Shoe Care Basics, Part 2

Published by Englin's Fine Footwear on 12th May 2017

Last week, in preparation for the release of shoe care products on our site (coming soon!) we shared our best shoe cleaning tips in Part 1 of our Shoe Care Basics series. In Part 2, we'll be covering some of the more advanced shoe care techniques, such as shining and polishing, waterproofing, fighting stains, and keeping odors at bay. If you're ready to be a shoe care expert, read on!


First, assemble your tools and supplies: A soft cloth and/or a polishing brush, a horsehair shoe brush, and a tin of polish that matches your shoes (cream polish for color and conditioning, wax polish for shine and some water resistance) are the necessities. It's also a good idea to spread a towel or some newspapers under the area where you'll be working to avoid staining the carpet with a daub of shoe polish. You'll want to give your shoes a good cleaning before you start (as described in Part 1) and make sure they're dry before you continue. Don't put the laces back in just yet. Then, follow these steps for the perfect polish and shine:

1. Using your soft cloth or polishing brush, apply a small amount of polish to the shoe. Rub in small circles, using only a little bit of polish at a time. You don't want to overdo it, and you can always add more as you go. Keep in mind that it's better to apply multiple thin layers of polish than one thick layer, so keep it light. Apply the polish evenly, giving the heel and toe special attention, as they tend to suffer the most wear.

2. Once you've polished the entire shoe, allow it to dry completely, which typically takes at least 15 minutes. If you feel it needs a second coat at that point, go ahead.

3. When you're finished applying polish and it's totally dry, take up your horsehair brush and try to remove any excess polish using short strokes. This also helps work the polish into the leather, so don't worry that you're brushing too hard. Make sure to brush the entire polished surface evenly.

4. Lastly, you'll want to buff the leather with a fresh, soft cloth or chamois, using smooth, side-to-side strokes to get the best possible shine.

That's it! Shoe shining is a quick and simple process, but it's something that few of us do often enough. Along with cleaning and conditioning, polishing will keep your shoes looking great for years to come!

Dansko Marta in Camel Full-Grain Leather

It's not just men's dress shoes that need a good shine and polish. All leather shoes, like the Dansko Marta women's sandal pictured here, can benefit from a regular care routine.


The first thing that's important to note is that "waterproofing" your shoes doesn't mean you can stand in a puddle and expect your feet to stay dry and your shoes undamaged. What actually happens is that the shoes become water-resistant, which means that the material will be protected from moderate moisture exposure, such as a walk through the rain or a drip from a drink. It's more accurate to call it "weatherproofing," but that's not the term most people are familiar with. Some shoes are naturally waterproof or weatherproof, but many of these, such as the UGG New Classics, benefit from periodic touch-ups with a water and/or stain repellent.

Like with polishing, it's best to clean your shoes and let them dry completely before you apply a water protectant spray, and to put down a towel or newspapers in the area where you'll be working. There are other methods of weatherproofing your shoes, but we recommend a spray (preferably one with a constant stream rather than a pump) because it's easy to use and widely available.

Below are some general instructions, but you should always read the directions on the product you're using and trust those!

1. Shake the can well.

2. Test the water protectant for colorfastness on a small, less noticeable area of the shoe, like the edge of the tongue. If you rub the area and color comes off, stop use and consult a professional (such as the knowledgeable staff at Englin's Fine Footwear) about alternative options.

3. Hold the can or bottle upright and keep it about 6" from the shoe's surface. Apply a thin, even coat of protectant using a careful sweeping motion. Just like with polish, it's better to apply multiple light layers than one thick coat, so allow the product to dry on the shoe before spraying on more.

UGG Classic Short II with Sheepskin Protector

Here, the Sheepskin Protector from the UGG Care Kit is being applied to the UGG Classic Short II in Chestnut.

4. Reapply regularly as directed. Usually, you'll want to touch up your waterproofing either when it has noticeably ceased repelling water, when you clean your shoes, or every six months, whichever comes first.

Many water repellent products also offer some protection from stains, so it's a great way to keep your shoes looking their best. Some products may slightly darken leather or suede, but are formulated to not damage it. Waterproofing/weatherproofing your shoes takes just a few minutes, but it can really extend the life of your shoes, so it's a habit we recommend to most of our customers.


So you've followed the cleaning recommendations in Shoe Care Basics, Part 1, but you've got a stain that just won't come out. What now? First off, keep in mind that if you use a water and stain protectant, you're less likely to encounter this problem in the first place.

If conventional shoe cleaning products don't get the job done, there are many DIY options that shoe enthusiasts swear by, including dish soap, baking soda, cornstarch for grease or oil, nail polish remover for ink, and toothpaste for scuffs. As always, be very careful when using any products that aren't specifically made for use on shoes, and test it on a small, inconspicuous area first if possible. If you need advice about a specific kind of stain, give us a call or stop by your nearest Englin's location and we'll do our best to advise you!


If you've ever gotten a whiff of your own shoes and spent the day in mortal embarrassment, you're not alone. If foot odor is an issue for you or you've noticed that your feet are unusually sweaty, a trip to your podiatrist might be the best first step so that you can zero in on any underlying issues. But even if you have the healthiest, best-smelling feet around, most shoes will get funky after a while if worn constantly and not regularly cleaned. That's why it's important to rotate your shoes, giving them a chance to dry and air out between wearings.

Powders and sprays that are specially formulated for removing odors from your shoes should be your first line of defense against unpleasant smells, but DIY solutions include:

- Spread a spoonful of baking soda in your shoes and leave them overnight. Pour out the baking soda in the morning. Alternatively, do the same with deodorizing kitty litter or talcum powder.

- A variety of natural solutions can also be effective against shoe odor. Place sage leaves, lavender sprigs, or fresh citrus peels (lemon, orange, grapefruit) in your shoes and leave them overnight, preferably next to an open window or on a porch or balcony in the fresh air. A few drops of tea tree oil on the insoles of your shoes can also do the trick.

- Swab the insoles of your shoes lightly with rubbing alcohol to neutralize bacteria.


- The easiest way to clean your nylon or polyester shoelaces is to remove them from the shoes, put them in a laundry delicates bag, and run them through the washer with a bit of detergent. Hang them to dry; don't put them in the dryer. Scrub tough stains with some dish soap and a toothbrush. For white laces, you can use a bit of diluted bleach to bring them back to their natural brightness.

- Clean leather laces the same way you would clean the leather of your shoe's upper: carefully, with leather cleaner. Remove them from the shoes and use a toothbrush or soft shoe brush for scrubbing. You can even condition them! Then allow them to dry completely before use.

Birkenstock Collins

- Don't leave soaked shoes unattended. If you and your good shoes get caught in a sudden downpour, it's not the end of the world, but don't just kick them off and forget about them when you get home. Brush off any mud or debris, stuff them with newspaper or small towels, and leave them in a well-ventilated area. As always, avoid using a heater or direct sunlight to dry them out.

- When in doubt, consult a professional. Give us a call or stop by your local Englin's if you have questions about the best way to take care of your shoes. We're more than happy to help! Some of our brands also offer recrafting services for their shoes. If your shoes need a new sole, new heel, refinished upper, or some general TLC, who better to serve you than the original shoemaker? You can contact the brand directly or give us a call at Englin's to find out your refurbishing options.

Now that you know how to clean, polish, and waterproof, you can take expert care of your shoes and keep them looking and feeling (not to mention smelling) their best! Stay tuned for more shoe-related knowledge in the coming weeks, including how to choose the proper fit for your foot (spoiler alert: you probably shouldn't be wearing the same size in every brand!) and much more.