Want to know how to care for your footwear and give a great impression to others? Then this guide to cleaning leather boots is for you. If you do have leather shoes then do not worry as this guide will also help you.

Cleaning Leather Boots

What’s included in this guide!

For this guide I want to show you how you can clean both the leather of your footwear and the soles. The soles of course can also get dirty. So it’s important to clean that part and not to forget them.

It is also a good idea to apply some after cleaning care when you have removed all the dirt and made your footwear looking all brand new.

This care will ensure that your leather boots or shoes will last longer. So you do not have to run out and get a new pair so soon. Which of course will save your money.

To make the whole cleaning process and after cleaning care easier for you to understand I have included a very short video in this guide. I have separated this guide into three parts where the same video is included but at the significant part.

Three parts for cleaning and caring:

Please note:

Before you do care for your footwear it’s always a good idea to read the instructions first, (if you do find any). This short guide is for general, (or rather finished), leather boots or shoes.

So if you do not want to spend too much time cleaning then this guide is for you. If you do have suede footwear then please check out my How To Clean Suede Boots post.

Cleaning The Boot/Shoe

The first part to the cleaning process is to clean the main leather part of the boot or shoe. After all this is the most visible part of your footwear and also obviously it is why you are reading this guide in the first place, lol.

The following video is great as it is simple to follow, uses items that you should have in your home and is pretty quick as well.

Credit: Melissa Maker @ Clean My Space

Please note: I have added this same video to the following two steps as well, but at the relevant parts. So if you do watch it all in one go then you won’t miss anything by watching the videos in the next two parts.

Hope that made sense.

What You Need:

  • Leather Boots/Shoes
  • Small Bowl
  • Water
  • Cleaning Detergent (Dish Soap)
  • Toothbrush (just for stirring)
  • Two soft Cloths

Step 1 – Get your mixture ready

First you will need to put some water and cleaning detergent into a bowl. You don’t have to go crazy with the detergent. Just use your judgment.

You will then need to give this a mix. I would suggest the handle end of a toothbrush. Make sure that it’s a toothbrush that you aren’t using and that it is clean of course.

If your soles need a clean as well then you can use the toothbrush for that part as

If your shoes are particularly dirty then you may want to make another mixture. Or preferably you can use a bigger bowl and more detergent.

Step 2 – Clean that boot

Next take a soft clean cloth and dip it into the mixture. You will then obviously need to rub the wet end of the cloth onto your shoe.

A good circular motion works best for this cleaning process. You don’t have to apply too much pressure for this step.

Step 3 – Wipe the boot

The final step is just to wipe your boot or shoe with a clean cloth.

And that’s it. Pretty simple right?

Cleaning The Sole

The soles must also not be neglected. There’s no point cleaning the leather part only to leave the dirty soles. You’re not going to give a good impression if you haven’t finished the job off properly.

Don’t worry as this part of the cleaning process is pretty much similar to the first. So it shouldn’t take you too long to do.

Credit: Melissa Maker @ Clean My Space

What You Need:

  • Leather Boots/Shoes
  • Small Bowl
  • Baking Soda
  • Laundry Detergent (Dish Soap)
  • Water
  • Toothbrush

Step 1 – Get your mixture ready

The first step to this part is pretty much similar to the first where you cleaned the leather part of your footwear.

You will need to get a small bowl and add baking soda, laundry detergent and some water. Again use your judgment on how much of each that you do use.

But remember do not use too much. Let’s not get too overboard with those suds shall we?!

Then just give this mixture a mix. Again the handle part of an old toothbrush is ideal for this step.

Step 2 – Scrub those soles

The second step is to simply dip your brush, (bristle end first), into the mixture. Then take your brush and start scrubbing the soles of your boots or shoes.

As with the leather of your shoes you need to just take your time cleaning the soles. Again a good circular motion will typically work best.

Step 3 – Rinse and dry the soles

When you feel that you have cleaned the soles enough then you will need to rinse them. For this part dip a soft cloth into some clean water, (don’t use the mixture that you made before).

Just go over the entire sole with the cloth to remove the soapy, baking soda mix that you applied on them.

And then finally just leave your shoes to air dry. For this final part I would suggest either leaving them indoors out of direct sunlight. Or you may want to put them outside. But if you do that then just leave then in the shade.

This part will take the most amount of time of this cleaning process, depending of course on the temperature.

After Cleaning Care

Applying polish to your leather boots or shoes is a great way for them to last longer. If you do intend to care for your footwear I would suggest that you clean them first.

After all there is no point applying polish to a dirty shoe is there?

Credit: Melissa Maker @ Clean My Space

What You Need:

  • Leather Boots/Shoes
  • Boot/Shoe Polish
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Shoe Brush

Step 1 – Apply the polish

First just take a small amount of polish to a clean cloth. Then work in a circular motion and apply it to your shoe or boot.

Depending on how much you have put on your cloth you may need to dip some more polish onto your cloth.

Step 2 – Wipe the excess

The second part is just to simply wipe off any excess that is left on the boot or shoe. You can just wipe in one direction for this part.

Step 3 – Brush the shoe

And finally just brush your boot or shoe with your shoe brush. You don’t need to use a circular motion for this step. Similar to wiping any excess polish you just brush in one direction.

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope that this guide to cleaning leather boots or leather shoes. If you think that this post will be helpful then please share it with family and friends using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.


Owain Couch

Making and repairing boots and shoes has been an occupation in my family for generations. I want to carry on the family business by helping you find the best footwear, as well as provide useful guides that will help make them last longer.


Mike Chappell · March 27, 2018 at 5:38 am

Great article with helpful content. I didn’t realize just how easy it was to clean a pair of leather shoes.

Thought I would be buying all sorts of products. But I have all of these items at home.

I have a pair of Justins that need some serious attention, so will be getting right to them shortly.

Thanks again,

    Owain Couch · March 27, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks Mike, most kind. Yeah whilst researching and writing various how to clean guides I have been amazed as to just how easy it is. You don’t really need fancy products or need to spend a lot.

    Cleaning and maintaining your shoes and boots will mean that they will last longer. And also that you don’t have to run out and buy a new pair so often.

Jill · March 27, 2018 at 9:07 am

Hi Owain, I loved reading this post as it brought back so many memories of my dear Dad who used to polish our school shoes for us. I would sit with him and chat. He was a complete perfectionist not only with the polishing of our shoes but also with his car. It was nothing for him to stop along the road while on a journey and give the car a once over.
Thank you. All the best, Jill

    Owain Couch · March 27, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks Jill, what a lovely story. I am glad that I brought back some happy memories for you 🙂

joe · April 2, 2018 at 2:51 am

Hey Owain
You are right about getting your boots real clean before polishing them. I have tried to polish boots that wasn’t clean and they come out all discolored and dull spots. In a comment above you say your family is in the shoe repair business. Not many shoe cobblers around anymore in my area. That is really awesome they are still in business.

    Owain Couch · April 2, 2018 at 3:02 am

    Thanks for the comment Joe. Yeah you need to have your shoes or boots thoroughly clean before you do apply the polish.

    It’s similar to if you put a screen protector to your phone. You obviously want the screen to be free of dirt before you apply it, otherwise it will still be there under the protector.

    You need to check out my About Me post. My family were in the shoe making industry. Then it turned into shoe repairs. But is was more than a century ago.

    I want to return back to my roots and provide a site where people can find how to guides for caring for their footwear. And also guides as to the best boots and shoes that you can buy.

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