Tips on How to Clean and Maintain your Shoes

By on October 26, 2014

The cold winter freeze is fast approaching, that said, we all will be battling slush, mud and those pesky salt stains on our shoes.  I spent many years working in the fashion footwear industry so I become well educated in how to take care of my shoes.  I am a firm believer in using protectors and cleaners to help keep my footwear looking good and clean.  Aside from the obvious concept of having outdoor shoes and indoor shoes; wearing something comfortable in the car or during your travels to work or play then switching to the appropriate shoe for the job. Not everyone has the disposable income to purchase many different types of shoes for the occasion.  And I also know that it’s definitely not easy to know how to keep them clean let alone what product to use and on what finish of shoe.  This article will help shed some light on the various types of materials shoes are made from as well as a quick and easy ways you can keep them looking good.

Understanding the type of shoe and what cleaner/protector to use.

Leather is made from the skin of various animals. The animals hide is tailored to form many different types of finishes.

Vegetable Dyed/Tanned Leather

Vegetable Dyed/Tanned Leather is the most popular type of finish for a shoe. It is tanned by using many different types of chemicals and colouring for a desired finish. The best type of cleaner is a cream cleaner which picks out dirt while restoring the oil natural shine. Using foam cleaners or liquid cleaners will permanently stain the shoe.  Leather cleaners, protectors and polishes.

Single and multi glossed leather

Single or Multi Gloss leather can be glossed once over or several times to give it more of a shinier stiffer feel. Best cleaner to use is a foam type cleaner and an instant gloss shine sponge. Refrain from using spray protectors on these types of shoes as they tend to dull the finish. Leather cleaners, protectors and polishes.

Suede Chukka Boots from J. Crew

Suede is the outside of the hide. The best way to clean your shoes is with a suede nubuck block, which works like an eraser. Use an all purpose protector or a suede spray to protect the finish from dirt and the elements. Be certain to spray your shoes at least twice before the first time you wear them, also spray in a well ventilated area or outside.  Suede cleaners, protectors and polishes.


Nubuck is a form of suede but more durable. It is inside of the hide, and has an oily texture and feel because of the hair proteins. The best cleaner is a suede nubuck block and mink oil to bring back the lustre. Don’t spray these shoes with a protector as it will cake on and dull the finish. Nubuck cleaners, protectors and polishes.

Non-Leather are typically shoes that are entirely fabric or are made of man-made materials such as plastics or are not leather.

Synthetic Running Shoe

Synthetic – Or Faux leather. This type of shoe is composed of a plastics, rubbers and or fabric material blended sometimes with a gloss finish. The most common types of shoes that are synthetic would be athletic and sports shoes.  Even though the shoe seems simple enough to a quick wipe down, it is good to maintain these because the gloss and composites in the material can make the shoe crack across the toe area and other random areas connected to the rubber sole.  If the upper is leather then you can proceed with any form of leather cleaner that would be suitable. Use foam cleaner and over lay with a shine sponge.  Synthetic cleaners, protectors and polishes.

Canvas Chuck Taylor's

Fabric – Fabric shoes come in different variations, from a casual slip on to dress shoes. The best type of cleaner to use is a strictly fabric cleaner. Generally it’s a form of detergent or a clear liquid labelled ‘Fabric shoe cleaner’. You can spray these shoes with an all purpose protector to prevent dust particles and stains from settling in.  Fabric cleaners and protectors.

Shoe Tree

Shoe trees are also a great investment as well.  The help the shoes to keep their shape, preventing cracking mainly the crease over the top of leather shoes as a result of walking.  shoe trees made from wood absorb moisture normal left in shoe as a result of perspiration.

On a shoe string budget?

You can save a lot of money instead of buying a new shoe every time a pair falls apart on you by just investing that little extra into cleaners and protectors.  For those of you who may be more on a shoe string budget and rather not fork out that extra loot for the product you can try using normal household products to keep them looking good.

Tips on How to Maintain and Clean your Shoes

Try petroleum jelly on leather it can aid as not only an instant shine but as a basic waterproofing. Simply rub it on with a cloth or a used nylon to help buff out a shine.  If your sole ever comes apart you can use crazy glue or even supplement for any type of rubber compound epoxy rather than paying your local cobbler or cordwainer; why not save some cash and put in a little work?  .  Practise some of the tips above and they can help lengthen the longevity of your shoes.




About Michael

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