How To Clean Leather Shoes, Boots, Bags & More!

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.

How To Clean Leather

How To Clean Leather – What You’ll Need

 

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.

The Before

The before. Not terrible but could be better!

 

Step 1: Fit Your Shoe Trees, Toe Puffs Or Newspaper

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.

 

Fit your toe puffs to stretch out the leather

Fit your toe puffs to stretch out the leather

 

Step 2: Clean Off Excess Dirt With A Shoe Brush

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.

Use your shoe brush to remove dried on dirt

Use your shoe brush to remove dried on dirt

 

Step 3: Wipe Down Your Shoes With A Lint Free Cloth

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.

Wipe away loose dirt with a cloth

Wipe away loose dirt with a cloth

 

Check your cloth is clean and that all dirt has been removed.

Check your cloth is clean and that all dirt has been removed.

 

Step 4: Use A Cleaner Specifically For Leather

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.

Famaco Fa Det Dry Clean Leather Cleaner

Famaco Fa Det Dry Clean Leather Cleaner

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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!

Add an even coating of leather cleaner.

Add an even coating of leather cleaner.

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!

Stripped back & clean leather boots!

Stripped back & clean leather boots!

 

Step 5: Repeat Step 4 With A Cloth To Remove Any Loose Dirt

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.

Remove any remaining dirt using a clean part of the cloth.

Remove any remaining dirt using a clean part of the cloth.

 

Step 6: Condition & Nourish The Leather To Keep It Moist & Soft

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.

Condition the leather with Creme Delicate

Condition the leather with Creme Delicate

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.

After one coat of Creme Delicate.

After one coat of Creme Delicate.

 

Step 7: Polish & Protect

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.

 

Apply Some Famaco Shoe Polish To Your Polishing Cloth

Apply Some Famaco Shoe Polish To Your Polishing Cloth

 

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.

Step 8: Apply Additional Polish With Your Shoe Brush

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.

Apply Shoe Polish To The Welt Using Your Shoe Brush

Apply Shoe Polish To The Welt Using Your Shoe Brush

Step 9: Begin Buffing With Your Horsehair Shoe Brush

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!

Use side to side strokes with your horsehair shoe brush

Use side to side strokes with your horsehair shoe brush

 Step 10: Back To The Polishing Cloth And err Tights

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.

Buff the leather with your polishing cloth

Buff the leather with your polishing cloth

Repeat the process with an old pair of tights

Repeat the process with an old pair of tights

Step 11: Enjoy The Results!

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!

Before & After

Before & After

 

The List

  1. Woly Shoe Brush
  2. Famaco Fa Det Dry Clean
  3. Famaco Creme Delicate
  4. Famaco Shoe Polish
  5. Polishing Cloth
  6. Shoe Trees & Toe Puffs
  7. Horsehair Shoe Brush

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