How to Protect Light-Colored Leather Shoes

by Chance Henson

A pair of high-quality shoes may cost a pretty penny, but they can last for years -- if properly maintained. Less expensive shoes can be easily replaced, so it's best to think of your leather shoes as an investment. Although damage such as scuffs, water stains and cracks can depreciate both the quality and value of the shoes, such problems can be avoided or fixed. You can keep your light-colored shoes supple, smooth and comfortable by using time honored and professionally proven maintenance methods.

Remove the laces from the shoes and store them nearby. Lay the shoes on an old towel or on newspapers to keep the leather out of contact with loose dust and dirt.

Brush the leather surfaces of the shoes with a soft-bristled brush to remove surface dirt. Insert one hand inside the shoe and drop a nickel-sized amount of saddle-soap or mild body soap directly onto the leather. Brush the soap into the leather, including creases, seams and scuffs, until the shoes are thoroughly clean. Wipe the shoes with a clean, damp cloth and let them dry for 20 minutes.

Dip a clean cotton or linen cloth into a jar of leather conditioner and scoop out a half-dollar-sized amount. Apply the conditioner directly to the leather, working it in with gentle, circular motions until the whole upper of the shoe has been conditioned.

Choose a paste or cream shoe polish that matches the light tone of the shoes -- choosing a darker color will permanently stain the leather. Apply the polish with the conditioning cloth, using circular motions over the leather surfaces until the entire shoe has been polished.

Buff the shoes with a buffing cloth or polishing brush using short, rapid motions to give it shine.

Wipe the shoes with a warm sponge to open the pores of the leather and help the shoes absorb the water repellent. Spray the leather surfaces of the shoes with a spray-on water repellent and gently wipe them with a clean cloth.

Items you will need

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Saddle soap (optional)
  • Clean cloth (cotton or linen)
  • Leather conditioner
  • Shoe polish (cream or paste)
  • Spray-on water repellent


  • Keep leather shoes away from direct heat such as ovens and space heaters, which can cause the leather to dry and crack. Stuff wet shoes with newspapers; wipe them with a clean dry towel, and let them air dry.
  • Insert a pair of unvarnished cedar shoe trees into the leather shoes after every wear to absorb residual foot perspiration.
  • Always use a shoehorn when putting on leather shoes.
  • Use a pencil eraser to gently erase light scuff marks.


  • Test shoe polish on an out of the way area of the shoe to make sure the color matches properly.

About the Author

Chance Henson earned a B.A. in English literature and a writing minor from Lamar University. While interning at the "University Press" newspaper and "UP Beat" magazine he received an award for news feature writing from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association. Henson went on to serve as content editor for "CUSH Magazine," eventually leaving to pursue the development of an online secular humanist educational publication.

Photo Credits

  • Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images