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How to care for tan leather shoes

Updated February 21, 2017

Owning a pair of leather shoes is a small fashion accessory luxury. And because leather shoes can be more expensive than regular shoes, you want to protect them with proper care and cleaning. While following the same cleaning and care techniques as a darker leather shoe colour, caring for your tan leather shoes requires a small adjustment in final polishing. Correct care, cleaning and polishing of your tan leather shoes will extend the life of their colour and quality.

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  1. Brush gently any dirt, dust and debris from all areas of the shoe, including the leather and the sole, with a soft shoe brush. It is essential that you use a soft shoe brush and not a regular brush, because anything with tough bristles could scratch the leather. If you can’t find a shoe brush, then you can use a soft cloth.

  2. Mix warm water and a small amount (about 1/2 tbsp) of saddle soap in a small bowl.

  3. Scrub the shoes gently with the water and saddle soap mixture using a soft cotton cloth wherever you see scuffs or scratches on the leather. With scuffs and scratches that aren’t set too deep into the leather, a few minutes of rubbing with the cloth and soap should smooth away the problem areas. For deep scuffs or scratches, you will need to have your shoes fixed by a professional.

  4. Add a small drop (1/2 tsp) of tan waterproofing leather shoe polish to a clean cotton cloth and gently apply it to the leather. If it is the first time that you are polishing your shoes, apply just a tiny amount to an area of the shoe that is not easily noticed. You want to let the polish fully dry in that one area to make sure that the polish works well with your shoe colour. Make sure you apply the shoe polish evenly.

  5. Allow the shoes to dry after polishing for a few hours before wearing them.

  6. Tip

    Only clean your leather shoes once a month unless they are extraordinarily dirty. Over-cleaning could ultimately damage your shoes.


    Always test a new polish on tan shoes, because a poor polish or polish that is an incorrect colour will show more clearly on a tan shoe than on darker colour of leather. If you are in doubt as to which shoe polish to purchase, take your shoes to a shoe store or professional repairer and ask the advice of a knowledgeable sales associate.

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Things You'll Need

  • Soft shoe brush
  • Warm water
  • Cotton cloth
  • Saddle soap
  • Tan waterproofing shoe polish

About the Author

Jessica Jewell is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who began writing professionally in 2005. Her chapbook, "Slap Leather," is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Her recent work has appeared in "Nimrod," "Harpur Palate," "Copper Nickel," "Rhino," "wicked alice," "Poetry Midwest" and "Barn Owl Review." Jewell was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University.

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