How to Protect Your Leather Shoes from Sidewalk Salt Damage

January 29, 2013
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salt stains on leather

The snow coming down looks beautiful from the comfort of your home but when you have to travel by foot through parking lots, streets and on sidewalks, your shoes may suffer.

 

The salt used to melt the ice on the roads, sidewalks and parking lots is made of a combination of sodium chloride and calcium chloride.  This salt remains on the ground and the pesky white residue ends up on your shoes.

 

  1. The first thing you can do to protect your leather shoes from sidewalk salt is to pre-treat them with a lotion or spray that repels dirt and water.  Always test it on a small part of the shoe or boot first to make sure it doesn’t ruin the leather.  Keeping the shoes polished will give them a barrier between the damaging salt and the leather.
  2. When you arrive at your destination whether it be work, school, home, or out and about somewhere else, take a minute to wipe down your shoes with a soft cloth or paper towel.  Once you’re home, remove salt stains by mixing 1tbsp of white vinegar with 1 cup of water.  Dip a clean soft rag into the mixture, wring out the excess moisture and gently blot the salt stains off the shoe.   Apply sparingly and allow the shoes to dry.
  3. To dry out your shoes, place a shoe tree in them for about an hour or two.  A simple unfinished cedar shoe tree with a split toe and a fully shaped heel will allow your recently worn shoes to contract and dry out to their ideal shape.  Do this each time you wear your leather shoes to draw out moisture from average wear in all seasons.
  4. If you stepped in snow or a puddle and your leather shoes are completely wet, stuff soaking-wet shoes with crumpled up newspaper and dry them slowly away from direct heat.  Direct heat can dry the leather too fast, causing them to crack and ruin.  Before they’re entirely dry, insert cedar shoe trees to make sure  they dry out evenly and maintain their shape.

 

After cleaning, maintain your leather shoes on an ongoing basis by cleaning and using a leather conditioner regularly to prevent cracks and to replace the lost oils, keeping the leather supple.  Leather is a skin so it needs to be moisturized or it will dry up.  And as we said before, the polish will act as a barrier to the pesky chemicals in the sidewalk salt.

– S.O.