How to take care of your shoes – short tutorial

Posted by Atte Rytkönen on 29.4.2017 in General

“How to take care of your shoes” is a question many guys keep asking. Today I take a look on a few basic principles regarding shoecare instructions. In addition I give you a few tips on how to polish your shoes.

Finally I have come up with a set of pictures showcasing how I restored a my favorite pair of calf leather shoes. As you can see from the “before” and “after” pictures, shoes that are made of quality leather can be brought back alive even though they would be pretty badly damaged.

How to take care of your shoes - Carmina calf leather double monks
How to take care of your shoes? Remember to keep them clean, moisturized and polished.

How to take care of your shoes – everyday routines

Let’s start with everyday routines. There are few things to keep in mind in case you want to maintain the good shape and condition of your shoes.

First of all, when slipping on a pair of shoes, always use a shoehorn. Shoehorn is a simple tool that allows you to easily put on your shoes without damaging the heel counter. This way you will avoid collapsed heel counters in the long rung. And your shoes will thank you.

Before you put on your shoes, give them a little wiping with a soft cotton cloth. You can also use for example a horsehair brush to remove any dust that may have settled since you last wore your shoes.

And every time you take off your shoes as you come home, make sure you brush off the dirt from the uppers and from the soles before putting the shoe trees in and setting the shoes back to rack. If you have time, allow your shoes to air out for 15 minutes after removing them. And after that insert shoe trees.

Finally, use dust bags for your shoes. Accumulation of dust or dirt can cause drying and damage the shoes.A shoe bag or cloth cover will prevent that. Especially be sure that you use a shoe bag or a cloth for those pairs in your closet that may get less attention and wear.

By doing these simple things you will get a long way in terms of dealing with the question how to take care of your shoes.

How to take care of your shoes - chestnut brown oxford shoes after good care and some polishing
If you take good care of your shoes, they will age better and look beautiful even after years of use.

Shoecare instructions – polishing your shoes

Online you can find multiple detailed guides on “how to take care of your shoes” and especially “how to polish your shoes”. I need to admit I am not an expert in terms of “spit shine”.  So far I have personally managed by mainly following these shoe care instructions by Saphir and “A Fine Pair Of Shoes”. To put it shortly, this is how I polish my own calf leather shoes and boots.

  1. Brush off the dirt.
  2.  Use the renovator – to condition and moisturize the leather. Applying this with a soft cotton cloth – leaving it for a couple of minutes and then brushing / polishing it off.
  3. After that I use the Pate de Luxe-wax polishes by Saphir, water and soft cotton cloth – going through the shoe piece by piece
How to take care of your shoes - my two favorite pairs of oxfords with spit shine.
My two favorite pairs of oxfords – by Crockett&Jones and Alfred Sargent. If you want to spice up your shoes a little bit, try to use darker color to polish the toe caps of the shoes

How to polish your shoes – step by step

  • Take a soft rag and stretch it over your index and middle finger. Twist the loose ends of cloth until the material is taut over the fingers. Hold the twisted ends as a ball between the thumb and forefinger of the same hand.
  • Put a little water into the lid of the polish tin and dip your rag-covered fingers into it to moisten. Another option is to sprinkle a few drop of water on to the upper of the shoe. Put a little shoe polish on the rag and rub onto the leather using small circular movements without using a lot of pressure. Rub on the same spot until you feel a hardening of the wax and slowly a greasy shine should begin to appear.
  • If this is not the case after about 15 seconds of regular circular rubbing, take a little more wax, add a little drop of water on the shoe and repeat the procedure.
  • If the wax still remains soft and you still cannot feel any change, then wait for 30 seconds, take a little more cleaning water and re-work the same spot. When a shine has appeared in one spot, begin with the next. When you have covered the whole shoe in this manner, then lay the next layer over it using more water, less wax and even less pressure. In order to remove the last fine smears the shoe is lightly rubbed with a damp cloth.
How to take care of your shoes - My black tassel loafers with some nice shine.
Black tassel loafers with some nice shine.

Sum up – restoring a pair of quality footwear

In general it is really hard to completely ruin a pair of well made shoes. One of the only things that you really cannot repair is tearing the upper leather. Even though there are certain ways to patch it up,  the leather and shoes will never look the same. However, as long as you don’t rip the upper or put a whole in your insole, most things done to the shoe can be resolved and with a little bit of know-how and the right products in order to bring the shoes back to life.

As a conclusion I will show you how I brought a pair of Carmina calf leather double monks back to life.

Thanks to winter, snow, slush, water and salt the pair had been beaten pretty badly. The last drop was the last day at Pitti Uomo. First a few hours walking in the rain in Florence and after that traveling to Milan with the same shoes. As we came home from Italy the leather uppers of the shoes were dry and there were salt stains all-over. So I decided to try and see what can be done.

How to take care of your shoes - shoes after moisturizing and polishing

Carmina double-monk shoes – from “ruined” to new

  1. First I took spirit vinegar and diluted it with water. 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water. Next I watered cotton cloth with the mixture and wiped the shoes properly with the moist cloth. After I had cleaned the shoes properly I set them to dry.
  2. After drying I needed to moisturize the shoes. As the leather uppers seemed to be quite dry I wanted to give a proper restoring and nourishing. I took a Chelsea Leather Food and greased the shoes throughout with a cotton cloth. After that I took hair dryer to heat the wax and leather a little bit to allow the wax to be absorbed better and moisturize the leather properly. After that I let the shoes to dry again. This time for a couple of days actually. Every now and then I used a horse hair brush to brush off extra wax and dirt.
  3. Finally I gave the shoes a proper polishing by using Saphir Renovator and some wax-polish. For the instructions, read above.

And here you can the shoes – before and after the process.

How to take care your shoes - remember to moisturize your leathers shoes
This is how the shoes looked when I got back home from Pitti Uomo.
How to take care of your dress shoes - salt damages in shoes
Salt stains and dirt. One could not really wear shoes like this to work. Or anywhere.
How to take care of your shoes - how to get salt stains from shoes
Removing salt stains from your shoes is not easy. And it is really important to moisturize the leather after the process.
How to take care of your shoes -water and spirit vinegar to remove salt stains
Spirit vinegar diluted with water to remove salt stains.
How to take care of your shoes - polished and ready to be worn again
Quality shoes are always a good investment. But you also need to take good care of them.
How to take care of your shoes - A pair of double-monks after restoring, cleaning and polishing.
The result.

I hope helps you to answer the question “how to take care of your shoes” in the future. And let me know what you think of the result.

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Original post 3/2016 – updated 4/2017.

  • sagaari

    Thanks for the post! I haven’t had yet problems with salt, but will do that vinegar trick when needed. How do you take care of leather soles? Do you nourish them with something or just let them be untreated? Thanks=)

    • dresslikea

      Thanks!

      Regarding the soles, I have every now and then used mink oil for and then Saphir has this “Sole guard” oil which you can get for example from Eliel’s and that also works. But every time I have used my leather sole shoes I brush the soles when I come in and then let them dry before the next use.

      Best,
      Atte