Leather Shoe Care

Smooth Leather Shoe Care

Leather is an extremely durable material. With a little occasional care, your Italian leather shoes can last decades. Occasional cleaning and conditioning will not only make your shoes last, but also keep them looking great.


Leather is the chemically treated hide of an animal, usually cattle. The chemical treatment which transforms hide to leather is called tanning and has been performed for over a millenium. The following guide is for smooth, shiny leather only. Cleaning suede or soft leather requires different supplies and procedures



First, lay out your newspapers. Warning to the guys, I know what you’re thinking: “I’ll be careful. The wife will never know.” She will; they always know. Be sure to lay out plenty of newspapers and put on the gloves.


First, remove the laces, and then run over the shoes with the cotton cloth. Make sure to get in the seams and any broguing. Use a small tool to gently clean out any tight spots. After this step your shoes should basically be free of any dirt and salt. Salt is nasty stuff to leather shoes. If there is dry crusty salt on your shoes you can remove it with a very dilute solution of vinegar in water if the cloth doesn’t work.


Test the leather cleaner on a small, less-noticable part of the shoe to check that the cleaner is safe for your leather Be sure to follow any special instructions on the cleaner. Spread the cleaner on the shoe using a cloth working it gently into a lather. Get a clean, damp cloth to wipe off the lather and any remaining dirt with it. When the cleaner is removed, use a dry cloth to dry the shoes.


Conditioning your leather shoes will preserve the leather, restoring moisture and helping to restore the finish created during the tanning process. Again check the conditioner on a small, less-noticable portion of the shoe, before applying elsewhere. Apply a very small amount of conditioner to the shoes and massage it into the shoes. Wipe away any excess conditioner and repeat if necessary. It is best to apply a few thin coats, avoiding one thick coat. At the end be sure to wipe away any remaining conditioner. The only good conditioner is that which has soaked into the leather anyway.


Use a color matching shoe polish and lightly apply with an applicator, sponge or cloth to get a dull coating. Remove any excess polish using a stiff brush or dauber. Buff smooth with a cotton or microfiber cloth. Be sure to use a fast, repetitive motion to get a great shine. Use a soft shoe brush in long strokes to perturb the leather fibers. Finally buff again using the cloth as before. Your shoes are finished at this point. If there are any scuffs in the heel or sole that need touched up, you can take care of them with some edge dressing. Some people may also like to apply a waterproof coating at this point, but we prefer not to. Leather shoes allow your feet to breathe. Waterproofing reduces the breathability and often detracts from the nice polish we just worked so hard to achieve.

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