June 7


How to Clean Dress Shoes

By Teddy

June 7, 2023

Dress shoes are an essential part of any well-dressed individual’s wardrobe. Whether you wear them for work, special occasions, or simply to add a touch of elegance to your outfit, it’s crucial to keep them clean and well-maintained. In this article, we will discuss the importance of cleaning dress shoes and provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to clean different types of dress shoes effectively.

Why is Cleaning Dress Shoes Important?

Cleaning your dress shoes is more than just maintaining their aesthetic appeal. It also helps in preserving their quality, durability, and overall condition. Here are a few reasons why cleaning dress shoes is important:

  1. Prolongs Lifespan: Regular cleaning removes dirt, dust, and other debris that can degrade the materials and cause premature wear and tear.
  2. Preserves Appearance: Clean shoes not only look better but also help you make a positive impression. Well-maintained shoes reflect your attention to detail and personal hygiene.
  3. Prevents Damage: Proper cleaning removes stains, spills, and harmful substances that can lead to discoloration, cracking, or warping of the shoe materials.
  4. Enhances Comfort: Cleaning also involves conditioning and polishing, which helps in maintaining the suppleness and flexibility of leather shoes, ensuring maximum comfort.

Understanding the Different Types of Dress Shoes

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s important to understand the different types of dress shoes available. Each type may require specific cleaning techniques and materials. Here are some common types of dress shoes:


Oxfords are a classic and versatile type of dress shoe, characterized by their closed lacing system. They are known for their clean and elegant design, making them suitable for formal occasions.


Brogues are dress shoes that feature decorative perforations or “broguing” on the leather upper. They add a touch of sophistication to both formal and casual outfits.


Loafers are slip-on shoes, typically made of leather, and are known for their comfortable yet stylish design. They are popular for both formal and smart-casual occasions.

Monk Straps

Monk strap shoes have a unique buckle and strap closure system instead of laces. They offer a distinctive and fashionable alternative to traditional lace-up shoes.

Derby Shoes

Derby shoes are similar to Oxfords but feature an open lacing system. They offer a more relaxed and versatile option compared to the formal Oxfords.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the different types of dress shoes, let’s move on to the cleaning process.

Tools and Materials Needed for Cleaning

Before you begin cleaning your dress shoes, gather the following tools and materials:

  1. Soft-bristle shoe brush
  2. Microfiber or soft cotton cloth
  3. Mild shoe cleaner or saddle soap
  4. Leather conditioner
  5. Suede brush or eraser (for suede shoes)
  6. Nubuck cleaning brush (for nubuck shoes)
  7. Water and stain repellent spray
  8. Shoe polish (matching the shoe color)
  9. Polishing cloth or brush
  10. Shoe trees (optional)

Having these tools and materials at hand will ensure a thorough and effective cleaning process.

Preparing Your Dress Shoes for Cleaning

Before you start cleaning, there are a few preparatory steps to follow:

Remove Dust and Debris

Using a soft-bristle shoe brush, gently remove any dust, dirt, or debris from the surface and crevices of your shoes. Pay attention to the welt, sole, and other hard-to-reach areas. This step will prevent any loose particles from scratching or damaging the shoe surface during the cleaning process.

Handle Stains and Spills

If your shoes have stains or spills, address them before proceeding with the general cleaning. Blot the affected area gently with a clean, damp cloth. Avoid rubbing vigorously, as this may spread the stain or damage the shoe material. For stubborn stains, consult specific cleaning techniques for the shoe material (covered in the following sections).

Untie and Remove Laces

To ensure thorough cleaning of your dress shoes, it’s best to remove the laces. This will allow you to clean every part of the shoe properly. Set the laces aside for separate cleaning, if necessary.

Now that your dress shoes are prepared, let’s delve into the cleaning techniques based on different shoe materials.

Cleaning Techniques for Different Shoe Materials

Leather Shoes

Leather shoes are the most common type of dress shoes. To clean them effectively:

  1. Step 1: Prepare a Cleaning Solution: Mix a small amount of mild shoe cleaner or saddle soap with water according to the product instructions. Avoid using harsh chemicals or excessive amounts of water, as these can damage the leather.
  2. Step 2: Clean the Shoes: Dip a soft cloth or sponge into the cleaning solution and wring out any excess moisture. Gently wipe the surface of the shoes, focusing on areas with stains or dirt buildup. Avoid saturating the leather with the solution.
  3. Step 3: Remove Soap Residue: Dampen a clean cloth with water and wipe away any soap residue from the shoes.
  4. Step 4: Condition the Leather: Apply a small amount of leather conditioner to a clean cloth and rub it onto the shoes. This will moisturize and restore the suppleness of the leather. Allow the conditioner to absorb into the leather for a few minutes.
  5. Step 5: Polish the Shoes: Using a polishing cloth or brush, apply a thin layer of shoe polish that matches the shoe color. Gently buff the shoes in circular motions to achieve a smooth and glossy finish.
  6. Step 6: Let the Shoes Dry: Allow the shoes to air dry before wearing or storing them. Avoid placing them near direct heat sources, as this can damage the leather.

Patent Leather Shoes

Patent leather shoes have a shiny, glossy finish. To clean them:

  1. Step 1: Wipe with a Damp Cloth: Moisten a soft cloth with water and wipe the surface of the shoes. This will remove any surface dirt or smudges.
  2. Step 2: Use a Mild Soap Solution: If there are stubborn stains, mix a small amount of mild soap with water and apply the solution to a clean cloth. Gently dab the affected areas to remove the stains.
  3. Step 3: Dry and Buff: Use a dry, soft cloth to buff the shoes and restore their shine. Avoid using excessive force, as this can dull the glossy finish.

Suede Shoes

Suede shoes require gentle cleaning to avoid damaging the delicate nap. Here’s how to clean them:

  1. Step 1: Brush Away Dirt: Use a suede brush or soft-bristle brush specifically designed for suede shoes. Gently brush the surface to remove dirt and restore the nap. Brush in one direction to maintain a consistent appearance.
  2. Step 2: Treat Stains: If there are stains on your suede shoes, use a suede eraser or a damp cloth to lightly rub the affected area. Avoid using excessive water, as this can leave water stains on suede.
  3. Step 3: Restore the Nap: After cleaning, brush the shoes again in the same direction to restore the softness and texture of the suede.

Nubuck Shoes

Nubuck shoes have a velvety texture and require similar cleaning techniques to suede shoes:

  1. Step 1: Brush Away Dirt: Use a nubuck cleaning brush or soft-bristle brush to remove any dirt or debris from the surface.
  2. Step 2: Address Stains: If there are stains, gently rub the affected area with a nubuck cleaning brush or a damp cloth. Be cautious not to apply too much water, as it can damage the nubuck.
  3. Step 3: Revive the Texture: After cleaning, use the nubuck brush to restore the texture by brushing the shoes in one direction.

Fabric or Canvas Shoes

Cleaning fabric or canvas dress shoes is relatively simple:

  1. Step 1: Remove Loose Dirt: Use a soft-bristle brush or cloth to remove any loose dirt or debris from the surface of the shoes.
  2. Step 2: Create a Cleaning Solution: Mix a small amount of mild detergent or laundry soap with water. Dip a clean cloth or sponge into the solution and wring out excess moisture.
  3. Step 3: Clean the Shoes: Gently scrub the fabric or canvas surface using the cloth or sponge. Pay extra attention to stained areas. Avoid scrubbing too harshly, as it can damage the material.
  4. Step 4: Rinse and Dry: Rinse the shoes with clean water to remove any soap residue. Allow them to air dry completely before wearing or storing.

Restoring the Shine and Condition

After cleaning your dress shoes, it’s essential to restore their shine and condition. Here are some additional steps to consider:

Polishing Leather Shoes

To maintain the luster and protect the leather, follow these steps:

  1. Step 1: Apply Shoe Polish: Using a polishing cloth or brush, apply a small amount of shoe polish that matches the shoe color. Work it into the leather using circular motions.
  2. Step 2: Let the Polish Dry: Allow the shoe polish to dry for a few minutes. This allows the pigments and oils to penetrate the leather.
  3. Step 3: Buff the Shoes: Use a polishing cloth or brush to buff the shoes, creating a shine. Apply gentle pressure in back-and-forth motions until you achieve the desired level of shine.

Caring for Suede and Nubuck Shoes

To maintain the texture and appearance of suede and nubuck shoes:

  1. Step 1: Use a Suede Brush: After cleaning, brush the shoes with a suede brush in one direction to restore the nap and texture.
  2. Step 2: Apply a Waterproof Spray: Use a water and stain repellent spray specifically designed for suede and nubuck shoes. Apply the spray evenly, following the product instructions. This helps protect the shoes from moisture and stains.
  3. Step 3: Allow the Shoes to Dry: After applying the waterproof spray, allow the shoes to air dry completely before wearing them.

Drying and Storing Dress Shoes

After cleaning, it’s crucial to dry and store your dress shoes properly:

  1. Step 1: Air Dry: Place your cleaned shoes in a well-ventilated area and allow them to air dry completely. Avoid using direct heat sources, as this can damage the materials.
  2. Step 2: Use Shoe Trees: Insert shoe trees into your dress shoes to help them retain their shape and prevent creasing. Shoe trees also help absorb excess moisture and odors.
  3. Step 3: Store in a Dust Bag or Box: Once your shoes are completely dry, store them in a dust bag or box to protect them from dust, light, and potential damage. Avoid stacking or crushing the shoes, as this can deform their shape.

Maintaining the Cleanliness of Dress Shoes

To keep your dress shoes in pristine condition, follow these maintenance tips:

Regular Brushing and Polishing

Regularly brush your shoes with a soft-bristle brush to remove dust and maintain their appearance. Additionally, polish your leather shoes periodically to restore their shine and provide protection.

Protecting the Shoes from Elements

When wearing dress shoes, take precautions to protect them from harsh weather conditions and spills. Consider using a water and stain repellent spray before wearing your shoes in wet or dirty environments.

Professional Cleaning and Repair

If your dress shoes require extensive cleaning or repairs, it’s best to seek professional assistance. Professional shoe cleaning and repair services have the expertise and tools to handle delicate materials and restore your shoes to their original condition.


Cleaning dress shoes is a necessary step to maintain their appearance, durability, and overall condition. By following the appropriate cleaning techniques for different shoe materials and regularly maintaining your shoes, you can ensure that they always look their best and last for a long time. Remember to use the recommended tools and materials, and be gentle yet thorough during the cleaning process. Taking good care of your dress shoes will not only extend their lifespan but also enhance your style and confidence.


Q1: How often should I clean my dress shoes?

It is recommended to clean your dress shoes every few weeks or whenever they become visibly dirty. Regular brushing and maintenance will help prevent dirt buildup and keep them in good condition.

Q2: Can I use regular soap or detergent to clean my dress shoes?

It’s best to use a mild shoe cleaner or saddle soap specifically formulated for cleaning shoes. Regular soap or detergent may contain harsh chemicals that can damage the shoe materials.

Q3: Can I use a hairdryer or heater to speed up the drying process?

It’s not advisable to use direct heat sources like hairdryers or heaters to dry your dress shoes. High temperatures can cause the leather to warp, crack, or lose its natural oils. Air drying at room temperature is the safest method.

Q4: How do I remove scuff marks from my leather shoes?

For minor scuff marks, you can use a soft cloth or eraser to gently rub the affected area. If the scuff marks are stubborn, consider using a leather cleaner or seek professional help.

Q5: How can I remove odor from my dress shoes?

To remove odor from your dress shoes, sprinkle baking soda or place odor-absorbing inserts inside the shoes overnight. You can also use shoe deodorizing sprays or inserts specifically designed for this purpose.

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