How to Clean Leather Shoes? Everything You need to Know

A pair of leather shoes does an excellent job, making you look standout. You can protect and make such leather work long-lasting with adequate maintenance and proper cleaning. Hence, knowing how to clean leather shoes is worth the time and labor.

One biggest gift of leather shoes is their durability, alongside their attractive designs. From casuals to more exquisite leather footwear, you can find them appearing magnificent when clean and well-polished.

So you know, the cleaning process is less complicated but requires the proper cleaning and polishing elements. Kindly look through the following simple steps and expert advice on how to clean and polish leather shoes.

Materials Needed

It would help if you had the right solutions to clean and make your leather footwear look great. However, it is best first to determine the leather type of your shoes and pick appropriate cleaning materials. The list below offers what you need to get such shoes looking polished for regular leather.

  • Brush with soft bristles
  • Leather cleaner
  • Leather conditioner
  • Soft cloth
  • Leather shoe polish

Shoes made of suede and nubuck leather would often require extra care, and you would need special products other than these regular materials mentioned above. You can read through the section below on how to clean suede leather shoes.

Cleaning Leather Shoes: Step By Step

how to clean soft leather shoes

Step 1: Remove and Clean Laces

Are there laces on your leather footwear? Then, undo the lacework and wash the laces separately before cleaning the shoe. Toss up dirty laces into a mesh bag and throw them into the washing machine to get them cleaned. Then, gear up to continue the proper cleaning for your footwear.

Step 2: Wipe off Dirt and Debris

With constant use, it is bound for your leather footwear to accumulate some dirt and dust. Hence, the cleaning process often requires folks to brush off debris along the shoe’s surface, seams, and soles. Kindly run the brush through those parts of the shoe mentioned above and gently remove the dirt.

Step 3: Get Rid of Scuffs

Scuffs and smudges on the surface of your leather boots or sneakers would often make it look unappealing. Not to worry, you can remove such marks with a suitable leather cleaning solution and a soft-bristle brush or microfiber cloth.

Squirt some leather cleaner on the brush or cloth and rub in “back and forth” motions across the shoe’s exterior. Keep doing so until the scuffs fade and the glorious appearance of the footwear returns.

Step 4: Take Out Grease Stains with Talcum Powder

One way to get rid of oil or grease stains on your genuine leather shoe is by applying some talcum powder. Kindly spread the powder on the affected surface and let it sit for about three hours. Then, rub off using a soft brush, and you would notice the moisture from the oil disappear.

Such action would have the talcum powder absorbing the oil and leaving a surface free from grease marks afterward. Another alternative is the use of cornstarch; ensure you leave it for close to eight hours.

Step 5: Condition the Shoe

Leather conditioners are great for retaining the moisture of this exceptional material. Hence, it is crucial to condition your leather footwear after cleaning. Gently get a bead of leather conditioner applied evenly on the shoe’s surface using a soft cloth or brush and let it dry.

Once dried, ensure you brush off the dried flakes of conditioner left on the shoe’s surface. Please note that leather conditioners come in varying colors, and it is best to use matching colors for your footwear.

Step 6: Buff the Leather

After conditioning the leather footwear, buffing the surface with suitable wax or cream polish is necessary to give outstanding results. Grab the leather shoe polish and rub it on the shoe’s surface using a soft cloth in circular motions.

Wipe excess polish off the shoe to create a uniform appearance, and ensure you avoid rubbing the polish from non-leather parts of the shoe. Please note, shoe polish is not a compulsory option, and you can stick to the other steps above to keep your footwear clean.

Tips for Cleaning White Leather Shoes

You may encounter some challenges while cleaning white-colored leather shoes, and without proper care, you may start noticing some unwanted discoloration. Not to worry, the right techniques can restore and maintain your white leather sneaker, boot, or loafers.

how to clean leather shoes white

That said, here is how to clean white leather shoes.

  • Gently scrape off excess mud around the shoe using a soft rag or brush.
  • Unlace the shoes and get the laces soaked in warm water for good laundry.
  • Get the surface of the footwear damp using a moist rag, ensuring you don’t get it soaked with excess water.
  • Apply a few drops of mild oily soap on the shoe’s surface and scrub tenderly with a horsehair brush till the scuff marks vanish.
  • Wipe the footwear clean with a clean damp microfiber cloth and leave it to air dry for a while.
  • Although optional, you can apply some white polish afterward.

Note: You can stick to the tips explained above to learn how to clean beige leather shoes but use appropriate shoe polish.

How to Clean Suede Leather Shoes

Suede leather requires additional care, and you need to go the extra mile to keep your suede footwear looking amazing. Thanks to their sanded finishing, you would find this leather material with a soft texture.

Things You Would Need

  • Cornstarch
  • Suede brush
  • Silicone-based protectant spray
  • Rubber eraser

How to Clean Suede Leather Shoes

Not to worry, here is how to keep suede shoes clean.

Brush the Shoe’s Surface

Brush the shoe’s surface using the unique suede footwear brush to remove dust and debris. Kindly ensure you brush the shoe judiciously to remove slight stains and scuffs. Regular shoe brushes are not advisable, as you need a special suede brush.

You can get such a brush from a leather store with soft nylon bristles. Hence, using such a brush would prevent scarring on the soft leather surface.

Rub on the Eraser Pencil

Are there smudges or scuffs on your suede leather footwear? Applying on some rubber eraser would help remove such markings. Kindly move the eraser in the same direction to fend off likely damages. Once done, wipe out any excess eraser from the shoe’s surface.

If you don’t have a rubber eraser, you can use the rubber part of your suede brushes. This part of the brush (behind the bristles) is handy and would also help get the streaks out.

Apply Some Cornstarch

Greasy residues on suede shoes would often appear unattractive. But what do you do when you have some grease stains on your suede footwear? Applying some cornstarch would do, as this effective compound would absorb the stain and let the shoe look great again.

Rub some cornstarch in small amounts on the affected area of the shoe’s fibers, and let it sit for a while (say 2-3 hours). After that, get your suede brush and work on a precise motion to lift off the powder. This action would get rid of the stain from the shoe.

Spurt some Silicone-based Spray

This treatment is crucial for suede shoes as it makes them moisture resistant. You would often find the nice-looking suede materials fickle when in contact with water, and this waterproofing or protectant spray would keep your suede shoes when it drizzles.

It is often advisable to apply some spray after buying your suede footwear, right before putting them on. Kindly hold the shoe spray at arm’s length, and spray evenly on the suede fibers. Then, please leave it to dry (air-dry) for some minutes.

Getting Rid of Stains from Leather Shoes

Ever thought of how to clean leather shoe stains? Stains are pretty common, and you don’t have to lose your fine leather shoes to them. So, to remove stains and prevent them from ruining your favorite leather footwear, here’s how to clean leather shoes with household products and rid them of stains.

how to remove stains from leather shoes

  • Remove pen stains or ink by applying some amount of rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover on the affected area. Kindly dip a cotton swab in any of these solutions mentioned above, and blot the shoe’s surface carefully till the stain appears invisible. Then, wipe with a clean cloth and let the footwear dry.
  • Sprinkling some cornstarch or baking soda on the oil or grease stains would help remove them by absorbing the stains. Kindly rub these ingredients and wipe them off with a soft cloth after some hours.
  • For tougher stains, apply a mixture of cream of tartar and lemon juice on the affected surface and let it remain there for 30 minutes. The bleaching effect of this mixture should remove the stains; then wipe off with a damp cloth and let the shoe dry. Kindly ensure you use this solution on light-colored shoes and take care to do so.


What cleaner is appropriate for leather shoes?

Various leather cleaners exist, formulated right to remove dirt from your shoes and make them durable. You can check across different online and offline leather stores and find suitable options that would work well for the footwear’s leather materials.

A few household materials can optimally rid dirt from leather pumps and boots. A good one is a mixture of water and distilled white vinegar, which works exceptionally for eradicating stains on the leather exterior.

Can one clean leather shoes with water?

Leather experts recommend people avoid using water to clean their leather shoes or submerge them in water. You should know that water would shrink the material’s appearance and diminish its shine.

So, endeavor to keep your leather footwear dry at all times. If you are keen on removing soil from your leather footwear, you can dampen a soft cloth with a suitable cleaning solution and wipe it carefully.

How do you clean leather shoes without damaging them?

Leather shoes require appropriate care, and one way you can prevent damages while cleaning this piece is by employing the right materials. Kindly get a befitting cleaning solution that works well for leather shoes and a soft-bristle brush or microfiber cloth.

Damp the brush or cloth with the cleaner and wipe off the dirt by rubbing gently across the shoe surface. Again, it would help to learn how to clean the leather shoe’s inside. Let the footwear dry and condition the leather to enable this leatherwork to keep its moisture and appear nice.

Can you wash all the leather shoes?

Not all shoe types go into the washer, especially those crafted from leather. Many things can go wrong with washing a leather shoe, ranging from color change to weakening of the material. Due to the delicate nature of leather, it would be best to clean the footwear appropriately and not wash it by soaking it in water.

How do you clean dirty leather shoes?

First off, remove the laces from dirty leather shoes and wash them well before moving further to clean the footwear. Then, get a soft cloth or brush and scour gently to remove debris and dirt, appearing loosely.

Continue by damping a soft cloth with some leather cleaner, wiping off dirt, and removing scuff marks. Wipe clean the shoe’s exterior using a dry towel and leave it to air dry. Afterward, start conditioning the leather footwear and buff to give an attractive look.

How can I polish my leather shoes without shoe polish?

It is crucial to learn how to clean leather shoes without polish and use other household options to give these boots of loafers a shiny look afterward. Some natural remedies that brighten the dull-looking leather footwear after thorough cleaning include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Beeswax
  • Linseed oil and vinegar
  • Olive oil and lemon
  • Aloe gel
  • Paraffin

Rubbing some of these solutions mentioned above should make your leather sneakers look shinier. However, ensure you perform spot tests on insignificant areas of the shoe before rubbing these polish alternatives on the entire surface of the footwear.

Can you use dish soap on leather shoes?

Dish soap and warm water solution can work well in cleaning leather shoes with an appropriate leather cleaner. Dip a soft cloth into such solution and wring out excess moisture, leaving the cloth damp.

Then, move further to wipe the outward areas of the shoe gently and watch the dirt go away. Once done, wipe the footwear with another dry cloth and let it dry away from excess heat and sun exposure.

Does toothpaste clean leather shoes?

A non-gel toothpaste can work wonders for your leather shoes, restoring their appearance after a thorough cleaning. You would need a moist cloth, a soft old toothbrush, and toothpaste. For the cleaning process, you have to dame the surface of the footwear using a damp cloth.

Then, apply some toothpaste to the brush and scrub the leather material gently to remove dirt and smudges. After that, wipe clean the shoe with a clean cloth and let it dry for a while.

How can I care for my raw leather shoes?

Remove the laces and other detachable accessories from the sneakers, boots, or pumps. Get a saddle soap and a damp cloth; rub some of the soap onto the damp cloth and start wiping the exteriors of the leather shoe. Once you are satisfied with the results, get another dry rag and wipe off the moisture from the footwear.

Then, let the air dry far from sunlight and heat to prevent cracking and discoloration. Remember, shoes constructed with raw and unfinished leather require great care while cleaning to prevent this material damage.

Wrap UP

Having worn those well-designed leather shoes all day, do you find them looking dirty? It is appropriate to clean your leather shoes to improve their look and make them last longer. With the right cleaning materials and solutions, you can rest assured your leather footwear would appear nicer and stain-free.

From knowing how to clean synthetic (and genuine) leather shoes with suitable cleaners to how to clean leather shoes with baking soda and other natural solutions, this piece provides expert advice on how to clean leather shoes.

Evina Naomi

Ewofere, Evina Naomi is a biotechnologist and passionate content writer. As a great lover of leather and various leather crafts, she broadly addresses leather-related issues. She is a writer of many excellent articles on leather. With great knowledge and enthusiasm, readers can access researched pieces on various leather types and the best techniques that work on them. Naomi is here to lead you through the journey of choosing excellent leather products and ensure you handle them rightly. So you can embark on your leather sewing and crafting journey with her and have an incredible experience.

Recent Posts