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How to Remove Water Stains From Leather Shoes

Updated February 21, 2017

Leather shoes can be elegant and can wear well, but they can be difficult to clean and some types of leather can stain easily. In fact, if drops of water dry on your finished or unfinished leather shoes, they will leave unsightly watermarks on the shoes. You can remove these watermarks by following several steps dependent on the types of leather. Finished leather is smooth and its appearance does not change when you run your hand over the surface. Unfinished leather, such as suede, has a nap that changes when you rub it.

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Gently rub an art gum eraser over the water stains. This will remove the top few layers of the unfinished leather and will hopefully remove the stain along with it.

If the water stain is still visible, gently rub a nail file or fine sandpaper over the water stains. This will remove the next few layers of the unfinished leather. Do not rub too vigorously as you can easily put a hole in the leather.

When the stain is removed, brush the entire shoe with a suede brush. Suede brushes will restore the nap of the unfinished leather and will remove other dust and dirt particles from the shoe.

Remove the shoelaces from the shoes and take out the insoles.

Slightly dampen a clean cloth with clear lukewarm water and rub it over the entire surface of the shoes. Do not soak the leather as this can ruin the texture and condition of the shoe.

Dry the shoes completely with paper towels. More water stains will appear if the shoes do not dry evenly or completely.

Polish the leather shoes by putting some appropriate shoe polish on a clean cloth and rubbing it in circular motions into the leather. Appropriate shoe polish will be specifically made for the type of leather shoe you are working with. Finish polishing the shoe by taking a clean cloth and rubbing the shoe polish off in circular motions.

Allow the shoes to dry completely before replacing the laces or the insoles.


Never put leather shoes in the sun to dry them. Leather shrinks when it gets hot and wet and will likely shrink in the sun.

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Things You'll Need

  • Art gum eraser
  • Nail file
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Suede brush
  • Clean cloths
  • Paper towels
  • Shoe polish

About the Author

Kaye Wagner has been working in the fields of journalism and public relations since 2006 and is a recipient of a National Hearst Award. She is particularly interested in home-and-garden projects, as well as beauty and fashion writing. An avid traveler, she also writes travel reviews and guides. Wagner earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.

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