How to Wash Leather Sneakers

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Leather sneakers need to be washed in a very particular way to avoid any kind of long term damage. Find out how to wash leather sneakers with help from a leather and vinyl professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Leather Care
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Aubrey Cramer from The Leather and Vinyl Doctor. We're here today to talk about cleaning leather tennis shoes, or sneakers. And, one of the first things you want to do with cleaning any type of leather, as it is with sneakers, is to make sure that you identify the type of leather that you have. The best way to do that, and the simplest way to do that, is to use what we call the water test, and that's to see if the water will bead up or if it will penetrate into the leather. If it beads up, we know that we have a finished leather, which can handle most cleaners. If it penetrates into the leather, we have to be a bit more careful, and typically with your sneakers, it's going to be your suede sneakers, leathers that are used that are a bit unfinished. They're raw; they're going to absorb a lot of that liquid, so you have to be careful of that. So the best way to do that is to just apply a few drops of water to the outside. We find here that this is beading up. Give it a few seconds, see if it starts penetrating. In this case, it's just beading up, sitting on the surface. I can just wipe that off very easily. It tells me I've got finished leather, which is pretty common for sneakers. So the first thing you want to do is get some shape, okay, so we're going to get some newspaper, we're going to scrunch that up and we're going to stick it inside there, just to kind of get a nice good shape on the end of the foot there. So as you can see, it's giving us a good area to work with, it's pushing out some of those wrinkles, giving us a good surface to work with. We're going to use a water-based cleaner. There's plenty of those around. If all you can get is a liquid soap, a couple of drops in water, that's fine, but these are formulated for leather. They're the ideal types of things: a pH-neutral water-based cleaner. Now you can apply directly to the surface, but in small areas. Don't squirt the whole thing. You don't want streaks. You don't want the dirt leaving trail marks of the cleaner as it drips down the outside of the sneakers. Now, if you find that you're not getting some of those things clean with just using the cloth and using your elbow grease--and as you can see here, I'm just working these things here--and you come across a few stains that might be a little more tricky, such as that one there... if you find that you've got some pretty tough stains that are hard to get out with a bit of elbow grease, I suggest that you apply a little cleaner and, using a soft brush, just work that in circular motions, allowing the bristles to get right into the nooks and crannies there, working up a bit of a leather as well, and your shoes will just respond beautifully to that. Again, working your cloth to get rid of that cleaner, with a bit of pressure, you'll find that most stains will come out like that. Work the whole shoe like that. After you finish that, get your conditioning lotion. Again, there's a variety of these. We're using a heavy lanolin-based product, natural product. Make sure it doesn't have any silicate in there. Apply that to a damp cloth, and then again similarly, you want to work that in circular motions, not too much pressure. I'm just working it into the shoe, into the leather. It'll be fine if that just sits on the surface; it'll dry and penetrate eventually. And that is how you clean a leather sneaker.

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