How to Soften Patent Leather

by Melissa King

If you have a new patent-leather item, it might feel stiff and inflexible, making it uncomfortable to wear. Fortunately, you don't need to suffer until it softens on its own. You can soften any patent-leather item by applying leather conditioner after a proper cleaning.

Scrub your patent leather item gently with a soft-bristle brush. Scrape off all of the dirt and other stuck-on debris.

Dampen a washcloth with lukewarm water and a drop or two of mild soap. Wipe all surfaces of the leather.

Dampen a clean cloth with water and wipe the leather again to rinse. Use another towel to wipe dry. Allow the item to dry fully.

Apply a few drops of leather conditioner to a soft cloth. Rub the conditioner into all exterior parts of the item, then buff until the leather shines. Wipe off excess conditioner with a clean towel. If you don't have leather conditioner, you can also use baby oil, mineral oil or petroleum jelly.

Items you will need
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Washcloth
  • Mild soap
  • Socks
  • Hair dryer
  • Leather conditioner


  • To break-in patent-leather shoes, put on the shoes with thick socks after cleaning the shoes and letting them dry. Hold a hair dryer about 6 inches away from the shoes and direct heat at the tight-fitting areas while wiggling your toes and flexing your feet. When the shoes are as comfortable as you'd like, remove the shoes and condition and buff them.


  • Too much heat can damage leather items. Only heat shoes with a hair dryer until they're comfortable enough to wear.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images