When properly cleaned and maintained, a good pair of leather sandals for men and the latest women's footwear can last for years. That's because leather is naturally durable and enduring, outliving virtually all synthetic materials and most natural ones, too. In fact, we would argue that leather not only lasts, but improves with time. Indeed, the more you wear your favorite pair of leather shoes, the comfier and more broken-in they get. But just like any material, leather needs a little love to stay pristine for thousands of wears. Here's our guide to properly cleaning leather sandals so they stay attractive, durable and comfortable for years to come.
Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Leather Sandals
Before you clean any leather item, make sure you consider the other materials used in the product. For example, our stylish women's leather sandals are made with durable polyurethane outsoles which are resistant to staining and can generally be cleaned with the same materials as leather. Luckily, leather conditioners and soap tend to be relatively gentle and versatile, but just make sure to read the label beforehand to make sure it's safe for your shoe's materials.
- Step 1: Prep - Before you dive in, take a bit of time to prep your leather footwear for a deep clean. Start by using a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush to wipe off any surface debris or dirt that has accumulated on the surface. If your sandals feature a removable footbed or fabric laces, be sure to remove them before cleaning.
- Step 2: Spot Clean - Using a liquid leather cleaner and a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush moistened with warm water and a gentle soap or leather conditioner, rub stains and problem areas, lathering in a circular motion. Using a separate dampened cloth, wipe away the solution. Be sure to wipe down the entire leather surface with a damp cloth to ensure that the leather is evenly moisturized.
- Step 3: Polish - If you've noticed that the leather has dulled a bit over time, it can be beneficial to use a leather polish to help revitalize some of the leather's luster and personality. After a thorough clean, apply a leather polish or conditioner to the surface of your shoes closely following the instructions on the label. You may even consider using a wax leather finish to restore the original coloring of your sandals.
- Step 4: Preserve - There are a number of amazing leather preserver products out there that not only help spiff up dull and dirty leather but also help seal them so they don't get damaged by moisture, dust and dirt over time. Make sure to allow your sandals to dry fully between product applications and before wearing.
Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning Leather Sandals
One of the best things about leather is that it's unique from virtually all other materials, so you need to treat it as such, never applying any one-size-fits-all cleaning techniques to your leather goods. Here are some important things you should keep in mind before you break out the cleaning products and scrub brushes!
- Know what materials can damage leather, as even some seemingly safe cleaners can permanently damage the surface of your sandals. Never use petroleum-based cleaning products or harsh cleaners such as Windex, bleach, nail polish remover or furniture polish (furniture and footwear are tanned differently and require different polishes).
- Know how to handle water damage. If allowed to sit, water can permanently damage leather goods. Make sure you always immediately wipe up moisture and spills and store your leather footwear in a dry environment. The unexpected downpour is bound to happen on occasion, and a good-quality leather conditioner can help.
- Store them properly. Leather is extremely durable, but it's also susceptible to becoming warped, misshapen or damaged if not properly stored. When not being worn, keep your sandals in a cool, dry place on a flat surface. Do not stack them on top of or beneath any other shoes. You can use balled up paper or socks to help them maintain their shape.
- Know how to refresh leather. One of the best things about leather is that it doesn't tend to take on other smells or get especially stinky, but after a fair amount of wear or time in a less-than-fresh environment, your favorite leather footwear may take on a subtle odor. If this happens, sprinkle the leather with a bit of baking soda and let it sit overnight. In the morning, make sure to thoroughly wipe down the leather.
- Get friendly with a shoe repair shop. Leather is one of those age-old materials that's meant to be repaired, not replaced. Often, a skilled shoe repair professional will be able to restore the leather, hardware and other components so that they stay in the rotation for even longer.
Knowing how to clean leather footwear can help protect your investment and keep your feet happy for millions of strides. Luckily, one of the best things about this time-honored material is that it's incredibly resilient and, with a little elbow grease and the right knowledge, it'll look like new again no matter how old it may be.