Care of Wet Leather Shoes

Updated February 16, 2017

Wet leather shoes, whether they are boots, oxfords or loafers, require special care to prevent damage to the supple material. In fact, after wearing leather shoes in the rain or snow, following a systematic drying and polishing process prevents the growth of unsightly mildew or drying out of the skin. To treat your leather shoes at home, use common household products, leather conditioner and your fingertips to practice year-round shoe care.

Assess the water damage. Take your shoes off immediately. Remove shoelaces. If the shoes are only partially wet, dampen the entire shoe to eliminate the possibility of a waterline.

Remove winter salt stains. If salt and dirt stains are present on the wet leather, mix equal parts of water and vinegar and lightly sponge shoes. Wipe shoes down with clean white cloth before drying. If untreated, salt stains can become permanent.

Apply leather conditioner to shoes. Using your fingertips, rub the conditioner into the wet areas. Buy leather conditioner at sewing, fabric or craft stores.

Stuff shoes to remove moisture trapped inside. Insert paper towels, crumpled up white tissue paper or old white T-shirts into the wet shoes. Place the pair on old newspapers to dry.

Dry shoes thoroughly. While suede shoes need a minimum of three days to dry, wet leather shoes require 24 hours to dry completely. Allow the shoes to dry away from any heat source. When shoes are two-thirds dry, put in shoe trees to complete the drying process.

Polish leather. Brush off any loose dirt. Apply cream polishes to the shoe to enrich the leather. Rub the polish vigorously into the shoe, using a circular motion until the cream penetrates the leather


Find a well-ventilated area to dry shoes. To resist odours, mildew or the drying out of the leather, ensure that the drying area is cool. Treat shoes of exotic leather skins---alligator, snakeskin or lizard---with a neutral-coloured conditioner that cleans and conditions.


Never dry shoes on or near a heater. Avoid using wax products, which can cause cracking of the leather. Do not attempt to dry leather with a blow dryer or use products not specifically designed for leather.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Tissue paper
  • Old T-shirts
  • Newspapers
  • Paper towels
  • Cream shoe polish
  • Leather conditioner
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About the Author

Mimi Abney is a lifestyle writer specializing in online content for women. Her work has appeared in and "Keepsake Magazine," among other publications. With over 15 years of writing and editing experience for the web and print, Abney is also a contributor to online health, beauty and fashion publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Spelman College.