Can you steam clean leather shoes?

Image is showing leather shoes ready for cleaning.

You can steam clean your leather shoes, provided you do it the proper way. It is a great way to disinfect the material, remove dirt, and kill germs or even mold. Steam cleaning is also great for people with various allergies, as it does not require any chemicals. That being said, the process can damage your shoes if it’s done incorrectly.

Since leather does not tolerate water very well, frequent steam cleaning can damage the material. Hot vapor can easily extract all the natural oils present in your shoes, causing the garments to be dry, cracked, or even dry rotted. It’s important to not overdo it, keeping the frequency to once or twice a year – any additional cleaning should be done with mild leather cleaners.

The tool you use also matters, as wrong heat and attachment can lead to ruining your shoes. Many professionals who steam clean leather regularly, invest in high-end steam cleaners to have a large range of settings available. We can recommend renting out one if you are not sure about the practicality of owning one.

We also highly recommend checking out our thorough article about steam cleaning leather in general. From there, you can learn much more about cleaning particular leather items – Can you steam clean leather?

Why steam cleaning can damage your leather shoes?

Before we dive deep into the steam cleaning process, it’s important to address that steam cleaning can lead to permanent water damage on your leather shoes. Prevention is your only option here, as any damage done to the leather fabric can no longer be repaired.

To start off, we will talk about drying and cracking. Those are probably the most common problems when dealing with this material for a long time. Leather has a tendency to create dry patches, especially on the spots that absorb a lot of moisture. On those spots, you can usually notice cracking, which gets only worse when untreated.

It happens because the water molecules penetrate the leather fibers and bound with natural oils. During the drying process, the water evaporates with all the natural oils leaving the material dry and vulnerable.

To prevent this from happening, you should invest in proper leather care products. A good moisturizer should be applied every 6 to 12 months or when needed. Some people even recommend applying a little bit of the solution, every time you get caught in heavy rain.

Once the leather starts cracking, there is not much you can do about it. Once again, we would recommend applying proper leather conditioners and moisturizers to stop the process from aggravating it. Additionally, you should not clean the cracked spots, as any water present in them can make the damage worse.

Dry rotting is also a common problem when it comes to dealing with leather items. This term relates to a situation when dry material has rotten away without any moisture. It characterizes by copper-colored areas, that with time, slowly powder into a residue.

This process can be caused by drying your leather shoes in direct sunlight or storing them in extreme conditions. Be sure to keep them away from very cold or very warm temperatures, as well as very humid air.

How to steam clean leather shoes

Now that we have covered all the risks associated with steam cleaning your shoes, we can explain how to actually do this process correctly. We also recommend getting a high-end steam cleaner with a brush attachment for the best results.

  1. Prepare your cleaning tool and shoes – Get your steam cleaner ready by filling the tank with water (there should be a line indicating the proper water level), and set the lowest temperature possible (keep in mind, that the temperature of 121°C (250°F) and 132°C (270°F) is required to disinfect the surface). Any stubborn stains should be pretreated with a leather cleaner. A cleaning solution can be created by mixing white vinegar and water in 1:1 proportions or just adding mild soap to warm water. We also recommend applying a leather moisturizer. Be sure to let the shoes dry completely before you start steam cleaning them. For cleaning smaller leather garments such as shoes, it’s best to use a brush attachment wrapped around in a microfiber cloth. Vacuum, brush, or wipe your shoes dry to remove any surface dirt and dust.
  2. Start steam cleaning your shoes – Steam cleaner should touch the surface of the leather for the least amount of time possible. Quickly run the steam cleaner on the material and instantly wipe any excess moisture with another clean microfiber cloth. A stain can be hard to remove using only hot steam.
  3. Apply leather conditioner – After you are done with steam cleaning, don’t forget to apply leather moisturizer. It plays a big role in preventing any water damage, drying, or rotting. It may also help you remove wrinkles, that have formed from the hot steam.

Once again, we need to address, that high temperatures can ruin the fabric of your shoes. Proper heat setting and technique are necessary to keep the garment safe.

Steam cleaning other leather items

Steam cleaning leather isn’t one of the most popular cleaning methods, however, it’s still a good way to refresh any leather item. Thanks to this method, you do not need to use any harsh chemicals, in order to remove dirt, stains, germs, and sweat.

Steam cleaning leather jacket

To steam clean a leather jacket, you can follow along all the steps introduced in our other article – Can you steam clean leather jacket? Most important thing to keep in mind is to go soft on the fabric, touching it with a steam cleaner for a very short time. Don’t forget to apply a special conditioner regularly, and moisturize the jacket after heavy rains.

Steam cleaning leather upholstery

You may be wondering whether steam cleaning leather furniture is safe. It’s safe, and what’s more, it can be used for the renovation of old leather goods. Steam cleaners can be useful for removing mold, dirt, and stubborn stains, or even killing dust mites and germs. Keep in mind it’s not superior to other cleaning methods, however, it’s still a great way to refresh the leather surface.

If you want to learn more details about steaming leather furniture, we highly recommend checking out our other article – Can you steam clean leather couch? It’s mainly about cleaning leather sofas but many tips can be used for other household items, such as car seats, clothes, or car upholstery.

In conclusion, you can steam clean your leather shoes, provided you do it the proper way. Be sure to keep the fabric moisturized, and use the right attachment with proper heat settings.