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Tips for Cleaning and Caring for Your Shoes

While juggling on your busy schedule, it’s easy to take your trusty shoes for granted. You may have loved your shoes on the first time you saw it, but wear and tear happen and before you know it, it doesn’t look and feel like the shoes you have loved in the first place anymore. The thing about shoes is that whatever they are, they will need proper care to keep them in good shape. And remember, shoes can make or break an outfit. If your shoes are of good quality but your outfit is something of lower caliber apparel, you’re already much better off.

Here’s how to clean and maintain your shoes based on material:

1. Leather

Leather shoes and a hat

If you’ve bought some shoes made of real leather, you know that with its price comes the responsibility to take care of it so it would last longer. Besides cleaning, leather shoes need to be polished so its color and luster would remain intact.

To clean leather shoes, you just need to wipe it with a damp cloth to remove dirt and dust. For large spots of mud and dirt, you just need to scrape it off with a dry toothbrush. After that, buff the rest of any dirt off with a slightly damp cloth.

After cleaning your shoe, it’s time to apply some polish. Pick a leather polish in the color of your shoe. Apply it with a clean, soft cloth and work across the whole shoe in concentric circles. It’s best to use a wax-based polish since it adds some pigment to the shoes to enrich color and enhance the smoothness of the finish.

As a general rule, it’s good to strip the wax polish from the leather shoe every 3 to 6 months, then condition it and re-polish.

To strip wax or any polish from the shoe, you may need to use saddle soap. This can remove successive layers of wax from previous polishes without stripping or damaging your leather. You can also use it for cleaning if simple wiping with a damp cloth is not enough to remove whatever dirt or stain that has worked its way into your shoe surface. Put a pair of gloves, get a soft sponge and dip it into the water to wet slightly, then work up a lather of saddle soap on your shoes. Wipe it off with a damp cloth. Once clean, leave shoes to dry at room temperature.

After cleaning and removing the wax, condition your shoes to soften and moisturize the leather. This will prevent it from cracking. Conditioning should be done whenever the leathers seem to be getting dry. But since not all can tell if it’s getting dried out, here’s a general rule: condition leather every 5 to 10 wears in hard conditions, and every 15 to 25 otherwise.

Use a soft cloth in buffing the conditioner into the shoe, and move in tight circular motions. After that, wipe away any excess product and polish.

The weather can be unpredictable at times, which means your leather shoes can get wet due to rains. If this happens, stuff the shoes with newspaper and let them dry naturally. Never attempt to use heat to dry it out, as heat can make leather crack.

2. Suede

Suede shoes can look very sophisticated, but it can be ruined easily by terrible weather. The first care tip you must remember about suede: avoid wearing them during rainy and snowy days. But in case you get caught in the rain while wearing suede shoes, ball up your old newspapers and stuff them into the wet shoes to absorb excess water.

Many people wonder if suede shoes can be cleaned. And the answer to that is yes. When it comes to suede, preparation is key. Before you use them, make sure you spray the shoes with silicon-based suede protector to suede covered areas to make it weather-proof. Leave it to air dry overnight. This way, the shoes would stay fine even when rain or snow pours unexpectedly. This protectant must be applied at least once every six months.

Also, invest in a proper suede brush. This will be your cleaning material for the shoes. Use it to brush off any dirt, dust or dried mud off the shoes. Make sure to brush while moving in the same direction; don’t brush back and forth as it might ruin the surface.

The thing about suede is you can’t use topical polishers or cleaners designed for leather. If there is dirt that you can’t remove by using a brush, use a colorless or white rubber pencil eraser to scrub it and then brush gently. If something spills on your suede shoes, soak up the moisture with a dry towel and let the shoes dry naturally. Brush it with an old toothbrush or rub it with a clean towel after. If the stain is oil or grease, rub a bit of talcum powder directly on the stain then brush it the same way. Always treat the stains ASAP so they won’t make a permanent mark on your shoes.

3. Trainer shoes

We all got our favorite pair of trainer shoes, which makes them in need of a good wash most often. Mostly, trainer or exercise shoe feature mesh or knit on its upper part, so caring for it is simple. Part of taking care of the shoes is to put them on and off with care. This means, loosening the laces as much as to give enough space to slide your feet in and out without squashing the heel part of the shoe. Since you’re most probably wearing it for athletic activities or long walks, it’s best to air dry it out after wearing.

To clean trainer shoes, use quality laundry detergent and dilute it with water. Scrub it to foam using an old toothbrush to remove dirt, then rinse off under cold water. Let the shoes rest on a drying rack outside, not in an airy room with a fan on or in direct sunlight.

Other trainer shoes can be run through the washing machine, especially if it’s in dire need of a good wash. Check the label of your shoes to make sure. First, wipe down your shoes with a cloth and take out the insoles if possible. Place the trainers inside an old pillowcase or a mesh bag with one or two towels, then set the washing machine to a cold wash. After washing, don’t tumble dry – leave them dry by air.

4. Sheepskin

Sheepskin, when used in footwear, is typically seen as boots like Uggs, sneakers or fluffy slippers. In many ways, care for sheepskin shoes is the same as care for suede footwear. It’s best to use a sealing spray before using it for protection against water and weather. Treat stains – light stains, oil stains, and mud stains – pretty much the same way you would on suede. You should also use a suede brush with sheepskin, too.

If the shoes are really dirty, use a small towel, wet it with damp water then use it to dampen the shoes. Mix 2 parts cold water and 1 part white vinegar, then dampen the towel with it. Use it to gently scrub away the stains. Wipe off the solution with another damp towel, then stuff your shoes with newspapers and let them dry overnight.

Though sheepskin shoes wick away moisture, they tend to get smelly after much use. To remedy this, mix equal parts of baking soda and cornstarch and put this mixture inside the shoes. Shake it and leave overnight. The next day, shake out the shoes thoroughly to remove excess powder.

5. Canvas

Canvas is a fabric, making it easier to clean than leather or suede. It is what your Chuck Taylors and other similar sneakers are made of. To clean canvas, shoes, use detergent diluted in water. Using a firm bristled brush or used toothbrush, lather the entire surface of the shoe until it’s foamy. Wipe off the foam with a damp microfiber cloth, then leave it to dry by air. You may also rinse it with a rinse with little water. It’s best to not submerge them into the water, as exposure to water can cause the glue to stop working, ultimately causing the sole to crack.

6. Patent / synthetic /faux leather

Patent synthetic faux leather

Patent leather is easier to clean than real leather. It gives the same look but is less expensive and less high maintenance. To clean this type of shoe, you only need to wipe a damp cloth with a little soapy water. If there are any scuffs on your shoes, just put a small dab of petroleum jelly and smooth it out by gentle buffing with a soft cloth. This is also what you should do to give it a high shine.

7. Sandals

Sandals are usually made of rubber-like plastic called EVA. This just needs to be wiped off, usually. But when it’s already dirty, you have to scrub it up with an old toothbrush and a detergent solution. If they smell bad, add some baking soda to the water you’re going to use before washing it.

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