How To Clean Suede and Leather Boots and Shoes

Now the weather has finally started to turn towards autumnal – although it does feel as though 2023’s summer has erred on that all the way through! – we’re thinking about our autumn wardrobes. 

As a company that has a strong focus on sustainability, we like to encourage our customers to reuse their J&D sheepskin products again and again. This means getting last year’s pairs out of storage in the early autumn and giving them an “autumn clean” to get them ready for the cooler months. Our boots and slippers are made to be durable, so if you make sure they’re properly stored and cleaned properly to prevent damage, they could last you through several seasons – even in adverse weather!

So here are our top tips on how to clean sheepskin boots, leather shoes, and even a few more specialist items like school shoes!

How to clean sheepskin boots - a before and after image of dirty stained sheepskin boots, an after image of them clean and like new

How To Clean Sheepskin Boots

If you know that you’re going to be wearing your suede or sheepskin boots in particularly adverse weather conditions, we’d advise investing in a specialist protective spray which will create a protective barrier to keep the worst of the watermarks and stains off.

If you’ve just pulled your boots out of storage to wear this season and are shocked to notice you’d forgotten to remove any dirt from last year, here’s how to clean sheepskin boots by hand:

First brush away the dirt. Begin by gently brushing the surface of your sheepskin footwear to remove any loose dirt or debris. Use a soft-bristle brush or a dry cloth for this step.

Next, moisten the surface of the boots with a clean, damp sponge or cloth. If need be, you can apply a small amount of specialised sheepskin detergent to the damp sponge at this stage. Gently blot the sponge on the surface, focusing on areas with marks, stains or dirt.

After cleaning, use the same damp sponge to remove any cleaning residue left on the sheepskin. Then take a new dry sponge or cloth to blot away any excess moisture. You don’t want to soak or submerge the sheepskin as it could damage or warp it.

To keep their shape while they air dry, stuff your boots with newspaper or rolled up towels or cloths.  Allow your footwear to air dry naturally for at least 24 hours. Ensure they are placed away from direct heat sources or sunlight.

If required, you can lightly brush the sheepskin surface in one direction using a suede brush to restore the softness of the material.

For a deeper clean or stubborn stains, consider professional cleaning services provided by a dry cleaner experienced in handling sheepskin products. This can be an excellent option when your boots or slippers require special attention beyond regular maintenance.

By following these steps and showing some TLC to your sheepskin footwear, you can enjoy their warmth and elegance while keeping them in impeccable condition for seasons to come. It’s best to do this before you put the boots away for the warmer months to make sure that no damage comes to them while in storage! 

These steps will also work for other suede or sheepskin footwear, including how to clean sheepskin slippers.

How to Clean Leather Shoes

Leather shoes are made from a natural material similar to our sheepskin boots. Thanks to this, we have some top tips on how to clean leather shoes too. 

Like with sheepskin, the first step is to remove any abrasive dirt which could damage the shoe as it’s cleaned with a soft brush or cloth. 

Once you’ve done this, you can use a damp cloth or sponge to dab off any marks or dirt that’s stuck to the surface of the shoe. At this point, you can use saddle soap or a mild leather cleaner to gently rub off any built up grime.

Before leaving the shoes to dry, dab the excess moisture away using a soft towel. They should be almost completely dry at this stage. Finally you can use a leather conditioner to bring them back to life.

How to Clean School Shoes

The final footwear cleaning guide we’d like to share with you is how to clean school shoes, as we know from experience how tricky this can be! When the kids have just gone back to school in their brand new school shoes, it can be frustrating as a parent to see them come back covered in dirt and scuffs! With the cost of living still at a high, no one wants to replace any parts of the school uniform just yet.

You can follow the same steps for cleaning suede or leather boots or shoes for school shoes, but we also have a couple of handy hacks to share too!

If you don’t have any shoe polish in time for school photos, for a quick fix, take a look in the kitchen cupboard! A little vegetable oil, or baby oil if you have it, on a clean cloth rubbed over the whole shoe will give it back its shine as well as dulling any scuffs so they’re not as obvious. This helps to moisturise the leather. A little Vaseline over toe scuffs can work wonders too, as well as adding a little extra waterproofing!

The most important thing to remember with any suede or leather shoes is to never put them in the washing machine or soak them in water – we’ve learned this the hard way! If your child has been out to play in the rain, stuff the shoes with newspaper to draw out the moisture while retaining their shape. Don’t place them too close to a radiator as this could damage the delicate material.

For suede or leather shoes, you need to be gentle on the material, but some tougher stains or marks may need a little work. A soft toothbrush rubbed across the marks should help, but our favourite hack that we’ve learned recently is to grab a rubber from your child’s pencil case and make little circles with it. You’d be surprised how well this works!

“Velcro is a great choice for school shoes for little ones before they’ve learned to tie laces, but it attracts all sorts of dirt and debris which makes them much less effective. A pair of tweezers is the easiest way to remove every little bit, but a fine tooth comb will do a quicker job of bringing that velcro back to life.