How to properly clean, polish & protect your leather shoes

How to properly clean, polish & protect your leather shoes

Leather shoes. From boots to sneakers – leather shoes come in various styles and are perfect footwear to wear on rainy days. But no matter how durable they are or how nice they look, they still can start looking worn and ugly over time. And that’s something you don’t want, do you? Knowing how to clean and polish leather shoes will keep your footwear looking good and preserve for years. Just follow these simple steps or check out the video below.

What you need

For regular leather shoes, the following items are the best. Yet if your shoes are made of suede, be sure to read the instructions of our How to clean suede and nubuck shoes blog as they require special attention and regular leather products might ruin them.

  • A shoe cleaning brush to remove loose dirt & to get dirt between grooves off
  • A special brush to apply Combi Foam (soft side)
  • Combi Foam in combination with the soft side of our special brush to easily get rid of salt and water stains
  • Shoe polish to shine your shoes and to enhance colour
  • Shoe protector spray to protect your shoes against dirt and rain
  • A soft cloth

Soap and water is the quickest way to remove minor dirt and stains from your leather shoes. However they might not be effective when it comes to tough stains or scuff marks. Instead, choose special products that are meant to remove these stains. Products of this kind are available in your closest MISTER MINIT shop.

Instructions to clean your leather shoes at home

Before you start, make sure to lay down sheets of newspaper or a towel on the surface you will be working on for an easy clean-up and to avoid possible damage. Once you’re set, you can follow these steps:

1. Remove the laces from your shoes

Removing the laces prevents getting water or polish on them. But sometimes, they might need a wash as well. If they’re dirty, make sure to pop them into the washing machine or to replace them with another pair.

2. Brush off dirt and debris

Brush off dirt and debris

Dirt can weak the fibres of your leather footwear which causes (unrepairable) cracks, so make sure to use a cleaning shoe brush to remove any loose dirt, mud or salt of the shoe’s leather surfaces. Pay also attention to scuffs and scrapes when cleaning to avoid damage. Brushing off dirt whenever you’ve worn them, will make it easier to buff and polish your leather shoes later on.

3. Use soap to remove tough stains

Use soap to remove tough stains

Dip a cloth or a soft shoe brush into water, mix it with a bit of soap and wipe the exterior surfaces of the leather shoe. You can also use our Combi Foam by shaking the can and rubbing it in small circles onto the shoe with the soft side of our special brush. You can also use it to remove dirt between grooves. Be careful not get the leather too wet. It is better to repeat the process with less water and soap instead of using too much at once.

When dealing with tough stains or scuff marks, dab onto them. If they’re still not removed, start to gently rub the stain with a bit of pressure. 

4. Wipe off soap

Once all the stains are removed, clean away the soap or Combi Foam with a dry cloth and wait for polishing until they’re dry enough to start polishing. This might take 20 minutes – an hour. In addition you can also put shoe stretchers into your leather shoes so their shape will easier be maintained. 

5. Use polish and rub them in with a shoe brush

Use polish and rub them in with a shoe brush

Use a clear or similar coloured polish and a clean, soft cloth to apply the polish in a circular motion across the entire shoe. This will protect the leather shoe from stains, nourish it and enhance the colour. But be careful around stitching that may be a different colour!

Tip: test the polish on forehand on an inconspicuous area to make sure it does not cause discoloration. 

6. Shine the shoes

Shine the shoes

When you’re finished, let the polish soak for a couple of minutes. Afterwards, take a new clean soft cloth or a buffing brush to properly shine the shoe with short but steady swipes.

7. Let dry

Let your shoes and boots dry in the open air. Be careful not to place them in the sun (or a heater) as this causes discoloration or cracks into the leather.

8. Spray in with protector spray


When your leather shoes are clean and shining, spray them in with a good protector spray at a distance from 30 cm. This treatment will make your shoes soft, supple and waterproof. Make sure to repeat this at least four times a year, especially when you live in a rainy area. Better to prevent than to treat, right?

But remember…

Cleaning and polishing your leather shoes is really simple. There’s just one key element that sometimes can be tricky: timing. If you want to expand their life, we recommend you to clean your leather shoes immediately when they get soiled. Only then you’ll avoid lasting dirt and stains.