Leather Sneaker Care
Let’s come clean. People have a weird thing for shoes. Ladies shop obsessively for them. Men treat their sports sneakers like some kind of sacred talisman. Online gamers spend hours questing for digital boots to give them that competitive edge on their stats. It can seem kind of silly, looking back at it all, how obsessed we can be with footwear.
Nah. Snazzy shoes are the real deal.
Whether you’re out braving the elements, striding through the hustle and bustle of a busy urban marketplace, or soaring across slick gymnasium hardwood in a heated game, it pays to make traction. Which is why we love leather sneakers.
For the purpose of this blog, I’m just going to assume you’ve committed to buying that stylish duology of fashionable footwear: the leather sneakers. Thing is, we both remember what happened to that last pair of yours. Lots of dirt and grime built up over long years of abuse, stretched out and dried to a crisp like a crumbling potato chip. Not too eager to keep that shebang up, are you? Don’t worry – you’ve got us! If you want to keep your darling dear free of the same fate as her predecessor, you need to get into a leather sneaker care routine. This starts the very day you buy them.
Start On the Right Foot
Don’t buy shoes that don’t fit comfortably. If you choose them too small, the stress they get from every day use is liable to tear or deform them over time. In fact, a shoe tree can be instrumental to maintaining your leather sneaker’s integrity. Whenever wet or stressed, placing a shoe tree inside will allow it to contract and dry out to the natural shape. Cedar models are particularly effective, possessing split toes and fully shaped heels to mimic a homo sapien’s podia most realistically, and absorb more moisture to prevent sweat build up and subsequent smelliness. Speaking of which, keeping leather sneakers smelling good is a really fantastic turn on for members of the opposite sex. After all, terrible shoe hygiene isn’t exactly a rare phenomenon. Take a step ahead of everyone else with your dazzling redolence. For that matter, give all your leather dazzling redolence. Give our blog your dazzling redolence. Give it to this post, “How to Remove Odor From Leather.” It’s checking you out.
If you have more than one pair of leather sneakers, wear them interchangeably. More time to air out means more smoochies for you. Jumping inside a cold shower and burying your heels in suds often will go a long way to capping any unsightly odor, as will washing your socks even more often. If or when an odor does have the nerve to appear, change your insoles out, or get a cobbler to do it for you. Or you could try the comical remedy and douse the thing in cologne/perfume. If you’re that desperate.
Sassy Soapy Scents
Proper leather sneaker care means you’ll also be wanting to give your two best friends a routine wash as well. In the event Mother Nature does this for you with an unexpected drenching downpour, get those puppies dry yesterday. Too much water contact has the unfortunate tendency of deteriorating, drying and deforming leather. You can read a little about that in our blogs “Common Leather Care Mistakes” and “How Does Leather Breathe?” Reader’s Digest sum: water disperses leather’s natural lubricants, and without those lubricants, leather dries out, gets stiff, and slowly grinds itself to dust with each bend and flex. You don’t want that to happen. So when they get wet, dry as much as you can off with a clean cloth, and lean them upside down against a wall. Down towards the base of your shoes is a foamy material that is more difficult to dry – put them upside down and gravity works with you to prevent water from getting to it. Stuff them with newspapers while you’re at it, which will absorb moisture more readily than the shoes will. Also, stick away from artificial heat (this includes hair dryers) and sunlight (“How Does Sun Affect Leather?”) That stuff is patently deathly to leather.
As for your ideal cleaning, here’s where things get a little more tricky. Ideal leather sneaker care cleaning hinges on the type you’ve got. Suede, Nubuck, and other unfinished leathers (“Leather Care for Finished and Unfinished Leather”) are more susceptible to conventional cleaning treatments, and should be handled with more care than their pigment finished cousins. Lighter colored leathers should also be treated with caution, as they may darken, and white leather may require different techniques (“White Leather Care”). A handy first rule for any leather sneaker, however, is to get those shoe laces off before attempting any treatment. You can clean those in a wash cycle if you need to. Just don’t put leather in there.
Before you begin, brush off any surface dirt with a soft cloth or bush. You don’t want that stuff hindering your cleaning process. For actual cleaning, a soft cloth slightly dampened with undiluted, white vinegar is known to make a world of difference on finished and unfinished leathers alike. Before you use it, test it in a discreet location with a white cloth and check for discoloration or rub off on your cloth after it dries. If both look good, go with it, but use sparingly. Lightly brush the vinegar across your leather’s surface in thin and even layers. After you’ve got the surface covered, dry off any excess fluids with another clean cloth, and let it dry in a cool, indoors location away from sunlight and direct heat. This treatment also works well for getting out stains and road-salt. If you get grease on your shoes, sprinkling a bit of corn starch over the stain and letting it sit overnight should do the trick. Use a soft brush the next day to remove the starch. Lastly, only use these treatments when your shoes get excessively dirty. On most occasions, simply using a soft brush to shake surface dirt off will keep it pretty clean. Alcohol leather cleaners, such as Chamberlain’s Straight Cleaner no. 2, can work as a cleaning substitute on finished leather, but use it sparingly and test first, as it can cause the leather to stretch a bit. Coincidentally, this is a really fantastic way to break new leather shoes in.
Luscious Oily Bath
Every once in a while, you’ll also want to condition your leather sneakers. This not only helps to keep them tough, but will also clear up a lot of surface scratches you may have built up. Suede shoes may be less inclined for conditioning, but if they start growing dry, use only conditioners specifically designed for suede leather. For finished leather, you’ll have to gauge this based on how much exposure your sneakers get to the elements. A safe approach is to generally buff them up three to four times a year if they get lots of exposure to dirt and water, or twice a year if they’re kept in more regulated environments. Read more on this in our blog “How Often Should I Condition Leather?”
Check your conditioner first using the same testing method you used to test your cleaners. Chamberlain’s Leather Care Liniment no. 1 should work for your purposes, or if your leather sneakers get lots of sunlight exposure, you might try Auto Refreshener no. 4 for its powerful UV protectant, which will ward off some of sunlight’s more deadly elements. Whichever leather conditioner you end up going with, use a lint-free cloth or pad to wipe that stuff evenly across your leather sneakers, and leave to dry for 15 minutes. Afterwards, buff the rest off with a clean cloth, and enjoy the shine.
This may also be a good time to put on a water protector, if your shoes soak in lots of H2O. Chamberlain’s Water Protectant no. 3 is specifically designed for this, but take caution that lighter and unfinished leathers may darken. Try a suede protectant for the latter, and remember to always try recipes first before using them.
Lastly, keep your leather sneakers in a safe place for expert level leather sneaker care. If you have high heat, humidity, weather or sun problems going on, keep them away from the outdoors. Cool, indoor locations away from sunlight work best. For bonus protection, you can also try stuffing them with newspapers and keeping them inside a breathable wooden box. Can you believe people actually had a reason for packing all that annoying paper inside those retail shoes? Who would have thought!
Anyways, that’s all for now, leathermancers. Stay shiny, and keep up the awesome smell. I’ll be dreaming about you.
Got more leather questions? Suggest a blog topic to us here!