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.

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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.

About the Author

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images