How to Care for Your Shoes

by Ron Haynes

One important aspect of frugality is taking care of things that have value. If we can stretch the useful life of an article, such as our shoes, we can avoid having to spend money to replace them, that is, unless you’re Imelda Marcos or if you have some “thing” for collecting shoes. :)

Since the most expensive shoes I have are made of leather, I’ll start with those. Dirt and other debris can easily embed into leather so I keep my shoes clean and well maintained so they remain protected and the leather is supple. Soft, supple leather is always preferable in my book to tough hard leather so I keep my leather shoes polished and protected by shining them often.

Here’s my 5 step process to shine my shoes:

1. Begin by using a soft cloth and a shoe shine brush to remove any dust, dirt, or other debris. Take your time and get into all the nooks and crannies of the shoes. If they have laces, remove them and be sure to clean those areas that aren’t always seen as well as the areas that are. By removing the laces, you’ll be able to polish the tongue of the shoe as well as avoid staining the laces.
Shoe"
2. Next liberally apply and even coat of the shoe polish with a brush or a soft cloth. I prefer to use a cloth (an old T-shirt). Make sure to get the polish into all the surfaces you want to shine. Set one shoe aside to allow the polish to dry and work on the other shoe.
Shoe"
Shoe"
3. Only after the polish has completely dried (about 4 to 5 minutes), use another soft cloth to remove the polish. Don’t worry too much about getting every little bit, but try to be thorough. You’ll notice a marked improvement in the shine.
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4. Begin brushing the shoe again with a different brush. Always use different brushes for dirt removal and for polishing. Use quick strokes and make sure you get every little bit of polish off with the brush.

You can stop at this point if you’re satisfied with the way your shoes look, but if you want a really high shine, keep reading!

5. Some old timers will employ a technique called “spit shining” where they actually do spit on the shoes and then buff them with a soft cloth using a very quick, aggressive back and forth motion. I prefer to use a few water droplets.
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Then re-apply a thin coat of polish and use a damp cloth to remove it, employing the same motion. Continue to build up thin coats of polish and remove them until you have a mirror like finish.
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Once you’re done, you’ll have a pair of shoes to be proud of. Here are my two shoes, one has been polished and one hasn’t. What a difference it makes!

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Other shoe care tips:

  • If you don’t want to go through these steps but still want to properly shine and care for your shoes, use an instant shine liquids. I don’t personally like them, but that’s just me. Simply remove excess dirt with a cloth and/or a brush and then apply the liquid shine evenly to your shoes. The formulation restores color and dries to an instant shine – without the need to buff.
  • Use protective products to help waterproof your shoes and to protect them from stains caused by water, mud, dust, snow or salt.
  • Store your leather shoes using a shoe tree, this will help the shoe retain its shape. If you don’t have a shoe tree, stuff the toe cap with newspaper or tissue (remember removing that when you bought them?).
  • Suede shoes look their best after a good brushing. There are special brushes and cleaners just for suede.
  • Never store leather shoes near direct heat. Don’t use direct heat to dry them either.
  • To keep your shoes lasting longer, don’t wear them every single day. Rotate them with another pair and you’ll find that BOTH last longer.
  • When you buy a new pair of shoes, protect them with polish or a waterproofer first.
  • If your shoes get wet, allow them to dry completely before wearing them again. Stuff them with newspapers to help them hold their shape. Once your shoes have completely dried, waterproof them again with a multi-purpose protector such as mink oil or some other manufacturer recommended product.
  • Tennis shoes can be cleaned with a gentle soap and a soft cloth. Avoid washing them in a washing machine and especially avoid putting them in the dryer. That’s just too harsh of an environment for the fabrics, leather, and glues that hold them together. Be sure to dry them thoroughly.
  • Use a shoe horn to assist with putting on your shoes particularly if you’re lazy like me and prefer to slip on all shoes. Using a shoe horn will keep the heel from losing its shape.
  • When you travel, always place your shoes inside a shoe bag or wrap them in a soft material.

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Our generation hasn’t grown up taking care of things like our grandparents did. We grew up with disposable razors, disposable diapers, disposable this, disposable that. Our grandparents grew up with high quality items that were repaired, cared for, polished, and maintained.

Being frugal isn’t just buying the cheapest thing. It isn’t about self deprivation, clipping coupons, and wearing ragged clothes. It isn’t about driving a bombed out Pinto and eating rice and beans. Being a frugal person means buying the things you need and taking care of them. It means going ahead and buying a higher quality item if it has real value. It means maintaining your things so that they last, whether it’s your car, your furniture, your hardwood flooring, your roof, your clothing, or even your shoes. Look at the things you trade for dollars as assets and take care of them.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 987 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.