How to Wash Leather Shoes in a Washing Machine

Leather shoes need to be periodically washed.
Image Credit: Augustas Cetkauskas / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Known for their durability, leather shoes will last a long time provided that you give them proper care on a regular basis. In fact, with a little tender loving care, you can keep your leather shoes looking close to brand new.

To do so, though, do not put your leather shoes in the washing machine. While machine washing is good for fake leather shoes, your real leather shoes will be damaged when going through the washer, leaving them cracked or faded. Instead, by using such items as a good shoe polish, cleaning rags and a shoe brush, you'll keep your shoes in great shape.

These instructions do not apply to suede leather shoes. Suede leather requires special care.

Things You'll Need

  • Shoe brush

  • Cotton or microfiber rags

  • Laundry detergent

  • Shoe polish

How To Clean Leather Shoes

Step 1

Remove the shoelaces in order to access the entire leather surface. If the laces are cotton or nylon, you can wash them in the washing machine or hand wash them with laundry detergent. If they are leather laces, clean them using the same instructions as those for cleaning the leather shoes.

After washing, set the laces out to air dry. Make sure the laces are completely dry before reinserting them in the shoes after the shoes are cleaned and polished.

Step 2

Use a shoe brush to remove dirt, dust and debris from the outside of the shoe including the tongue and the sole. Next, wet a cotton or microfiber rag with water and squeeze out the excess. Wipe down the shoe, skipping the sole.

For persistent dirt and stains, create a solution of water and mild laundry detergent and apply a small amount to the shoe's surface. Rub with the rag to remove dirt and then wipe them with a fresh, clean rag. Once they are clean, remove as much moisture as possible from the shoes and allow them to air dry.

Step 3

Rewet the rag, again squeezing out the excess water, and scrub the sole until it is clean. If the soles are extremely dirty, you can apply a little bit of laundry detergent to the rag, work it into a lather and wash the soles. Once clean, use a dry rag to remove as much moisture from the shoes as possible.

Step 4

Don't forget to clean the interior of the shoes. Remove the insoles and wipe them with a dampened rag. Allow them to dry completely before reinserting. While the insoles are drying, turn the shoes upside down and shake out any dirt, dust or debris. If necessary, wipe the insides with a dampened rag or use a vacuum.

Step 5

If you are cleaning leather sneakers, you can skip this step.

Once the shoes are completely dry, apply shoe polish that matches the color of your shoes. Use small amounts. Use the shoe brush to spread the polish evenly across the surface of the shoes and then buff it off with a dry rag. Continue to polish the shoes until the desired shine is achieved.

Step 6

Between routine cleanings, periodically wipe down your shoes with a cotton or microfiber rag to keep dirt and dust at bay.

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