How to Keep Shoes Clean and Polished

Not all of the footwear men, women and children wear today is made from leather. Still, taking care of your shoes, whatever they're made from means you'll extend their usefulness and their attractiveness.

How to Keep Shoes Clean and Polished

1. Protect new leather shoes

  • Spray or rub them with a water and stain repellent before wearing them.
  • Make sure you use a repellent made especially for leather.
  • Then polish them before stepping out.
  • Leather shoes are usually malnourished and dry when they come out of the box, and the extra layer of polish will give them that extra bit of protection.

2. Give leather shoes and boots a shine

  • Remove the laces.
  • Brush off loose dirt with a stiff brush or cloth.
  • If the shoes are especially dirty, clean them with saddle soap, following the package instructions.
  • Rub a clean, cotton cloth in polish and then onto the shoes.
  • Let the polish dry for 10 minutes.
  • Buff with a clean cloth or old pantyhose.

3. Clean patent leather shoes

  • First remove any scuff marks with a pencil eraser.
  • Then shine shoes with baby oil, furniture polish, petroleum jelly or cream leather cleaner and conditioner (available from shoe repair stores).
  • Buff with a paper towel or clean cloth. Be gentle — patent leather scratches easily.
  • In a pinch, rub leather or patent shoes with hand cream and then buff.
  • On imitation patent leather, use mild dishwashing liquid or a car interior vinyl and plastic cleaner.

4. To remove mineral salt stains

Rub leather shoes that have been wet, with equal parts of water and vinegar, using a cotton pad.

5. To clean white shoes

  • Give them a swipe with a cloth dabbed in ammonia. (This works well on canvas, too.)
  • Remove scuff marks with a dab of white toothpaste, then buff.

6. To protect suede shoes

  • Apply a stain repellent designed for suede or nubuck.
  • Use a rubber-tipped or plastic brush to brush the nap and remove dirt.
  • If you get a stain, remove it immediately with a solvent made for either material.
  • Or, you can dab an oily stain with a bit of dry-cleaning fluid, then cover the stain with baby powder or chalk dust (which you can pulverize in a zip-lock plastic bag using a small hammer or rolling pin).
  • Allow the powder to sit overnight until completely dry again, then brush it off.

7. To remove scuff marks on smooth leather shoes

Rub the marks with the cut edge of a raw potato and then buff.

8. For an instant shine

Use baby wipes. This technique will dry out the leather over time, so follow up with polish later on.

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