wipe the shoes of any dirt and mud. Take your time and don't forget to clean the tongue, collar, eyelets, and insole of your shoes which are generally ignored. Use a clean piece of cotton cloth or even a toothbrush if you do not have a shoe brush with soft bristles. The bristles may be made of horsehair or even synthetic ones.
  • Now take a bit of leather cleaner and put it on the brush. Apply it thoroughly on the leather shoes until they are clean.
  • To remove salt stains, use lemon juice/white vinegar with an equal amount of clean water. Dab a cloth in it and apply it to stains to remove them.
  • If your shoes have oil or grease stains you can sprinkle talcum powder over them and wait for two or three hours. The powder will absorb the oil and grease from the leather and your shoes will be stain-free.
  • Get a good brand of wax leather polish. Apply a thin layer of polish to the leather shoeseither through the brush or a cloth. Rub it uniformly over the leather parts of the shoe and wait for two minutes to allow the leather to absorb the polish. Avoid the non-leathery parts like soles and eyelets. 
  • Use a separate brush for separate colors/shades of shoes. You do not want your light tan shoes to acquire a darker or multicolored shade by using the same brush for applying black and then brown or deep tan polish.
  • Now take the brush and start polishing the shoe with soft strokes for another two or three minutes.
  • Then buff the shoes with cotton or microfiber cloth. Put the shoelaces in and you are ready to rock with your newly shined leather shoes.
2. Patent/Faux leather shoes

Patent leather is shiny leather with a glossy, highly polished surface. It is also called enameled leather. It may be faux or genuine leather coated with synthetic materials. Patent leather shoes are a treat to wear and are easy to clean too as their glossy surface prevents water from damaging them. Use the following tips to clean them.

1. Take the laces out of the leather shoes and if necessary, wash them with water separately.

2. Take some liquid soap and mix a little bit of water in it. Take a clean cotton cloth and dip it into the mixture.

3. Wipe the shoes completely with the cloth to remove dirt.

4. Take a Q-tip or a cotton ball or gauze and put some medicinal alcohol or hand sanitizer in it. Apply it on any scuff marks and rub gently to remove them.

5. Get a patent leather shoe cleaner from a shoe or online store. If not available then use mineral oil. Put 5-6 drops of cleaner or mineral oil on a cotton cloth and put it on the surface of the shoe. Rub thoroughly to buff and shine the shoes. You can also use petroleum jelly for the purpose. 

6. Reinsert the shoelaces and you are all set.

3. Suede and Nubuck leather shoes

Suede leather is a type of leather made from the underside of animal skin which requires more handle and care. It is soft, textured and a pleasure to look at, though it attracts dirt and is prone to stain due to its texture and open pores. But these can easily be cleaned and maintained by using the tips given.

1. Brush your shoes with a suede brush made with soft nylon bristles which do not damage the leather.

2. To remove scuff marks use the backside of your suede brush which has a rubbery side. If the brush does not have a rubbery side, you can use a pencil erasure made of rubber.

3. To remove oil and grease stains, use cornstarch or baby powder and cover the stains completely with it. Wait for two or three hours.

4. Then brush the covered area gently. The stains will be gone by then.

5. Use a silicon-based shoe spray after the cleaning. This is easily available at shoe stores and online stores and protects your suede shoes.


Besides these instructions to clean your leather shoes at home, do follow some other tips to prolong their life. Prevent them from getting wet and store them properly. Get a shoe rack or a closet to stack them. It saves a lot of space and helps declutter. If possible, invest in a shoe tree that keeps the shoes from sagging and getting creases. If you do not have a shoe tree or don't want one, then simply roll up some clean white paper or even tissue paper and stuff it inside the shoes. Avoid using newspapers as it stains the inside of your shoes and socks with news-ink. The shoes will retain their shape and also prevent moisture from getting inside them. This trick can also be used to get shoes to dry quickly if you get them wet. Provided the right care, your leather shoes will serve you for a lot of years to come.