The extended lockdown due to the pandemic has ensured that you stay at home, work from home, even shop from home. Outings, weddings, meetups etc. have been cancelled, postponed or simply moved online. As the reasons to dress up and go out have been reduced or even come to a standstill, many items that you have been taking for granted have been unused for a long time.
One such item is your favourite pair of shoes. Now, we are not talking about your home slippers, or that daily wear flip flops that you may still wear while going out to buy essentials. We are talking about those expensive, leather or suede or faux leather shoes, with heels, embellishments, buckles and pointy toes. You cannot wear this kind of shoes daily and also cannot just dump them on a rack without caring for them, for the fear that they simply may rot away. They need to be cleaned and stored correctly for them to last longer, especially if they are going to be unused for a long period.
Fret not, for we have a list of simple tips and techniques that you can follow. These will help you to store those beauties properly, air them adequately and hence make them last longer. These tips will ensure that all your different material shoes are safe from elements, seasonal changes and ready to wear whenever the situation changes for good.
The most important part about keeping your footwear safe and last longer is to clean them properly. Now when you were wearing them daily, it was okay to store them without too much cleaning because you were going to wear them again sometime soon. However, now that you are planning to keep them for a longer time, it is essential to clean them properly and with correct cleaning materials.
You may have shoes made of leather, faux leather, suede as well as different types of fabric. It is essential to know that different types of materials need different types of cleaning methods and items to make them last longer. You cannot use the technique used to clean leather for cleaning faux leather or suede. The fabric also takes an entirely different way of cleaning, which again varies as per what kind of fabric has been used. Rubber too needs an altogether different technique altogether. Not using proper ways to clean a pair of shoes can make their material weak and corroded.
If your leather shoes are wet with water or sweat and smelly, it is essential to air them out and let them dry completely. You cannot clean and store a pair of shoes if they are merely wet. To remove dust, use a clean cloth soaked in warm water to wipe the pair thoroughly. Then lay them out to dry naturally, though not in direct sunlight. Warm water should also remove most of the stains on leather.
For faux leather too, a cloth soaked in warm water can do the trick. If any stain is too stubborn, add some mild detergent or shampoo to the water and then clean the stain using the cloth. Do not put the detergent directly on to the shoes or in a concentrated form.
Suede shoes are some of the best-looking pairs, going in and out of fashion almost every year. They are simply amazing to wear, look classy and give an ordinary outfit a much-needed oomph. Cleaning suede shoes is also relatively easy and can be done using simple items from your kitchen. If your suede shoes are wet in any manner, make sure that they are completely dry before you start cleaning them. Air them naturally to let them dry out well. Use a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush could work) to clean the dust and debris off the shoes. Suede material tends to change shape quickly, so after drying and before cleaning, it is vital to maintain its shape. So, crumple an old newspaper and stuff it inside the shoes to maintain its shape. If your suede pair has some tough stain, white vinegar works wonders with it. Just pour out a bit of the vinegar on to some cloth and wipe the stain with it. It is crucial to wipe the suede in the direction of the grain and also to avoid any vigorous motion.
Most sneakers and running shoes or Indian artisan-made shoes use fabric and rubber. A simple solution of mild detergent in water with a rag can be used to wipe down fabric-based shoes. It is especially important to let them dry out naturally and completely before you store them. Fabric-based shoes tend to get fungus and get spoiled if they are not dry.
The second important part of making your shoes last longer is to store them right. Once you have ensured that all your shoes are clean, you need to find items that can be used to store each pair separately and correctly.
While it is important to find correct items to store each pair of shoes, depending on their materials, it is also a fact that certain materials do not need to be tightly packed.
Leather is a very malleable material. As it is ultimately the hide of an animal and so natural, it can change shape or get spoilt very quickly, if not stored correctly. To start with, use chemical-free tissue to stuff inside your leather shoes. This will ensure that its shape stays the same without affecting the leather. While storing leather, it is important to make sure that they are in a climate-controlled place, but they should also be able to breathe. The storage area should not be too warm or too cold, should not be too dry or getting too much sunlight, neither should it be too humid. Any of the above conditions could result in the leather getting corroded, fungus or simply losing its colour and sheen. It would be wise to wipe down your leather shoes with leather balm (readily available in most shoe stores) or a tissue slightly dipped in coconut oil. The balm or oil should not be too much, but just enough to prevent dryness. Finally, wrap the leather shoes in soft cotton or muslin cloth and store them in storage boxes or shoe racks. It would be ideal to store them in their respective shoe boxes if space permits. If you can get your hands on those cloth bags used by shops to cover shoes and handbags, those would be great to cover these leather beauties.
Storing faux leather works almost precisely like leather, so cloth bags and storage boxes would be on the list for both. The thing with faux leather is that they tend to bleed colour sometimes. This can lead to discolouration over some time. It happens due to too much humidity or warmth. As with leather, they can also dry out and crack if they get too much sunlight. To ensure this does not happen, make sure that you cover faux leather shoes with a clean cotton or muslin cloth of white or neutral colour. Then store them in storage boxes or their respective shoe boxes.
Just like leather, suede shoes need to be stored right but should also be able to breathe. The lack of required air could lead to suede going mouldy or discoloured. Suede cannot be wrapped in plastic or any tightly wrought material. If you can find those light tissue bags to store the suede shoes in, it would be great. If not, you can also use oversized non-chemical non-scented tissue napkins to wrap the suede shoes in. Finally, when you store them in boxes, make sure that there are small holes on the lid and on the underside for air to pass through.
Fabric shoes are the easiest to care for. Once you have cleaned the fabric shoes well, wrap them in clean cotton cloth. You can store them in boxes or put the wrapped items on the rack. Make sure that the fabric used to wrap the shoes are light-coloured and that the wrap is not too tight.
Some tips are common to any material shoes. For example, if you can get some silica gel packs, it would be ideal to throw one in each storage box. It would ensure that if you are storing these shoes for a long time, they would be moisture free and odour free.
Any tear or broken bit needs to be fixed before storing them. This is important because over time, the tear may become irreparable, if not done at the time of storage.
Finally, even if you store them for a long time, it is essential for the long life of the shoes that they get aired regularly. If you have already cleaned them well, simply take them out, change their wrapping cloth and put them out to air. You can even wear them a while to keep them intact.
While it may be some time before you get to wear your beautiful footwear to events and outings, one way to ensure that they last long enough to see the day, is to care for them properly. These tips and techniques will ensure that your favourite pair is taken care of.