Shoe Care 101
By Aly Walansky
OK, so you blew your last paycheck on mile-high leather boots … and the one before that on designer pumps. But who can blame you when they look so fabulous? The important next step is caring for them properly. Follow these tips to keep them complementing you for years to come
Clean and Polish the Leather
Before polishing your leather shoes or boots, clean them with a shoe brush or wipe them to remove any embedded dirt or debris. Don’t forget the soles -- bits of dirt can scratch them like sandpaper. Next, remove the shoelaces (if any) to avoid staining them; this also lets you clean the tongue of the shoe thoroughly. Then, use a pencil eraser to eliminate scuff marks.
Now it’s time to shine. Select a polish that matches the color of your shoes. For best results, first rub the polish or cream into the shoe, applying evenly with a brush or soft cloth. Once the polish has completely dried, buff the shoes using a natural-bristle brush. Important: Use a separate brush and cloth for each color shoe -- one for brown, one for black, and so on.
No time for a polish? Apply a clear shine liquid (available at drugstores and shoe stores) to get your shoes gleaming in a flash.
Maintain the Shape
Store leather shoes on a shoe tree to maintain their shapes. For strappy shoes that won’t fit on a tree, stuff the toecap with newspaper or tissue. For boots, use boot shapers for the shaft and stuff the toe with newspaper. Never store or dry leather shoes near a radiator or other direct heat, as this can damage the leather.
Save Your Suede
Your suede and nubuck shoes deserve special attention. Clean and waterproof them regularly, and brush them before wearing so they will look their best. If your suede shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper to keep their shape and let them dry naturally, away from heat.
Imagine that you’ve just paid off those beautiful shoes you splurged on -- and the very next day, you accidentally scrape your heels against a curb. At the very least, scratched heels never look the same; at worst, they can make a shoe unwearable. To avoid this disaster, always rub your heels gently with a soft cloth dipped in water, and buy heel stoppers or covers (available at shoe or department stores) to protect them from wear.
Don’t Forget Your Sports Shoes
To extend the life of outdoor shoes (like golf shoes or hiking boots), make sure you polish and waterproof them regularly, knocking off any dirt or mud first.
When it comes to leather or vinyl sneakers, please don’t throw them in the washer! Instead, put a little dishwashing soap on a wet sponge and rub it over the exterior, being careful not to get water on the inside. A bleaching pen can be used to renew white soles. Stained cotton sneakers can also be re-dyed with commercial fabric dye.
Quick Tips to Extend the Life of Your Shoes
- To make shoes last longer, rotate them with another pair.
- Always protect new shoes by spraying them with a water protector before wearing them for the first time.
- If your shoes get wet, allow them to dry completely before wearing them again. Then waterproof them again with a multipurpose protector.
- Use a shoe horn when putting on your shoes to keep the heel from losing its shape.
- When you travel, always place your shoes inside a shoe bag or wrap them in a soft cloth.
- To remove salt stains, mud or gum, use a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar.