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.
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.
Never dry wet shoes near fires, radiators, or hot pipes. Slow natural drying at normal room temperature is best. The moisture absorbed by the leather during wear needs at least 24 hours to evaporate naturally. Stuffing with newspaper will help to absorb the moisture and reframe the shoe.
Give Shoes a Rest Between Wearings
Leather shoes should have one full day to dry out from natural foot perspiration and should not be worn on two consecutive days.
On the first few occasions wear your new shoes in dry conditions.
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.
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.
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.