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How to Clean Leather Shoes and Boots the Right Way

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Leather shoes and boots can be brought back to their original splendor by an expert hand, whether they are leather, suede, nubuck, or any other fine leather finish.

Leather is an amazing natural material. It’s soft, pliable, and incredibly durable. Leather shoes and boots are built to last for a lifetime, and with proper care and handling (+ a little TLC from a cobbler!) they really can last for a lifetime.

There are many off-the-shelf leather cleaners one can purchase, but we recommend always checking with a professional cobbler first to determine which product(s) are safest and best for your unique leather cleaning challenge. High quality leather cleaners can be found at a shoe repair shop or at specialty stores online.

Tip: Always test any cleaning product on an inconspicuous place on your shoe, boot, or handbag first, as leather from shoe-to-shoe or brand-to-brand may differ slightly and may react to chemicals differently.

If your leather shoes need more than light cleaning, or have any damage such as scuffs, creases or cracks, we recommend passing them along to an experienced cobbler who not only understands the variety of specialty chemicals required for the safe cleaning of various leather finishes, but one who also has the proper equipment, processes, and well-experienced hands to ensure your favorite leather shoes can be rescued from whatever state they are in.

How does a professional cobbler clean leather, suede, and nubuck shoes?

At Cobblers Direct, we thoroughly evaluate your items and unique cleaning challenges to determine the best way to clean and restore them. Once we have a plan, our cobblers will begin by cleaning off any dirt, spots, old polish, and scuff marks using a variety of leather-safe cleaning products and processes.

Next, our cobblers will apply a deep conditioning cream and massage the shoe or boot uppers until the leather is buttery soft. Finally, we will add either a wax polish, cream polish, or pure lanolin (depending on the leather finish) and rigorously buff the shoe or boot uppers to achieve a high shine that makes them look brand new.

Did you know? If your new leather shoes are too shiny for your taste, our cobblers can turn them into a matte finish in a matter of minutes.

If your shoes and boots are suede or nubuck, these must be dry-cleaned or finely sanded to ensure the safe removal of dirt and stains. This can be accomplished by using suede-cleaning stones, or our delicate sand-blasting booth that will carefully remove all stains without damaging the suede or nubuck. After cleaning, we lightly brush and waterproof the shoes and boots for added protection.

Our cobblers can also complete a full factory re-finish to make your shoes or boots look like the day you picked them off the shelves by using the same machines and finishes (topcoats) the brands themselves used to make your shoes and boots.

That’s leather cleaning in a nutshell, but since we love questions, we invite you to Zoom with us, chat with us, text us, email us, or call us to discuss your special leather cleaning needs and more!

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