Some cleaning fixes for patent leather shoes & bags

Miss Thrifty8 April 27, 2014

how to clean patent leather shoes & bags

How do you clean your patent leather shoes and handbags? My advice: if you have a well-stocked kitchen cupboard, you don’t need to bother with commercial patent leather cleaners.

I originally shared this how-to on the blog five years ago, and was recently reminded of it when a Miss Thrifty reader called June emailed asking how to clean a “sticky” patent leather handbag purchased from a charity shop.

My tip:

All you need is a little olive oil and a couple of soft cloths! Dip a cloth in the oil and rub it over the shoes or bag. Leave for 20 – 40 minutes, then wipe off with a clean cloth.  This cleans the leather, keeps it from cracking or scuffing – and costs practically nothing. 

This has always worked a treat for me, for cleaning patent leather shoes, boots and handbags. Here is a turn-up though: when June tried olive oil cleaner, on my advice, it didn’t work! The bag was still sticky. This puzzled me, just because olive oil works so well. Looking around fashion forums, however, I note that “sticky” patent leather is a known issue: apparently the glue can degrade over time, if the item is stored in an extremely humid environment.

If you have sticky patent leather on your hands and olive oil does nothing, you may have to write your patent leather off as spoiled, but according to the forums there are a couple of tried-and-tested cleaning solutions you should try first. You can watch and wait: leave the item for a while, to see if it dries out by itself. Or you can try white vinegar. The use of nail polish remover is also recommended, but that stuff is (literally) paint stripper, so I’d only use it as a last resort.

 UPDATE: Thanks to Miss Thrifty readers Julie (below) and Carol, who got in touch to say that Vaseline is also a good fix. Use it as you would the olive oil. Worth a go!

Image credit: Beth Georgette.

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8 Responses to “Some cleaning fixes for patent leather shoes & bags

Julie says:

I always use Vaseline
Small amount to polish, then buff with a dry cloth…Seems to nourish the leather as well…Good on kids shoes as well..Lovely shine 🙂 xx

April 28, 2014 at 11:55 am

Oh dear – my preferred way of ‘cleaning’ patent leather has always been a rub with a baby wipe, followed by buffing it with my sleeve. Hardly a domestic goddess . . so I’ll now try some proper tips – thanks you. *hangs head in shame*

April 30, 2014 at 11:54 am

I’ve always struggled to justify busting out the wallet to buy commercial leather cleaner. Typically, I end up just not using my leather items instead of actually finding a good solution. I really like your suggestion here. I am definitely going to try that out!

May 5, 2014 at 2:01 am

Lucy says:

Never heard of this before so will give it a go, I wonder if this works for normal leather sofa’s and shoes etc

May 12, 2014 at 10:05 am

Todd says:

How about cleaning paint off of patent leather.

January 4, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Anastasia says:

For removing scuffs and paint a “magic eraser” (white sponge made of some sort of material to remove marks from crayons) works very well. But do not rub too hard, it will dull the finish.

May 12, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Miss Thrifty says:

Thanks Anastasia! I’d definitely recommend trying out the magic eraser on a small, inconspicuous part of the shoe or bag first. Those sponges can BUFF.

May 22, 2016 at 12:50 am

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