You wouldn’t dare throw your prized leather jacket in the washing machine and expect a good outcome. Well, friends, the same rules apply for your white leather sneakers. However, that doesn’t mean you have to live with dirty-looking (or, um, less than fresh-smelling) shoes—just follow these simple steps to safely clean your leather sneaks.
1. Remove and clean the laces. While you definitely don’t want to soak your leather sneakers in water, the laces will fare just fine after a quick dip. Take ‘em out and hand wash them in warm soapy water. Set aside to air dry.
2. Apply a small amount of oily soap to the outside of the sneakers. You can purchase a leather soap designed for the job (like this one from Pink Miracle) or simply use Murphy’s oil soap, which works just as well on leather as it does on wood.
3. Gently scrub the soaped-up shoe with a horsehair brush. The oil-based soap ensures that scuffs and dirt slide away easily, so you don’t need to use too much elbow grease here. (In fact, over-zealous scrubbing may damage the leather.)
4. Rinse the shoe with a damp microfiber cloth. The keyword here is damp: A sopping wet cloth will do the same damage as any soak—namely transforming your supple leather shoe into a brittle bummer when it dries.
5. Deodorize the inside with vodka. Yes, you read that right. It turns out that vodka works wonders when it comes to removing odors from just about anything, stinky insoles included. Best of all, vodka is a natural disinfectant that kills bacteria and fungi to boot. Simply pour some into a spray bottle (we suggest you opt for the bottom shelf stuff and save the good stuff for tonight’s martini), give the inside of your shoes a generous spritz and let them air dry.
6. Apply white polish, if needed. Richardson recommends touching up your kicks with a dab of white polish should any stubborn stains remain.