How to Safely Clean & Protect Your Leather Shoes

When it comes to any type of footwear, cleaning improves the appearance of the shoes and aids in preserving them to a small degree; however, there are other measures that must be taken in order to prevent wear and tear, and get much more use out of them. This is especially true with leather footwear as the material requires special care for safe and effective results. 

Although leather is durable, some cleaning methods and treatments can be very damaging to the material, leaving you with no other option but to discard the shoes. Of course, no one wants to throw away a pair of good shoes before their time is done, and fortunately, there are two surefire ways to make sure that you aren’t faced with that predicament: 

  1. Take care of them
  2. Use the right methods to clean and care for them

So, if you’re eager to learn how to take care of your leather shoes, proper cleaning and care will go a long way in preserving them, along with a few additional measures that will protect them for a long period of time. Read on for everything you need to know about safely cleaning and protecting your leather shoes.

What You’ll Need

From the basics to some specific products; using the right cleaning agents, tools, and techniques are important in successfully and safely removing dirt, grease, and stains from leather shoes. Similarly, you can keep your leather footwear in mint condition by applying polish and protective sprays that limit the amount of surface dirt they encounter, thus reducing wear and tear, and keeping them cleaner for longer durations at a time. 

With that in mind, here is what you will need to clean your leather shoes:

    • Gentle shoe brush - for knocking off loose soil from the surface and grooves
    • Combi Foam - this special cleaning agent is effective in removing stains which include sweat/salt and water stains
    • Sponge - to apply the Combi Foam
    • Mild soap - to pre-clean the leather
    • Clean soft cloths/towels - for wiping and applications (as and when needed)
    • Leather polish - this will help restore the material to its original sheen and colour
    • Shoe protector spray - to prevent damage, discolouration, and stains caused by moisture, water, dirt, grease, etc. 

How to Clean, Polish, and Protect Leather Shoes

Leather Shoe cleaner, brush, wax and polish

With everything you need at your disposal, prepare the area you are going to work on by laying down newspaper sheets to keep the surface beneath from getting messy. Moreover, working over a table lined with newspaper makes for an easy clean-up after completing the step-by-step method below.

Step 1: Remove and Wash Laces

Apart from protecting the laces from shoe polish and other products, they also require a wash from time to time and therefore, must be removed before proceeding with the rest of the cleaning process. While you can wash the laces by hand, the most convenient way to clean them is in a washing machine. All you need to do is place them in a washable laundry bag (to protect the aglets), and wash them with a regular load of laundry.

Step 2: Knock Off Loose Debris

When dirt is left on a leather surface long enough, it sinks into the material which, over time, leads to cracks. To avoid this, it is important to remove surface dirt regularly using a gentle shoe brush. Be sure to clean off as much loose dirt and debris as you can by brushing every inch of the shoes in different directions. 

Step 3: Pre-Clean with Mild Soap

Any gentle soap will do, be it liquid hand-wash or laundry detergent; simply dilute 1 tablespoon of the soap in 1 cup of water to make a mild leather cleaning solution. Dip a soft cloth in the solution (wring it so that it is not dripping wet), and wipe down the shoes to remove mild soil and stains.

Step 4: Apply Combi Foam

Shake the can well and spray a small amount of the foam onto a clean sponge; use it to apply the cleaning agent to your leather footwear by gently rubbing it over the exterior of the shoe. If there are stubborn stains or scuff marks present on the leather, use minimal pressure to gently scrub them away with the sponge.

Step 5: Wipe Off the Cleaning Agents

Using a clean, dry towel, wipe off the soap and foam from the shoe exterior thoroughly. By now, the leather will be quite damp and so, the use of a damp cloth is not advised as excess moisture can damage the material. Once your leather shoes have been cleaned, leave them to air-dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 6: Polish the Shoes

If you can’t find a leather shoe polish to match the colour of your shoes, opt for a clear polish instead. For the application, spray the polish onto a soft cleaning soft, and wipe the leather in a circular motion. Be sure to apply an even application over the entire exterior of your leather shoe, and refrain from using excess product. Set the footwear aside and allow the polish to dry completely before proceeding to the last step.

Step 7: Use the Protector Spray

Finally, the last thing you need to do is protect your leather footwear with a high-quality shoe protector spray. There are many such products available on the market, some of which are specifically formulated for leather shoes. For best results, hold the can at least 10 inches away from the shoe, and then spray the exterior as evenly as possible. Not only will this step help to prevent surface dirt and damage to the material, but it will also make your leather footwear feel soft and supple again!


Cleaning and caring for your leather shoes are two very important ‘musts’ when looking to extend their life and maintain their appearance. With that said, timely or routine cleaning/maintenance is also a crucial factor in preventing irreparable damage to the material; therefore, we advise acting swiftly when your leather footwear encounters dirt, grease, and stains. To do this, simply use the guide above to keep your leather shoes clean and protected for a long, long time!


At bprimal, we work with shoemakers and brands who create natural footwear that are made to encourage better foot health by repairing the damage caused by long term use of modern shoes. These minimalist or healthy footwear alternatives ensure proper preservation of one’s natural foot shape and function thanks to their inclusion of all the design specifics needed to achieve optimal foot health. Some of these features include wide toe boxes, slim and flexible soles, and no heel elevation. Our involvement and interaction with people who create and promote products that help individuals fix their foot problems has also inspired us to spread crucial awareness – relating to prioritising foot health as told by the experts – via our blog.  Learn More - check out bprimal educational articles here, and browse through the different brands and collections of natural footwear and foot health restoration products we carry.


The above content is for educational or informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or augment professional medical instruction, diagnosis, or treatment. Read the full Terms and Conditions & Disclaimer here.