How To Clean Leather Shoes: 11 Leather Shoes Cleaning & Maintenance Tips

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There’s no better accessory for men than leather shoes. Not only wearing a pair of the leather shoe up your fashion game, but it also makes you look like a classic fashion king. The same is true for a leather-loving woman who wants to become the center of attraction.

But, when it comes to cleaning leather shoes, it is another hassle which needs skills. Knowing how to clean leather shoes and maintaining the quality, will make your footwear brand new for years to come. Also, considering how much you shell out to buy a leather shoe or boots, don’t let it get wasted.

In this article, we have collected 11 fabulous leather shoes cleaning hacks everyone should know to preserve your favorite footwear. At the end of the article, you’d master:

  • How to Prepare Your Leather Shoes for Cleaning
  • How to Clean Leather Shoes (11 Practical Methods)
  • Ways to Shine and Conditioner Your Leather Shoe at Home
  • Other Quick Leather Shoe Maintenance Tips

Let’s get started.

Preparation Before Cleaning Leather Shoes

The first mistake you can do is to start cleaning leather shoes without any preparation. Below are two steps to follow before start cleaning.

Step One: Remove Shoe Laces

Step One - Remove Shoelaces
Credits: YouTube

If your leather shoe comes with shoelaces, gently remove them, and set aside. Doing so will prevent them from getting stained from cleaning and polishing products.

If the shoelaces are dirty, run them through the washing machine or give a proper hand wash. Additionally, if they don’t look even after cleaning, replace them.

Step Two: Wipe Dirt and Debris Using a Soft Cloth or Brush

Brush Dust from Leather Shoes
Credits: YouTube

Grab a piece of soft cloth or soft shoe cleaning brush. Wipe the dirt and other visible debris from the surface of the leather shoe.

Make sure to be gentle and not to rub too hard as it may damage the leather. For proper cleaning, run the brush along the seam and soles of the leather shoes.

Now that you’re prepared to clean leather shoes at home, here are 11 leather shoes cleaning hacks to follow for different stains. None of the methods will take more than 5-10 minutes and are easy to follow.

How to Clean Leather Shoes (11 Practical Methods)

How to Clean Leather Shoes at Home 11 Methods

1. Remove Salt Stains with Vinegar Solution

How to Remove Salt Stains from Leather Shoes with Vinegar
Credit: AllDayChic

Winter brings snowfall and snow-covered paths that look good when you’re sitting inside the house. But, if you go out wearing your leather shoes, salt stains can damage or weaken them, if not appropriately treated.

While cleaning salt stains is easy when fresh, if left for a longer time, they can be difficult to remove by wiping. White vinegar can help you get rid of dry salt stains.

You’ll Need:

  • 1 tbsp of vinegar
  • Bowl of water
  • Two soft cotton cloth


Add 1 tbsp of White Vinegar to a bowl of water, and dilute the solution. For a more powerful solution, you can mix equal parts of water and vinegar.

Dip a soft cotton cloth in the liquid and gently rub to the stained salt area or entire leather surface. Wait for few minutes for the vinegar to clean the salt stains and wipe it again with another clean, damp cotton cloth.

2. Remove Water Stains with Dish Soap

How to Clean Water Stains from Leather Shoes

Leather shoes act like magnets to water stains. No matter how hard you try to avoid water, jumping from puddle to puddle, your boots will get wet.

Water and leather shoes should be kept as far as possible, but sadly that never happens and leather shoes that have been soaked or watermarked look terrible. But, it doesn’t have to be permanent damage nor a reason to buy a new pair of leather shoes or boots.

Here’s how you can use dish soap to clean water stains from leather shoes at home.

You’ll Need:

  • Dish soap
  • A bowl of warm water
  • Soft cotton cloth or brush


Add a few drops of liquid soap to a warm water bowl and properly mix the solution. Dip a soft, clean cloth into the solution, wring it out, and gently rub it over the leather surface of the shoe.

3. Get Rid of Scuffed Area using Toothpaste

How to Remove Scuff Marks from Leather Shoes

Although not advertised, toothpaste acts as a Swiss army knife for cleaning home products. We have used it to clean limescale electric kettle, water stains from wooden floors, and whatnot.

But does it work on leather shoes? You bet. If your leather shoes have been scuffed and look impossible to treat, give the following process a try.

You’ll Need:

  • Toothpaste
  • Soft cotton cloth


Apply a dab of toothpaste to the scuffed areas. Grab a soft fabric and gently rub it over the dab area.

4. Remove Tough Oil or Grease Stains with Baking Soda

Baking soda to clean Electrical Kettle

Baking soda acts as a great absorbent, and it can be used to treat oil and grease stains on Leather Shoes. If you don’t have baking soda available right now, use cornstarch.

You’ll Need:

  • Baking soda
  • A soft cotton cloth


Sprinkle a pinch of baking soda or cornstarch all over the leather surface. Depending on the stain, you can sprinkle more baking soda. Use a cotton cloth to spread the soda evenly (be gentle.)

Let it sit for a few hours or ideally overnight. It will allow the baking soda to absorb the oil or grease. Wipe off the powder with a clean, soft cloth in the morning.

5. Remove Tough Oil or Grease Stains with Talcum Powder

Remove Tough Oil Stains from Leather Shoes with Talcum Powder

Use Talcum powder if you have stubborn oil or grease stains and want to remove them as quickly as possible, It is an excellent absorbent too and works faster than baking soda or cornstarch.

You’ll Need:

  • Talcum Powder
  • A soft cotton cloth


Cover the leather shoes with talcum powder and use a dry cloth to spread it evenly. Let it sit for 2-3 hours to absorb the oil.

Grab a clean, soft cotton cloth or brush, and dust off the powder.

6. Get Rid of Ink Stains with Nail Polish Remover or Alcohol

How to Remove Ink Stains from Leather Shoes wih Alcohol

Ink stains are not very common with leather shoe owner, but bad luck can bring it to you. Removing ink stains is a little tricky and requires special attention to not spread it more.

By using nail polish remover or alcohol, you can remove ink stains from leather shoes.

You’ll Need:

  • Nail Polish Remover or Alcohol (spirit)
  • Cotton swab
  • Dry towel


Dip a cotton swab to rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover and gently blot the ink stain. Don’t rub or apply more pressure, as you could make it spread and harder to remove.

Blot gently until the stain disappears and let it dry (it dries in no time.) Wipe the area with a clean, damp cloth, and dry it with a towel. Repeat the process if there is any visible ink stain left.

7. Tackle Other Stubborn Stains with Lemon Juice + Tartar Solution

Lemon Water to Clean Electric Kettle

If there are any other stubborn stains that you’re not able to clean, this is the perfect solution for you. Lemon juice and Tartar cream can be used to clean almost any stain from leather shoes.

Warning: The said solution has a mild bleaching effect, so avoid using it on dark-colored leather shoes.

You’ll Need:

  • Lemon juice
  • Tartar cream
  • A damp cloth


Mix equal parts of lemon juice and tartar cream into a paste. Apply the paste to the stained area and let it sit for 30-40 minutes as it is. Use a damp cloth to remove the paste from the leather surface.

8. Spot Clean with Baby Wipes

Use Baby Wipes to Quickly Clean Leather Shoes

If your leather shoes get stained or scuffed while you’re on the go, use baby wipes to wipe clean them. It works better than rubbing with a cloth and will also reduce the stain effect when done immediately.

Baby wipes are gentle enough not to harm the leather shoes, and the moisturizing properties will help conditioner shoes.

9. Apply Leather Conditioner to Protect from Stains

Leather Honey

31rGALIcWTL. SL500

The commercial or homemade leather conditioner works as a great way to protect leather shoes from stains. They also add shine to make your leather shoes look brand new.

You can purchase a commercial leather conditioner like Leather Honey or create your homemade solution by mixing 1 part vinegar and two parts of linseed oil (we recommend GM Linseed Oil.)

GM Linseed Oil

415z iALXcL. SL500

Evenly apply the leather conditioner to the shoe surface and let it sit idle for 15-20 minutes. Gently buff the solution with a soft cotton cloth till the leather shines.

10. Use Coconut Oil to Conditioner Your Leather Shoes

Use Coconut Oil to Conditioner Leather Shoes

One universal fact is that coconut oil works as a great moisturizer. It can be used as a conditioner for leather shoes or boots too.

You’ll Need:

  • A cup of water
  • Coconut oil
  • Cotton cloth


Start by wiping the outer surface with a damp cloth before applying oil. Now, dip another cotton swab into coconut oil and rub it over the leather surface as you would when polishing.

Use a second dry cloth to buff the shoe surface for a perfect shine. You should condition your shoes every six months or so to get longer durability.

11. Shine Your Leather Shoes with Vaseline

Use Vaseline to Soften Leather Shoes
Credit: Healthline

Vaseline acts as a great agent to make your leather shoes shiny and softer. It can also be used to fill the cracks or repair scuff areas.

Dip a soft lint-free cloth into Vaseline tub and gently rub the leather shoe surface. Take extra care of crack or scuffed parts, and you can use more Vaseline for those areas.

How to Clean Different Types of Leather Shoes

Depending on the shoe type you wear, the above leather shoe cleaning hacks may vary and require modification. Here are a few additional tips to clean leather shoes based on the type.

1. White Leather Shoes

How to Clean White Leather Shoes

Baking soda, cornstarch, toothpaste, and talcum powder can be used to remove stains from white leather shoes. White shoes are prone to get dirty and stained faster, so make sure to carry baby wipes with you.

Use baby wipes to clean the dirt or stain for a quick workaround and later use a proper method out of the above list.

2. Black, Brown, and Tan Leather Shoes

Tan Leather Shoes

These are the easiest to clean, and any of the above-mentioned shoe cleaning methods will work. Avoid the process #7 for dark-colored leather shoes to not lose the color.

Additionally, get a matching colored shoe-polish and use it regularly to maintain the shine.

3. Suede Leather Shoes

How to Clean Suede Leather Shoes

Suede shoes are trickiest to clean and require extra attention and effort. You should brush suede leather shoes with a special brushing tool only. You can buy it from a local store or Amazon (we recommend Shake Suede & Nubuck 4-Way Leather Brush Cleaner.) B00IIFFEPU

Brush the suede gently in back and forth motion to remove scuffs and stains.

4. Leather Sneakers

How to Clean Leather Sneakers

Cleaning a leather sneaker is an entirely different process than cleaning a leather shoe. The materials used are thinner and are recommended to be washed.

Use a sponge, soap, and water to clean leather sneakers. You can also use a magic eraser to clean stains from the leather sneaker.

Mr. Clean, 4 Count

510f6eLAVsL. SL500

Check out the detailed steps to clean leather sneakers by Leaf TV.

5. Patent Leather Shoes

How to Clean Patent Leather Shoes

Patent leather shoes have a glossy coated surface to add extra shine and require constant cleaning and shining. To clean patent leather shoes, use a mixture of mild soap and water.

You can also use hand sanitizer to treat scuff and cracks. To maintain the shine, polish your patent leather shoes with mineral oil.

Quick Tips to Maintain Leather Shoes

There’s no point in cleaning leather shoes if you can’t maintain them. With permanent stains and watermarks, they’ll deteriorate in quality. Here are some practical leather shoe maintenance tips to follow:

  • Do not use the hairdryer or heat gun directly to dry leather shoes. Always allow the leather shoes to air dry at room temperature.
  • Condition your shoes at least every 25-30 wears.
  • Use waterproofing spray for leather to protect them from getting wet.
  • Keep the suede leather far from water, or else it’ll get damaged.
  • Consider beeswax products to weatherproof your leather shoes (you can use a heat gun to dry the beeswax layer.)
  • Insert shoe trees when you’re not wearing to maintain the shape.
  • Always store your shoes in breathable fabric.

Owning a leather shoe is easier than keeping them clean and maintained. Hopefully with these “11 how to clean leather shoe tips” you’ll have no problem cleaning your footwear.

If you have anything to add to the list, let me know via the comments. Also, make sure to share this guide with your friends and family.

Happy leather shoe cleaning!

Leather Shoes Cleaning Tips and Hacks
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