How to clean leather shoes and keep them looking great for less

Tips for Cleaning Leather Shoes

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How Do I?

Can you suggest some tips for cleaning leather shoes and maintaining them? Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Air Force Method

I clean off my leather shoes and then apply good old petroleum jelly to them with a cloth, rubbing in a circular motion. Let them sit a bit, and then wipe the jelly off with a clean cloth. After that, take a used pair of pantyhose and shine them up! I learned this little trick for how to clean leather shoes in the Air Force! By the way, I'm a woman!

Try Goop

Try using Goop waterless hand cleaner. It will clean and condition leather. I use it for all my saddles, bridles anything leather. Even leather furniture. It works on all shoes, both leather and man made material. It is also the greatest pre-wash you can use. It gets all kind of stains out and its cheap.

editor's note: you'll find Goop in auto parts stores

Another WD40 Use

I use WD40 on my shoes at work. They do not shine because they are work shoes. Just clean off the dirt, mud, etc and spray it on and rub it in a little. It seems to make them softer and more water repellent. Certainly they look better.
Paul M.

Traditional Method

I have found the best method for cleaning leather is to use "Saddle Soap", let it dry, then condition with "Mink Oil". Both of these items are in round cans that can be found where shoe polish is sold. This leaves the leather soft and rich looking without being greasy.
Kristen of Kansas City

Police Method

My husband is a police officer who has to wear leather shoes as part of his uniform, and they have to look good all the time. The best thing we've found for keeping his shoes clean and new looking is furniture polish. Just buy the cheapest store brand you can find, spray lightly, and wipe with a cloth. The polish helps seal in moisture so leather shoes don't dry out and crack. My husband's shoes are black, but I think the furniture polish would work just as well on white or colored shoes. If the shoes are really caked with dirt/mud/etc you may want to first wash with any household cleaner, then follow up with the furniture polish.
Shelly N

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From a Shoe Salesman

I sell kids shoes for a living. This very question is asked every day. The best way to clean shoes is to prevent stains. Always spray canvas shoes with a "Scotchguard" type fabric protector. Test the spray on the tongue to make sure it won't stain. For leather and suede spray with a waterproofer like "Aquatec". Again test on the tongue.

The best way to clean canvas is to spot wash by hand using a mild detergent and soft toothbrush (a good use for old toothbrushes and soap slivers). Even if the shoe is machine washable. Machine washing wears down the adhesive that holds the shoe together.

Leather is leather and should be cleaned professionally. Suede can be cleaned with a $4 care kit that you can buy at a shoe store or repair shop. It should have an erasure and stiff brush. Just follow directions. With proper care, a good shoe can last forever. Remember that you get what you pay for. If you pay $15.00 for a shoe, chances are you will only get one season out of it. But a $50 shoe can last a lifetime.

Veteran's Method

Coming from a veteran, maintaining leather shoes that are smooth is an art. You just get some high-quality wax (I highly suggest Kiwi. It is the only one I trust). Take an old T-shirt - the older the better. Get it a little bit wet and gently spread a thin layer of wax on the shoes.

Using this method, you don't have to "polish" the shoe, but you can take out nicks and divots pretty easily. If you just do it one layer a day, you will stretch the life of your shoes. If you keep a coat of wax on leather shoes, it even protects them from water and salt that accumulates on the upper near the sole during the winter months. No matter how battered the shoe, as long as they don't have holes, they can look less than three months old with some patience.

Hair Conditioner

We do a lot of leather cleaning - boots, shoes (even my Sunday ones) bridles etc with VO5 hair conditioning gel. A little goes a long way. Brush off most of the dust with a damp cloth or brush then rub a little dab of gel over the surface and wipe with a soft cloth to a shine. As you can see, clenning leather shoes, or any kind of leather, does not have to be hard or expensive!

Reviewed January 2018

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