I’m often asked what cleaners and other repair items I keep in my vintage tool kit. Even the most beautiful of vintage pieces can use some love to get into top-notch, wearable condition. I’ll share some here over the next few posts, and be sure to chime in with your favorite tools or cleaning tricks.
The Vintage Tool Kit: Shoes
- Leather care kit—Keep cleaners like 409 and Windex away from leather shoes. Instead, use a leather care kit that comes with a cleaner and conditioner. Use a soft cloth.
- Side tip: You can use Windex on patent leather. If you still have scuffs and marks, try acetone nail polish remover on a cotton ball or swab. You only need a little!
- Goo Gone—for pesky price or size stickers that may be stuck to the bottoms or insoles of shoes. Use an old rag instead of paper towels.
- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser—An essential for sprucing up the bottom of a shoe that has a price written on it with a grease pencil. Nothing I’ve used works better. Just add water!
- Bonus tip: Cut your Magic Erasers in half. You only need a little muscle for each shoe, so save the rest of the sponge for later!
- Super glue— Use this for insoles that have started to curl and flap. Be aware that a new tube of super glue will dry up on you in a flash, so save a couple of fixer-uppers for one super-glue sitting.
- Mod Podge— Is a less-threatening substitute for super glue when you need to put an insole in its place. Use an ordinary paint brush to apply, and don’t forget to clean the brush when you’re finished. Mod Podge can sit in your closet forever and still be ready in a pinch. It’s a crafty cure-all.
Working with canvas shoes (like some classic Chuck Taylors)? Make sure you have:
- Woolite, my most favorite detergent
- 10-quart bucket
- A scrub brush or sponge with a tougher, coarse side
Yes, you can wash your kicks without ruining them. Make a sudsy soak for your sneakers (warm water, just a smidge of Woolite) and dunk ’em. Let sit for 10 minutes. Dump the dirty water, and refill halfway with a smidge more soap. Scrub to your heart’s content, but keep in mind any delicate areas of the shoe if it’s truly vintage and not your favorite modern pair. You don’t want to get overzealous and end up sad.
Don’t worry if not every smudge or streak of dirt disappears. Your shoes may not look like new, but they’ll certainly look a little more fresh.
Rinse, squeeze out as much water as you can, and air dry for as long as it takes. I like to stick my shoes out on the porch or balcony for a whole summer day if it’s sunny. If the shoes aren’t dry at the end of the first day, bring them in overnight and put them out again in the morning.
What’s your go-to product or method when you find awesome vintage shoes that need a cleanin’?
I’m also on the lookout for natural cleaning options where possible. (For now, just don’t tell me what’s in the Magic Eraser.)