If you’ve ever wondered how to clean leather properly, you aren’t alone. The web is full of guides on how to clean leather but they’re very general and don’t consider that leather is a very delicate material which needs to be cared for properly for it to retain its appearance and feel. Leather is durable and resilient but only if you use the correct products to both clean it and also to nourish and condition it.
As a shoe care website, it makes sense to talk about cleaning leather shoes & boots but this guide is also relevant to bags, sofas, car seats and any other smooth leather items you might have. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a hot country (not the UK) it’s likely your shoes will be exposed to all sorts of dirt, moisture, salt & more. As such, you’ll want to remove all of this to stop it from drying the leather out and causing it to fade.
To make sure that all dirt is removed, it’s important to stretch out any creases where it might have built up and accumulated over time. To do this a pair of shoe trees or toe puffs are the best option. They are pushed into the front of the shoe to stretch it out and allow the products being used to work to their full potential. These will also help you to reduce the creases and cracks when applying polish after you have cleaned your shoes.
Using a shoe brush for the first step is extremely important. Many other ‘how to clean leather’ blog posts will recommend all types of cleaning products not suited to leather. These will often take the moisture out of the leather and leave it looking very faded and dry. Even if it’s dried on mud, A good shoe brush will remove the majority of the dirt with a reasonable amount of brushing. Be sure to get right into all of the hard to reach areas including the welts and over the stitching which dirt will stick to.
All of that brushing will cause small specks of dirt to be left on the surface of the shoes after they’ve been worked out of the hard to reach areas. Before you apply any cleaner you’ll want to wipe the dirt off to avoid it getting mixed in with the cleaner where it might end up sticking to your shoes or boots rather than being removed. Wipe the entirety of your shoes with a clean section of cloth before moving to another section to repeat the process. You should notice a reduction in the amount of dirt on the cloth. Continue this until it appears clean after wiping them.
We offer a range of cleaners specifically for leather which have ingredients intended to remove any excess polish, dirt, salt and leave you with shoes or boots completely clean and ready to be cared for and treated to protect them afterwards. Without removing the moisture from the leather, these products will strip back anything on the surface to leave you with a base ready for the next step. Our Famaco Fa Det Dry Clean is an extremely effective product which can be used to clean your shoes multiple times with only a small amount required.
Spray a light, even coat across both of the boots ensuring that they are completely covered with spray in the welt and any other tight areas. This is where your toe puffs are important, the leather cleaner will get into the creases and ensure there is no residue which will detract from the finished appearance after all of your hard work!
After applying the leather cleaner, take a clean part of your brush or better still a different brush and gently work the cleaner into the boot removing any left over residue which wasn’t removed before. The leather will begin to dry as you brush it and will eventually look very dull but more importantly very clean and ready for you to move onto the next steps!
Like before we used the cleaner, you’ll want to use a cloth to remove any excess surface dirty which has been loosened by the brush and will be sat on the surface of the boots. It’s important to get rid of this dirt before starting to add any treatments so that it doesn’t get stuck within the treatment and leave little lumps on the surface or even scratch the leather. You can spray another coat of Fa Det Dry Cleaner if you want to make sure they’re extra clean.
Now that the leather has been cleaned it’s important to nourish and condition it. A product such as Creme Delicate will help to keep the leather soft and supple. Containing carnauba wax, the Creme Delicate will start to give the leather a shine once again whilst also adding some colour and a layer of protection. Creme Delicate is both quick drying and won’t wipe off once dried onto the shoes. Once dry it can also be buffed to a shine but on this occasion we’re also going to add an additional layer of protection and shine with Famaco Leather Polish.
The Creme Delicate will dry quickly and begin to add a shine to the leather as well as darkening it with the addition of some colour.
Shoe polish is extremely important. It isn’t just to give your footwear a brilliant shine. It’s also to protect them against moisture and dirt they might be exposed to when on a night out or when out in the rain for example. Polish provides a layer of protection to stop this moisture from damaging the leather and instead causes the liquid to bead off rather than being absorbed. For a full guide on how to polish shoes, you can have a look at our last blog post here.
Take your polishing cloth and add a good amount of polish on a small area which you can apply pressure to with one or two fingers. Begin to rub the polish onto the leather in small circular motions. You don’t want the polish so thick that it won’t dry but you also want enough to give your boots a good level of protection. You might want to repeat this step a couple of times depending on the condition the leather. The polish will begin to dry out and turn the leather dull once again.
You want to be sure that your boots or shoes are fully protected from the toe to the stitching and welt so that no moisture can get through and damage the leather. To get into the hard to reach areas, take your shoe brush and apply a small amount of shoe polish to it. Brush it into these difficult areas and repeat the process thoroughly to ensure no part is untreated.
Give the polish time to dry completely before you start to use your horsehair shoe brush. The horsehair shoe brush has extremely soft bristles that will begin to bring out the shine of the leather. Quick side to side brush strokes are the best method here working across the toe before moving around the whole of the boot. You’ll see that the dull areas start to become shinier making it easy to determine which parts still need a good buffing!
With a clean part of your polishing cloth, make small but fast circular motions to generate more of a shine. You can also breath warm air onto the surface of the leather, this will generate heat and bring out a better shine. This step can then be repeated with an old pair of tights to add the finishing touches to your newly cleaned leather shoes or boots.
You’ve finished our ‘how to clean leather’ guide. Your shoes are not only clean but they’re also protected against the weather. Have a look at the before and after below. Not bad for 20 minutes work!
Published 1st July 2016