How to Revitalize Leather Shoes

Warm your leather shoes to room temperature before cleaning.
... Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Leather shoes aren't cheap and the initial investment takes a big bite out of the budget. Those shoes really aren't a bad deal in the long run though, because good leather shoes last for years and they get softer and more comfortable with wear. Even the best leather doesn't last forever, but before you lay out the cash for a new pair, invest some time and elbow grease to restore your old, dependable shoes.

Take the shoes outside and slap them together to remove loose dirt and dust, or hold the shoes over a newspaper to protect the floor. Remove mud and stuck-on dirt with a soft brush or shoe brush. Pay particular attention to the seams.

Remove the shoelaces, if applicable. Replace them with new laces or wash the laces in a bowl of warm water mixed with a few drops of liquid dish detergent. sudsy water, then rinse and hang dry. Clean leather laces with saddle soap.

Wipe the shoes thoroughly with a cloth dipped in warm water, then dry them with a soft, dry cloth. Apply a small amount of saddle soap with a damp sponge, then use the sponge to work up a good lather. Add more soap and water as needed, but use both sparingly.

Wring out a clean sponge, then place a small amount of saddle soap on the damp sponge. Squeeze the sponge over a bowl until a lather forms, then wipe the lather on the shoes in a circular motion. Use water and soap to make more lather as needed, but use both sparingly.

Continue cleaning the shoes with small amounts of saddle soap and water until the lather is clear. Soiled leather may require two or three cleanings.

Wipe the leather with a clean, damp cloth and set them aside to air dry.

Apply a thin coat of paste or cream leather conditioner, then buff the leather with a soft flannel cloth or chamois. Wipe the shoes in long strokes, then finish by rubbing them with a circular motion to create a shine.

  • Take leather shoes to a good shoe repair shop if the tops of the shoes are in good shape but the heels or soles are worn out. New heels and soles can significantly extend the life of your leather shoes.

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.