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How to clean shoes of different materials


You can look stylish by wearing trendy clothes like a luxurious velvet jacket and a pair of distressed jeans if you’re a lady or a black tie outfit if you’re a man. You should also complete this stylish look with shoes that perfectly match the rest of your attire. While some people can afford to purchase a new pair of shoes every week or so, most of us are less lucky and have to keep our footwear for a much longer period. That’s why it’s so important to clean and maintain our boots or high heels properly. In this post, you will learn how to clean shoes made of the most common materials.

Natural leather shoes

About the material

Leather is one of the oldest materials for making shoes in the history of mankind. According to some scientific evidence, people already had leather footwear approximately 40,000 years ago. This natural material is produced from the skins and hides of several kinds of animals including cows, sheep, and calves. Some leather shoes are also made from the skins of more exotic representatives of fauna like camels, crocodiles, and lizards.
Among different leathers, you will find the following:

  • Roughout
  • Veg-tanned
  • Pull-up
  • Chamois
  • Suede
  • Scotch grain
  • Shell cordovan
  • Calfskin
  • Patent leather

Leather has a number of advantages:

  • It’s quite elastic, but at the same time long-lasting and not susceptible to tears or abrasions.
  • It lets your feet breathe and maintains a comfortable temperature inside the shoes.

On the other hand, leather is not devoid of shortcomings:

  • It has pores through which water may get into a shoe. So, protecting leather footwear from water is essential.
  • It has a comparatively large weight.
  • Leather shoes cost more than footwear made of many other materials.
  • It’s not a good option for hot summer months as the temperature inside a shoe may get very high.

clean shoes made of natural leather with shoe cream and wax

How to clean shoes made of full grain leather

Before you clean shoes made of natural leather, make sure you have a box of wax, a box of shoe cream, and a bottle of conditioner on hand.

  1. If your shoes have laces, take them off. That will help them stay clean during the process.
  2. Dip a soft cloth into cool water and wipe the surface of the shoes. Wait a little to let the leather dry.
  3. Put some conditioner on a soft cloth and rub it gently over the surface of your shoes. Let the shoes dry for about half an hour. Then, use a brush to spread the conditioner evenly over the surface of each shoe.
  4. Apply the shoe cream (the same color as that of your shoes) to the surface of each shoe using a dauber and rub it evenly over the shoes. Don’t apply too much cream at once as it may ruin the shoes.
  5. Wait half an hour for the cream to get into the leather.
  6. Take a soft cloth and dab it into a box of wax polish. Rub the cloth with wax along the surface of each shoe. You may press the cloth into the leather to fill the pores in it.
  7. Wait for a quarter of an hour for the wax to dry.
  8. Go over the shoes with a brush to spread the wax evenly.
  9. Take a clean soft cloth and rub it over each shoe with circular movements until the shoes are shining.

How to clean shoes made of suede

Suede is notoriously hard to maintain. So, prevention in this case is much better than cure. Try to avoid stains and dirt on your “blue suede shoes” and regularly clean them by following these steps:

  1. Purchase a special suede brush and suede eraser, as well as a stain protector in a spray bottle.
  2. Clean the shoes with the brush, but make sure you move it in one direction only.
  3. If some scuff marks persist, take the eraser and rub it repeatedly over the marks until they’re gone. Note, however, that not stains are made equal. If it’s a water stain, dip a sponge in water and wipe the entire surface of the shoe with it. Then, leave the shoes to dry with blank paper stuffed inside to prevent their deformation.
  4. Spray the stain protector evenly over the surface of each shoe.

suede shoe

Fabric shoes

About the material

There are several materials used for making fabric shoes, each with its own knits, fibers, and weaves. The list includes the following fabrics:

  • denim
  • canvas
  • wool
  • rayon
  • lycra
  • satin

Like leather footwear, shoes made of textiles have their pros and cons.

  • Low price. This is one of the biggest advantages of fabric shoes over leather footwear. For instance, at Amazon, you can purchase a pair of men’s classic canvas slip-ons for as little as $19.99, whereas the same website sells full grain leather shoes starting from around $50. That’s more than twice as much.
  • Light and breathable. Fabric shoes are lightweight, which makes them very popular in various kinds of sports. They also prevent feet from excessive perspiration thanks to excellent ventilation properties. That’s why fabric shoes are a perfect choice on hot summer days.
  • Variety of designs and colors. Fabric footwear is any stylist’s pipe dream.


  • Poor durability. Canvas or denim footwear is not so long-lasting or tear resistant as leather shoes.
  • Susceptibility to water. Fabric shoes are comfortable on dry days only as water easily gets inside the shoes and makes feet wet.

canvas shoe

How to clean shoes made of canvas

Canvas shoes can be easily made clean in a washing machine. Just follow this procedure:

  1. If your shoes have stains, pre-treat them with something like a specialized cleaner or detergent. What you choose for the purpose depends on the instructions on the label.
  2. Put the shoes into the washing machine and select the gentle cycle setting (the water must be barely warm).
  3. Use around 50% of the detergent amount you normally add.
  4. Set the machine in motion and wait for the cycle to complete.
  5. Take the shoes out and put some paper into each shoe. That will keep them from becoming shapeless.
  6. Find a sunny place and leave the shoes there to dry.

Note that drying your canvas shoes in a tumble dryer is not recommended as it may weaken the glue that holds the fabric in place.

Synthetic (faux) leather shoes

About the material

An alternative to natural leather is its synthetic variety. Faux leather is made of polyvinyl chloride or plastics on the basis of petroleum. Its principal advantage, just like in case of fabric shoes, is a lower price. Again, at Amazon, you can buy a pair of synthetic leather black Oxford shoes for only some $30. Yet, faux leather footwear is not so durable as its genuine counterpart, although by caring for it properly you can considerably expand its service life.

faux leather shoes

How to clean shoes made of synthetic leather

Before you start cleaning your fake leather shoes, purchase a faux leather conditioner, a soft bristle brush, and a waterproofer.

  1. Remove dirt from the surface of your shoes with the bristle brush.
  2. Make a mixture of warm water with some dish soap, dip a soft cloth into it, and wipe the shoes carefully. Wait a little for the leather to dry.
  3. Spray the conditioner evenly over the surface of the shoes. That will remove the remnants of oils or lotions from the plasticizer in the synthetic layer to keep it from being ruined and make it more elastic.
  4. Wait a little for the conditioner to soak in. Then, spray the waterproofer evenly over the surface of the shoes.

Knowing the properties of the material your shoes are made of is very important for cleaning them properly. We hope the information above will help your footwear look like new for a long time.

Comments (2)

  1. Peter

    Cool! Really useful life hacks!

  2. Keith Bruno

    I’m a professional in the shoe laundry business ans I can how this article is incredibly comprehensive. It covers the essentials for cleaning various types of shoe materials, from leather to fabric and synthetic leather. The detailed step-by-step instructions ensure that each type of shoe gets the proper care it needs. This guide is a must-read for anyone looking to maintain their footwear in top condition. I appreciate the practical tips and the emphasis on using the right products for each material. Great job!


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