Caring for leather footwear
Your shoes tell the story of your journey. They look after your feet, and to do that properly you need to care for them properly too. This section looks at caring for grain leather, suede and nubuck shoes.
General tips :-
- On the first few occasions try to wear your new shoes in dry conditions as far as possible, thereafter try to avoid wearing the same pair of shoes day in and day out.
- Wearing a pair of shoes on alternate days prolongs their life and helps keep them looking smart and feeling comfortable.
- Using a good cream or polish is essential to preserve the leather and keep shoes looking good. Polishing once a week is usually sufficient.
- Clean footwear with a brush or damp cloth before applying a good quality shoe cream or polish of the appropriate colour.
Suede shoes can be really hard to maintain, especially if it isn’t done on a regular basis or marks are left on the shoes for too long. Basically suede leathers don’t have a protective finish on them and can soak up stains really easily – if you spill red wine on beige suede shoes you’ll certainly know about it!
If you’ve ever bought a pair of suede shoes, it’s more than likely that the salesperson has offered to sell you a suede cleaner/protectant. In general this isn’t a gimmick – it’s sound advice since suedes are so easily soiled, and the best way to care for them is to protect them from soiling rather than removing the soiling once it is established!
If you can, it’s a good idea to remove mud while it’s still moist by gentle scraping with a blunt knife, and then soaking up what’s left on the shoe with a wet cloth. Keep rinsing the cloth out as you go to stop any dirt being put back onto the suede though! Then clean the upper with a nail brush and small amount of water, but DO NOT use any detergents since this may spoil the water resistance of the shoe.
If the shoes have dried with mud on, here a few tips to help you care for your suede shoes :-
- Scrape off as much mud as possible with a blunt knife.
- Wash off the rest with water using a cloth or brush
- Allow the shoes to dry in an airy place – NOT on a radiator!
- Brush out any remaining dusts with a suede brush
Restoring the nap…
Brushing is always best with a suede brush and a circular motion is recommended. To raise a nap on small stubborn areas you can try rubbing gently with emery paper or using a blunt knife. A quick tip is that brushing when damp is more effective for restoring appearance. You can dampen the suede by holding it 6 inches from a steaming kettle spout is a good trick.
Nubuck shoes are similar to suede shoes in that the surface has been abraded to produce a fine nap. Again, the nubuck is unprotected except for protective sprays that can be applied to the leather, so you should be careful where and when you wear nubuck shoes…gardening in them is certainly not recommended!
Nubuck shoes can generally be cleaned by wiping with a cloth dipped in slightly soapy warm water. There are also special products for cleaning and protecting nubuck footwear. Protection using sprays and foams is crucial to maintaining nubuck shoes.
Grain shoes are relatively easy to maintain…just ensure the products you buy for your shoes are suitable for use, ie don’t put black shoe polish on a pair of beige shoes. Here are some basic guidelines:-
- Let shoes dry before cleaning and polishing them
- Clean shoes with a leather cleaner to remove the surface dirt
- Optionally use a conditioner to soften and lubricate the leather
- Polish with a suitable cream, liquid or paste
- Optionally weatherproof them with a suitable product
Due to the scaly nature of most exotic skins, applying a cleansing product normally used on a standard leather would not be appropriate since the product can be trapped in between the scales.
The best policy is to dust off the item on a regular basis as a preventative measure, and to wipe off fresh mud as soon as you can.