Basic shoe care tips to get your kicks looking fresher for longer

A few pointers ahead to get you started.

Matthaeus Choo

Published: 7 October 2021, 3:57 PM

For being the only thing that separates our feet from everyday terrain, we often forget about the wear and tear that any pair of shoes will go through over time. 

Knowledge of basic shoe care will go a long way in extending the lifespan of expensive kicks and save up from having to get a replacement.  

Information on shoe care is all over the Internet but this article on the main pointers will likely save you a few clicks and perhaps give a much-needed reminder to show your shoes some love. 

Where there is a multitude of materials used in shoes, we will only be honing in on two of the most commonly used.

Leather shoes

Leather is mainly used for covered shoes and heels meant for formal events, or expensive sneakers and sandals. 

One popular method to test if the non-flammable material is genuine is by trying to set it on fire — although that might make for unpleasant surprises in more ways than one. Far safer ways include identifying its unique smell and pressing against the leather to see if it retains wrinkles.


Maintaining your leather shoe will go a long way in keeping its fresh look. PHOTO CREDIT CREDIT: SHELBEY FORDYCE VIA UNSPLASH


Going all-in on leather shoe care can be as hefty as the expensive material’s price tag. However, it will be all worth it as a well-maintained pair of leather shoes tend to be the most durable and long-lasting on shoe racks. 

At the most basic level, leather shoes should be brushed regularly to sweep off any accumulated dirt — mud should be cleaned immediately as they will be particularly troublesome to tend to once they are hardened. 

With the wet season in mind, leather shoes should also be stored away from damp areas lest mould develops. All shoe care should begin as early as possible. This is especially the case with deodorising shoes, given how our warm weather is perfect for unpleasant odours to develop within. 

For these reasons, deodorants and shoe brushes should be on the top of the list for maintenance products. If budget allows, shoehorns and shoe polishes are worthy investments as well. 

Although they may seem posh, shoehorns will help in preventing damage in the heel portion of the shoe while keeping the overall shape intact. Guys after their National Service might have PTSD from cans of shoe polish but regular application on leather shoes will keep them spiffy and away from cracking. 

A quick note: although suede and nubuck are derived from leather, cleaning products do differ, such as with specific brushes tailor-made for the material.

Canvas shoes

While canvas shoes are easy to maintain, it needs to be done regularly. PHOTO CREDIT: THE DK PHOTOGRAPHY VIA UNSPLASH


Canvas is the material of choice for inexpensive sneakers. 

However, do take note that shoes are made up of various materials so each will require its own cleaning methods. It is for this reason that, while it is way less time-consuming, canvas shoes should not be thrown into the washing machine — especially if there are traces of suede and leather.

Similarly to leather shoes, shoe care should be attended to as early as possible. If nothing else, deodorants, in particular, will go a long way in preventing sneakers from turning into stink bombs.

With white sneakers in trend, it is essential to regularly scrub off dirt. Dirty and greyed-out sneakers are unfortunately not trendy yet. But fortunately, it will cost far less to maintain canvas shoes than leather ones. 

All it will take for a deep clean is a soft nylon brush (or an old toothbrush), laundry detergent, warm water, an old rag, and about 20 minutes of your time. Additionally, nail polish remover and cotton buds can work miracles in keeping rubber soles looking as good as new. 

While the shoes themselves should probably avoid the washing machine, their laces can be washed together with the laundry — however, do take note to scrub out any mud traces as they may clog up the washer.

A special note for the wet weather is that there may be difficulties air-drying the shoes. Blow dryers can be of help in expediting the process but overexposure can damage the material. As such, do plan the cleaning schedule ahead of time in case there are no other shoes in rotation!

These are only a few key pointers for both leather and canvas shoes with countless in-depth guides on the Internet for just about every shoe material imaginable. 

Shoe maintenance can be quite tedious especially with assembling all the cleaning materials but it will definitely be all worth it!

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