On the first few occasions wear your new shoes in dry conditions. Thereafter, try to avoid wearing the same shoes on successive days. It prolongs their life and helps to keep them warm and comfortable. Leather shoes should have one full day to dry out from natural foot perspiration and should not be worn on two consecutive days.
Use Water Repellent
Before taking your new shoes out on their first walk, be sure to apply a coat of water repellent to the leather. After the initial application, habitually reapply it as instructed. Most experts recommend that you use a water-based repellent to seal the leather because it allows it to breathe and the moisture inside it to escape. Moisture impacts leather’s elasticity, so keeping moisture balanced is a must; too much moisture causes the leather to stretch, while too little moisture causes the leather to shrink. In both cases, the leather becomes ugly and loses its original fit. For as little as $8, a can of spray-on water repellent can dramatically increase the comfort and the lifespan of your leather shoes.
Tip: Wipe your shoes with a clean, warm sponge before adding additional coats of repellent; this will warm the leather, making it more porous and improving its ability to absorb the product, and prevent trapping dirt between the leather and the repellent.
Always store leather shoes with moisture absorbing cedar shoe trees, to prevent leather cracking and permanent creasing where the toe bends. Cedar draws the moisture caused by perspiration out of the shoes and reawakens the shoes natural structural memory. The aroma of cedar also deodorizes shoes naturally. It is best to insert the shoe tree immediately after taking off your shoes; this allows the interior moisture to be instantly absorbed.
Always use a shoe horn when putting on shoes to prevent the back of the shoe from breaking down. Never force feet into the shoes.
The first thing to consider is that shoes should be waxed or oiled so that they tend to repel water. The less water absorbed by leather, the longer it will last and the more comfortable you will be. Wet leather will stretch and weaken, shrinking and becoming brittle as it dries. Once your shoes are wet, however, they should be dried as soon as possible. Never dry wet shoes near fires, radiators, or hot pipes. Slow natural drying at normal room temperature is best. (Between 70-95 degrees Fahrenheit or 20-35 degrees Centigrade) The moisture absorbed by the leather during wear needs at least 24 hours to evaporate naturally. Stuffing with newspaper if shoe trees are unavailable will help to absorb the moisture and reframe the shoe. If you are in a situation where you can’t properly dry your boots, wear them in a dry area until they can dry out a bit before you take them off.
When traveling, use shoe bags or wrap shoes in a soft material. This protects the leather from scratches.
Clean the shoes with leather cleaner to get the grime off the top. Never use any type of cleaner that contains an acid or a detergent as both are damaging to fine leather and will age the shoe. When necessary, use saddle soap and water for a better cleaning. Be sure to rinse away all of the saddle soap. Residual saddle soap will damage leather, just as dried soap left on your skin will damage and cause excessive drying. Never use a detergent, it destroys the natural oils. If shoes become heavily soiled, use a mild application of Ivory soap on a damp cloth, wipe off, and allow to dry.
Condition the leather to soften. While the leather is still slightly moist after a good cleaning, apply a leather conditioner to replace the leather’s natural oils. We recommend Lexol conditioner or any good quality conditioner containing Lanolin. Set your clean and treated shoes aside for 24 hours to dry. It’s always a good idea to use shoe trees so that your shoes maintain their shape. Later, apply shoe polish or wax, and buff to a shine.
Use paste, wax or cream polish to shine your shoes. Make sure the polish matches the shoes. Use a cream a shade lighter than the shoe to cover scratches. Neutral is the “color” for light colored shoes. Other colors may have to be matched by taking one of your shoes with you when you buy polish. Cream or Paste polish moisturizes fine leather, keeps it flexible, and soaks into the leather to allow leather to breathe. Wax polish shines leather better than cream, but it seals the leather and causes it to dry out. Avoid liquid polish; although it puts a fast shine on your shoes it can dry out and crack the leather. You can apply the polish with a soft, clean polishing rag; old cotton socks will work fine. You can also use a horsehair brush dauber instead of a cloth; if you use a dauber, you’ll need a different one for each color of polish you use.
Allow the shoes to dry (about 10 minutes) then buff the shoe with a polishing brush, preferably horsehair, and use a soft, clean cloth to bring out a high luster. Another tip is to use a pair of panty hose to buff the polish off your shoes and to get an optimal shine.
Weatherproof your shoes. A protective spray is an excellent way to protect your shoes from water, snow, mud, and spills. The best way to protect your shoes is to wipe the leather with a damp cloth, following the instructions on the protector spray. Spray your shoes before wearing, and on a regular basis thereafter. Mink oil will waterproof and preserve leather, but it can darken lighter shades of leather. A water and stain protective spray for leather provides water protection and doesn’t alter the color.
- Treating your suede or nubuck shoes with a protective non-silicone spray or finish will help to repel water and prevent stains. We recommend Scotchgard or Meltonian Water and Stain Protector.
- Once stains have already set, follow these procedures. Remember to first test any product on a small inconspicuous area before tackling a large stain, and only use products designed specifically for the material of your footwear (suede, nubuck, smooth leather,etc.)
- For heavy stains on suede shoes, use a suede cleaning block, also called a suede eraser. This product will crumble as you rub it across the surface of the shoe, and is great for removing even deeply embedded dirt.
- After cleaning, the nap of your suede can be restored by using a suede brush. The bristles of suede brushes are usually made from brass.
Nubuck Shoes (brushed leather similar to suede, but with a finer nap)
Treat the shoes with water repellent before wearing them. To clean Nubuck shoes, use a rubber-bristle brush (not nylon) or a suede bar. Use the bar damp to clean and condition the shoes, and then use the brush to lift the nap. Nubuck may also be cleaned by wiping with a cloth dipped in slightly soapy warm water.
Clean with a damp cloth or use a good quality proprietary patent leather spray.
At the very least dust should be removed with a dry, but very soft cloth.
Shine with a smooth soft cloth.
Cordovan Shell Shoes (Made from Horse Hide)
Cordovan shoes need special care. Do not use Neutral cream or paste polish, it tends to leave a white film on Cordovan leather. Do use Cordovan color paste wax polish. Also beware that the shell Cordovan creases are usually lighter, not darker, in color.
Cordovan leather is vegetable tanned instead of the modern method of “Chrome” tanning. Since cordovan leather already contains a large amount of oil/wax, the polishing requirements are different from Calfskin. Use a damp soft cloth for cleaning shell cordovan shoes.
The most common mistake in shining cordovan shoes is using too much polish. The excess polish creates a layer of build-up, which has three negative effects:
- It covers the natural beauty of the leather
- It creates a grainy texture in the creases of the shoes
- The build-up of polish scuffs easily and attracts dust
To avoid these effects, use only the thinnest film of polish when polishing your cordovan shoes. Just a very small amount, spread very thin over the shoe, is all you need to restore the color and luster. You should not have to polish your Cordovan shoes frequently, and often all that is needed is to brush and polish them in order to remove scuffs and restore the shine. After the polish is applied, let it dry, then brush it off with a horsehair brush. Next, wipe the final film of polish away with a soft buffing cloth.
Note: It is extremely important not to use products intended for mammal leather on exotic leather. The scales and skin of exotic leather are held together by membranes, and if the wrong product is used, it will greatly damage the leather. Products designed specifically for exotic leather should be the only products used for this leather type.
For skins such as crocodile, alligator, lizard, and snake, first wipe clean with a damp cloth. Gently use a shoe/boot brush to remove dirt and grime. Apply reptile cleanser and allow 15 minutes for the treatment to absorb in the hide. It is easier to clean exotic leather shoes while they are dry, but if your shoes are wet after cleaning, let them dry before you begin to condition them. While your shoes are drying, insert either a cedar shoe tree or wadded up newspaper to hold their shape. It is very important to nourish the leather, and to keep it soft and supple. The product should be especially formulated for exotic leather. Using products for smooth leather may leave a residue that will build up around the base of the scales and cause them to crack or fall off, or it might lead to discoloration. When applying shoe polish to exotic leather, it is highly recommended to use a wool dauber. Do not press hard on the exotic leather when applying shoe polish, as the scales may fall off. Gently apply the shoe polish to the shoe for optimum results. For a high shine, sparingly apply a wax polish and buff with a horsehair brush. Take extra care when brushing to prevent scratching the surface. Carnauba base wax should be used to polish your exotic shoes frequently. Brush and rub gently with a soft cloth for a high gloss.
Salt on Shoes
Damaging white salt makes should be rinsed off immediately with a 50/50 mixture of white distilled vinegar and water. Wipe dry, and follow the directions for wet shoes.