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How Do I Clean Patent Leather?



The way in which you clean patent leather depends largely on what the coating is made from.  It can range from linseed oil, to polyurethane, to other synthetic plastic-like resins. 


More Info: Patent leather is leather that has been treated with one or more coats of varnish or lacquer applications that give it a shiny appearance.  The way in which you clean it depends largely on what the coating is made from.  It can range from linseed oil, to polyurethane, to other synthetic plastic-like resins.

In most cases, several coats of a polyurethane and/or lacquer finish is applied to a leather hide.  The first penetrates the leather, the second contains the dye, and the third becomes the glossy, waterproof finish.  If this is the manner in which the patent leather was processed, cleaning is a breeze.

If you’re not sure what products were used to create your patent leather, it is always best to test your cleaning methods in an inconspicuous spot.  The product that works wonders on one patent leather product, could pull the dye off another.

Shoe Prep

Dust and dirt particles can cause minor scratches in patent leather, so it should be first dusted prior to adding any cleaners.  Use a chamois cloth to gently wipe away dust and surface debris.


Because patent leather can be manufactured with a variety of ingredients, it is best to use a commercial cleaner, especially for expensive shoes.  Most cleaners work like car wax.  You apply it in a thick coat and allow it to dry.  Then you rub in small circles with a chamois cloth until you have a high gloss shine.


If your shoes were inexpensive and you want to test out homemade cleaning solutions, make sure to test first in an inconspicuous spot.  Many people have had great luck with the following household items, but your shoes may be different and may be damaged by some of the harsher ingredients.

Mineral Oil is the main ingredient in many commercial patent leather cleaners.  First, rub the mineral oil over any scuffmarks and rub with a chamois cloth until they are removed.  Then rub over the entire shoe and buff out until they shine.

Vaseline can be used in the same manner as mineral oil.

Non-acetone nail polish remover can be aggressively rubbed on scuffmarks with a cotton ball.  Make sure to remove all residue with a damp cloth.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser-many have had great success with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Rub it only on the scuffmark and be sure to remove residue with a damp cloth. Be forewarned.  This cleaner is aggressive and took the paint right off of my door.

Hand Sanitizer/Rubbing Alcohol-many swear by products that contain rubbing alcohol. As with all the harsh cleaners, be sure to remove any residue after application.

Windex—it creates a shine so it follows that it would do the same for the glossy finish of patent leather.

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