An unexpected shower or snowy commute can spell trouble for your favorite pair of kicks. Wet shoes can be salvaged, however, if you dry them promptly and protect them against future encounters with water.
Leather and Suede
Caring for wet shoes is a three-step process that tackles the water, gives the shoes a quick touch-up after they're dry and then creates a waterproof coating for added protection next time you wear them.
Drying Your Shoes
If the interiors of your shoes are damp, press a dry, clean cloth in the sole to soak up any excess water. Then, stuff your shoes with balled-up newspaper, which will soak up the remaining moisture and prevent odors. Leave the newspaper in for about an hour. If it's wet when you pull it out, replace the newspaper with another few sheets, and continue the process until the newspaper comes out mostly dry.
During this process, lay the shoes on their sides so the soles can also dry.
The sooner you dry your shoes, the better. Keeping your feet in damp shoes won't just be uncomfortable -- it can also result in seriously stinky shoes. Once you get out of the rain, slip those shoes off and start soaking up as much water as you can.
Never dry your shoes in front of direct heat, such as a vent or space heater. Heat can ruin some shoes. Leather, for example, might crack.
Repairing the Stains
Suede and leather shoes might show signs of water damage even after they have dried. As a result, you'll have to give your kicks some extra TLC to mask these signs of wear.
Suede shoes can be brought back to life with a suede brush, a stiff-bristled tool designed to help raise up the nap and clean out dust and debris. If you notice white streaks or smudges, which are signs of water damage, use the suede brush to work out the stains. Brush in the same direction until the white streaks are gone.
For hard-to-fight water stains on suede, first use a suede eraser, and then follow it with a suede brush for double the water stain-fighting power.
Water on leather shoes can result in stains. The best way to get rid of them is to fight water with water. Wet a clean sponge or cloth with warm water and wring it out. Gently wipe the stain with the sponge or cloth, working the water out to the edge of the shoes. For harder to fight stains, a professional cleaning might be in order.
Because water can dry out leather and harden it, your leather shoes will need some treatment after you spot clean them. Work a leather conditioner into your shoes to soften the leather and restore it to its original texture.
Your shoes might survive this encounter with water, but long-term water exposure might shorten the life of your favorite kicks. Pick up a waterproof or water-resistant spray specific to your shoes -- you can find them for leather, canvas and suede, among others -- and give your footwear some protection from that next rainstorm. Always follow manufacturer directions for the waterproof spray. You might need to reapply it occasionally to ensure your shoes are well protected.
Even canvas shoes may show signs of wear and tear after an encounter with water. Gentle hand-washing can breathe new life into your waterlogged sneakers. Use a nail brush to wipe off any dirt or debris. For difficult water spots, spritz some laundry stain remover onto the stain, and massage it into the shoe with the brush until the stain has disappeared. Or, blend baking soda and water to create a paste that you can apply.