Quick Tips: Shoe And Bag Care

These Gucci Jordaan loafers are classic and SO comfortable. Well worth the splurge! Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Good shoes and bags can be a big investment, but also can last for years or even decades if well cared for. Get to know your local cobbler, and have them add rubber half soles if your shoes have leather soles. Get heel tips replaced as soon as they start to wear down. If you have shoes or bags with brass hardware that’s begun to darken or tarnish, try buffing gently with one of these jewelry polishing cloths.

I’m pretty good about keeping my shoes conditioned and polished, but am not always as attentive to my bags. This time of year can be just as hard on leather accessories as on our skin. I’ve used the leather moisturizer from Coach for many years and have been happy with the results. (I don’t often use any kind of soap or cleanser on my bags, usually just wipe with a damp washcloth periodically.)

Pen mark on your favorite lighter colored bag? I’ve found the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works well to remove them on most natural leathers. (Test on a portion of the bag that’s not as visible first.)

I’m scheduled to report for jury duty tomorrow. If I don’t get seated on a jury, I’ll be giving my favorite bags a “spa day” later this week.

What cleaning or care products for shoes and bags do you swear by?

Stay in touch.

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  1. Maria
    February 18, 2019 / 3:14 am

    As soon as I take my shoes off for the day I slipped in a pair of cedar shoe trees. Shoes are an investment.

  2. Phyllis
    February 18, 2019 / 3:27 am

    I second the use of shoe trees, and the European spring steel type are great for pumps and heels. Shaft style shoe trees are mostly best for men’s shoes. Also I live in the Northeast and treat all of my suede shoes and boots with a protective spray to guard against water and salt spots. And yes getting heel lifts replaced when worn down is also key. I also agree that a Vibram 1/2 sole is a good idea, especially on molded soles that can’t be replaced or repaired. And finally for tall boots a pool noodle cut down is a great way to keep the shafts from flopping over in the closet.

    • Ellie
      February 18, 2019 / 10:49 am

      My cheap solution for flopping boot shafts is to stick in empty wine bottles (cleaned and dried, of course)

  3. Katrinka
    February 18, 2019 / 4:41 am

    I’m lucky to have a husband who finds it therapeutic to take care of all our shoes. He has a huge kit of colored and protective creams. He still has shoes that are 30 years old and look like new. Yes, it’s important to take care of expensive shoes as they’re an investment. And, a scuffed pair of shoes can make an otherwise fabulous outfit look tacky.

  4. Christine Thomas-O'Meally
    February 18, 2019 / 5:11 am

    I have been woefully neglectful of my boots, and I just noticed that one pair of mine are so cracked – but the bottoms are still perfect and they give me great traction on snow and ice…. I can’t quite bear to part with them yet but I’ll only wear them with jeans or with pants covering them in bad weather.

    • Bhavna Tyagi
      March 16, 2019 / 7:14 pm

      We have a wonderful old fashioned cobbler/ shoemaker from the Middle East. He made all my boots new again for a very reasonable price. Best money I ever spent
      See if you can find one. You will be enthralled by the artistry.

  5. Ainsivalavie
    February 18, 2019 / 5:40 am

    The term ‘well heeled’ comes from the fact the wealthy could afford new shoes and did not have to wear the heels down before replacing! A pair of run down heels can ruin an otherwise stylish outfit ( calling out the boys here too;) and yet so easy and inexpensive to remedy. My cobbler will even paint the stacked heel if needed. I often have ‘silencer’ type heel bottoms put on shoes or boots as well. Good tip about the half sole on leather bottoms. My Dad used to have expensive dress shoes resoled regularly and wore them for years.
    Even shoes you thought could never have soles replaced can be redone by a skilled shoe repair person.

    • February 18, 2019 / 9:26 am

      “down-at-heel” means the opposite; run-down heels and a generally shabby appearance.

  6. Mary Katherine
    February 18, 2019 / 6:12 am

    What excellent tips on a part of our wardrobe so often neglected! I save the little packets of silica crystals that come with shoes and bags, and pop one in each shoe or boot as soon as I take it off at the end of the day. They absorb any sweat or odor, and REALLY keep my footwear from stinking. I also keep the cardboard pieces that come in boots, and store them with the cardboard inside to keep them upright. I’ve also seen pool noodles/pipe insulation used for this. Unfortunately, cobblers are becoming a rare species in our throw-away society.

  7. Pam
    February 18, 2019 / 6:39 am

    I use Brahmin’s leather conditioner on my purses twice a year. Some of my bags are 10 years old and still going strong.

  8. BeeeBeee
    February 18, 2019 / 7:06 am

    Thank you for this post. I’ve already learned some useful tips from other commenters and am hoping to see other product recommendations.

  9. marilyn bornstein
    February 18, 2019 / 8:14 am

    Being an equestrian, I am familiar with different leather products.
    I like to use Kiwi Leather Lotion for conditioning my leather shoes and purses. For a quick wipe, I use Lexol cleaning wipes and Lexol conditioning wipes.

  10. Jeanne J
    February 18, 2019 / 9:29 am

    An experienced sales associate at Nordstrom recommended I use baby wipes (probably unscented/plain) for stains on suede shoes. I have cautiously tried this on some suede sandals that drops from a drink had spilled onto, and it worked well, but may have altered the color just slightly. I haven’t had occasion to try this on my new suede boots. I don’t wear any nice footwear out in snowy weather; the salt used to combat ice and snow is really problematic for shoes.

    I’m surprised to hear that so many replace leather soles – I love walking in leather shoes, and they are indispensable for dancing. 🙂 Or do you mean simply that the (half) soles are replaced once worn?

    • Susan B
      February 18, 2019 / 9:32 am

      I put them over my leather soles before they become worn. They also improve traction, and after slipping (more than once!) on wet surfaces in leather soles, I’m all about the traction!

      • Jeanne J
        February 18, 2019 / 10:04 am

        Good point!

        • February 18, 2019 / 11:35 am

          Jeanne, dancing shoes are different, and dance studios may well not let you on their floor in street shoes. One of my clients is an African dance school and there, they are usually in bare feet!

          Here in Montréal, to wear elegant winter boots to an event, one must take a taxi or have a car that can collect you right at the door. My usual boots look a bit like LLBean boots. They are warm but also waterproof and resist slush, salt and puddles. People carry their elegant shoes in little shoe bags.

          • Jeanne J
            February 22, 2019 / 2:37 pm

            I’m so glad you mentioned shoe bags – it brings back the welcome memory of a lovely shoe bag that I carried as a child, for that same purpose.

  11. Carol Montanti
    February 18, 2019 / 11:21 am

    The comment about baby wipes is a good one, I just started using them to clean up suede and pseudo suede shoes and boots and it worked well, especially with a little brushing after. Doesn’t make them look new again but is still much better, saves them from the throwaway bag for another season or two!

  12. Sally
    February 18, 2019 / 12:03 pm

    I put my Longchamp bags in the washing machine (after much research!). I use a clear Dawn first to scrub spots and then wash in a lingerie bag on gentle cycle. Comes out really clean! And I have a Brahmin bag that the leather strap got all cracked and worn so I found a site called Mautto that has replacement straps. I put a webbed one on instead that is easy to adjust but I could have probably gotten a new leather one also.

    • Téa
      February 18, 2019 / 5:23 pm

      I’ve read about this, too! Are you referring to the nylon bags with the leather handles? The iconic ones that snap small into a little envelope shape?

    • Lee Rosenthall
      February 19, 2019 / 10:27 am

      I’ve done this with vintage Coach bags to great effect. There are a lot of YouTube videos out there on how to do it.

  13. Mary
    February 18, 2019 / 4:40 pm

    I have heard that it is good to let leather shoes air out for a day before putting the wooden shoe trees in again. Also, I have added non-skid treads to many leather soled shoes including some gently worn–bought on eBay– all with great results. This also improves the comfort of the shoes for me.

  14. Jennifer
    February 19, 2019 / 9:46 am

    I always let my shoes ‘air out’ overnight before putting them away.

    Dr. Martens Dubbin is not just for your Dr. Martens shoes and boots. I use it on on all my leather footwear and bags. It works nicely on leather jackets as well.

  15. February 20, 2019 / 1:33 am

    Love these tips, really useful. Like another poster commented, I use protector and I apply as soon as I get new shoes home no matter what type of shoe. I then reapply before I put them in my wardrobe. I rethink a little tlc on a frequent basis adds to an outfit, mending, repairing, cleaning etc to all elements of an outfit just adds that “something” afterall a fabulous new coat and scruffy shoes just look misplaced (unless you are super stylish and have a knack for pulling that off ), you wouldn’t get dressed in your smartest clothing and forget to do your hair/brush your teeth – it’s the full stop to your outfit

  16. Bhavna Tyagi
    March 16, 2019 / 7:07 pm

    Hi all,
    I travel frequently to India and I take care to remove all dust and embedded stone from soles. I hold the soles under a running warm water flow and then put them in the furnace area for a day. I re oil them and stuff the toes with paper before putting them away.
    When I travel, I ma me sure the shoes are stuffed with paper so they don’t get any permanent dents in the front area.
    I do the same to my winter boots when I pot them away.
    Also, remove all price stickers AND glue residue from soles with goo gone before use or the soles will look really ugly when you cross your legs

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