When your leather shoes or boots get wet, it's critical to treat them with care to avoid irreversible damage to the leather. To get the best results, follow these step-by-step instructions for treating wet leather shoes and boots. Also, keep in mind that these recommendations do not apply to suede, which can get wet but is treated differently.
If you care for your leather shoes and boots properly, they can become wet (even extremely wet in some conditions) without causing permanent damage. If your leather shoes are being soaked on a frequent basis, consider investing in a pair of waterproof shoes to avoid having to treat them as often.
What Is The Best Way To Dry Wet Leather Shoes?
Step 1: Get Rid of Extra Moisture and Debris
Remove any excess water from the shoe's outside first. If there are any raindrops on the shoe, wipe it down with a clean, dry towel to remove them and avoid water stains. Make sure to remove any dirt, mud, or grit while your shoes are still wet, rather than allowing the debris to dry.
Step 2: Remove The Laces
Leather shoes typically include cotton or other natural fiber laces. Instead of trapping moisture between the two components, removing them will allow both the laces and the shoes to dry faster.
Step 3: Take Off Your Insoles
If your shoes are actually damp, moisture is most likely trapped between the insole and the shoe's bottom. Removing the insoles allows the shoe to breathe properly, reducing the likelihood of the shoes stinking or warping later. After removing the insoles, wipe any excess moisture from the inside of the shoe using a soft, dry cloth.
Step 4: Raise Your Shoes
If you leave your shoes on the floor, moisture will collect between the outsole and the floor. Clean the outsoles with a damp cloth to remove grit and grime, then elevate the shoes to allow the outsoles to air and dry. You can use a mesh shoe rack, place the shoes on their side, or lean them against a wall with a towel below.
Step 5: Fill with crumpled newspaper
When your shoes or boots are saturated, stuffing them with newspaper comes in handy. The dry newspaper will absorb moisture from the leather and draw it out. While using newspaper is quite successful, it is also a time-consuming process. It's critical to remove the soaked newspaper and replace it with dry newspaper until all of the moisture has been absorbed. Otherwise, moisture will be trapped between the wet newspaper and the leather, defeating the purpose. The initial round of newspaper will absorb a lot of water from wet shoes and will need to be changed soon (within 20 minutes). Because there is less moisture available to absorb, subsequent rounds of newspaper will take longer.
Step 6: Elevate and Air Dry
Your shoes will still be damp after a while, but the crumpled newspaper trick will no longer work because there isn't enough moisture left to soak correctly. At this stage, air drying the shoe is the greatest option for removing any remaining moisture. Place the shoes or boots in a cool, dry location with minimal humidity and moisture. Excessive heat will cause the leather to dry out too soon, causing it to warp and fracture.
It's worth repeating: under no circumstances utilize excessive heat. Blow dryers, baseboard heating, radiators, and fireplaces are all examples of excessive heat that should be avoided.
Leather Shoes with Water Damage
After your shoes have dried, inspect them for any parts that appear to be out of place; there may be salt stains or water marks that will require additional treatment. When the shoes are damp, these may not be seen, but as the leather dries, they may become obvious. To remove salt stains, make a vinegar solution and wash off the leather with a towel. Talcum powder can be used to remove stains caused by oil or grease.
Learn more about how to clean leather boots and shoes.
Polishing and conditioning
After your shoes have dried, use a high-quality leather conditioner to condition them. Leather is a hide that includes oils and tannins that keep it supple when properly preserved. The oils and tannins in leather are impacted when it gets wet and then dries out, making it drier and more susceptible to crack. Leather conditioner hydrates the leather, helping it to maintain its suppleness.
Look over the bottle before applying a leather conditioner to see if there are any special instructions, such as shaking it. Using a clean rag, massage the conditioner into the leather. Use just enough conditioner to condition the leather evenly, but not so much that excess conditioner sits on the surface. If you make a mistake and use too much, simply wipe it away.
Leave the shoes alone for 10-20 minutes after applying the conditioner. The conditioner will begin to dry, leaving a hazy appearance behind. You can buff it away with another cloth once it has dried. After that, polish the shoes to bring back their original luster. For a detailed explanation of the polishing technique, see our guide to polishing leather shoes and boots.