Can You Put Leather Shoes In The Washer?

Leather Shoe Care

Considering everyone’s demanding schedule and long commutes, there is less and less time for Self-care. A part of taking care of ourselves is also maintaining items of our daily use. And what’s the one thing we need no matter where we are? Is Shoes. Some people buy a lot and some just have a pair or 5 of varying types depending on the occasion but pretty much everyone needs to have at least 1-2 pairs of leather shoes.

The beauty of leather shoes lies in long durability and comfort. You can use them for office and also outside environments. And whether it’s standing/walking around for hours in an Air-conditioned office or running around in the sun for sales calls – it’s a safe bet that its leather shoes that you have on, protecting your feet from the sun and cushioning your soles so you can make the best of your day in comfort and style.

And this is where questions about the maintenance of leather shoes come in. Can you put shoes in the washer? Can you put shoes in the dryer? How much time does it take to clean them? Are there any special products you need? What are they?

What is leather?

Before we answer these questions it is important to first understand leather itself and the key information surrounding this material. When animal skin is treated chemically and tanned, the material created is called Leather. Hide from domesticated bovine is the most widely used raw material owing to the durable properties of their skin.

Even though bovine skin is the ideal and popular raw material used to create leather (making over 60% of all leather good produced) there are other animals whose skins are also utilized for the same purpose due to the unique properties of their skin, other animals included are smaller bovine like sheep, goats, and pigs.

Aside from cattle, reptile skins  (Alligator, Crocodile, Snakes, etc) are also popular but more controversial due to Animal Protection Activism.

Preservation and conditioning of leather

Like all material things, leather eventually breaks down. However, naturally, leather degrades slowly- taking 25 to 40 years to do so. It is still, sensitive to incalescence and appropriate humidity. When leather is exposed to very low humidity (less than 40%) the moisture starts drying up and this leads to the structure of the leather losing integrity in a manner that is irreversible.

Even though leather is durable, it is also sensitive and as such requires additional treatment for maintenance. In shoes, this is done so using polish while saddle soap is another alternative for keeping leather healthy and conditioned for softness.

Taking care of your leather shoes

Now that we understand what leather is and where it comes from, we are in a better position to answer the questions about the maintenance of leather shoes.

Can you put leather shoes in the washer? No. Especially if it is the kind of leather that has a finishing. Water is used for removing the additional layers of oil coating. Washing your leather shoes will remove the layer of oil and damage their durability. 

Also, Leather is damaged under high temperatures and will change the structure of its fibers.

Are there special products that you need for leather shoes? While not necessary you can use the following products for best results in maintaining your leather:

  • Shoe brush
  • Saddle soap
  • Leather conditioner
  • Shoe polish

How do I clean my leather shoes?

How do I clean my leather shoes

Unlike the strenuous process of producing the leather that goes into the shoes, the process for cleaning them is completely simple and has very clear steps.

Know what they are made of :

Before cleaning your leather shoes, you must know what kind of leather was used for their manufacturing. Different kinds of leather have different properties and hence require different cleaning techniques. How can you know what material your shoes are made of?

Well, the answer is simple: read the label properly and most probably you will find your answer. After reading it you may decide if you can clean your shoes using a toothbrush or if a cleaning rag will be enough for them.

Remove the shoelaces :

Before cleaning the shoes, you must remove their shoelaces. Why? Well since you are not throwing these shoes in a machine that means you’re cleaning them by hand. And you need as much surface area as you can get. Removing the shoelaces will open the shoes a little bit and give you access to the inner surface. Moreover, just like your shoes, shoelaces also get dirty with time so you need to clean them as well.

Clean the shoelaces :

Unlike the shoes themselves, you can wash these in the machine or a bucket of water with detergent. Just remove them from the shoes and wash them. But make sure that you know what material are these shoelaces made of. If they are made with nylon then there is no special instruction for their washing. But sometimes leather shoes come with leather shoelaces.

In that case, you need to follow the same procedure for cleaning the shoelaces as well. After washing your shoelaces do no put them in your shoes right away. Because if the laces are a little bit wet or even damp they can cause damage to your shoes. So make sure they are completely dry when you put them back in your shoes.

Clean the insoles :

These are the pads inside of the shoe that cushion your foot. If they are removable then pull them out to clean with a rag.  In case, you can not remove them. Then, put the rag on your hand and dig inside towards the toe area and start cleaning. Then move towards the outside and just softly hit the soles of the shoe to the ground. This will shake off any dirt that would have stuck to the inner walls.

Clean the surface :

Use a damp but clean rag or shoe brush and gently but firmly remove the dust from the surface of the shoe. You have to make sure that you drag out the dust from slim corners and lines along the shoe. Dust stuck on the linings of the shoe can be the most challenging to remove.

If there is a particularly nasty stain that you are unable to remove with your cleaning rag, then you can use a mixture of water and detergent. Apply a drop or two on the surface of the stain and rub it gently. You can remove most of the stains this way. After that make sure that you have dried the shoes with a dry cloth.

Cleaning with a shoe brush :

If you are using a brush with wax/polish to clean the exterior of the shoe then use crossing brush patterns, this will help smooth the way for a better shine. Don’t use the same brush for applying wax and removing dust, use different ones.

Polish the shoes :

To keep the shoes looking brand new, apply an appropriate polish that is compatible with the color and material of your shoes. This will improve their longevity and protect them from the elements. Make sure to read the instructions on the polish. You must check the symbols posted under or the inside of the shoe indicating incompatibilities.

Take precautions :

Leather shoes can be very sensitive (depending on the material they are made from) and can be especially so towards the use of certain chemicals and water. It’s always good to take some general precautions:

  • Don’t put leather shoes in the washer?
  • Keep them away from water
  • Use shoe conditioner properly, don’t use too much
  • Store leather shoes in a dry and cool place
  • Use the right polish, always read instructions before use
  • Take care of your shoelaces

Why you should maintain your leather shoes

Following the steps described above will keep your shoes looking fresh for longer. We will also advise you to change your shoelaces every 6 months. Keeping your shoes maintained is not only something for looks. It’s also to keep them from developing problems that will have unfortunate consequences for your feet. These problems include blisters, cuts on the back of your heels, calluses, shoe bites, athlete’s foot, bunions, etc.

Conclusion

Given how commonly we use leather shoes, it can be a shame that we don’t know enough about them to take better care of them. However, the goal of this article was to rectify exactly that, especially confusions like “Can you put leather shoes in the washer?”

Leather shoes, in modern society, are not just items of casual use. But, they are also professional and fashionable. If you own a pair of genuine leather shoes then know that your feet are in good hands. These shoes have enduring protection brought out by the process that goes into making the leather for the shoe.

Because of the nature of tanning and finishing processes, people have been using leather shoes for a long time in human history,  They do require a delicate touch for maintenance’s. This cleaning process might not be as fast as using normal washing and drying processes.  But sitting down with a brush to polish your shoes can be an intimate way to appreciate what they do for you. Because they do plenty for your feet.

Leave a Comment