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How to Clean Boat Shoes

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on August 19, 2021. In

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A quality pair of boat shoes will last you for a long time. One of the most popular and oldest brands are Sperry Top Siders boat shoes. Whether you have a pair of nice white Sperrys or something else it doesn’t matter. Your typical boat shoe is leather or canvas. It should also have a non-marking rubber sole. They are rugged and durable. They should have a good grip and be comfortable. Any serious boater needs a good pair of boat shoes. But they can’t stay clean forever. If you plan to keep your boat shoes for a long time, you need to know how to clean them. Make sure you have clean rags and some dish soap handy before you start.

There are a few steps to cleaning Sperrys and other boat shoes you need to follow. It’s important to be thorough to prevent your shoes from smelling. Wet shoes can breed bacteria at a rapid pace. Not everyone knows how to wash Sperrys and that can lead to more damage in the long run.

Sperry Top-Sider Authentic Original Boat Shoes

Remove the laces: Not all boat shoes have laces. But if your boat shoes do have laces, you’re going to want to pull them out first. Sperry Top boat shoes often have leather laces. Leather laces can be damaged if they are washed improperly. Also if they are not allowed to air dry before they are replaced. Always clean Sperry laces on their own, off the shoes.

Clean the laces: Cleaning leather laces is an easy task. Leather or rawhide can be dropped in a bowl of cold water and dish soap. Make sure to give it a good swish around. Rinse them off again in cold water. Give them a good 24 hours to air dry.

Decide how to clean your boat shoes: Genuine leather boat shoes are not like other shoes. You can’t toss these in the washing machine. Using water to clean leather Sperry shoes or other boat shoes is not the best idea. This will degrade the leather and strip the natural oils away. A good leather cleaner is best. Sperry makes their own leather cleaner for this task. If you can get some, this is the best idea for cleaning leather boat shoes. But if you do not have Sperry cleaner handy, soap and water may do.

Cleaning boat shoes with soap and water: Some people will tell you never to use water to clean your boat shoes. On the one hand, These are boat shoes after all. It’s impossible not to expose them to water. Using water to clean leather boat shoes isn’t the end of the world. You need to be careful how you do it.

Wipe your boat shoes down: You’ll need to use a cloth to wipe down your boat shoes. Microfiber cloths are the best way. It should be damp but you don’t need to soak the shoes. The biggest danger with water and leather boat shoes is water soaking in. You don’t want them fully immersed in water for a long period of time. However, wiping your boat shoes with a damp cloth should do no harm. Do this to clean off any surface marks or dirt.

Cleaning stubborn stains: For any stains that you cannot wipe off, you’ll need some extra help. For instance salt stains can be removed with two parts water and one part vinegar. Other kinds of stains can be handled with soap and cold water. A little spot of dish soap and a brush can scrub away many scuffs. Let these air dry and try to clean the leather again when dry if necessary.

Clean the insoles: If you use insoles, cleaning them is not very hard. Remove the insoles and wipe them down with clean cloth and some water. High quality insoles often include leather and memory foam. You don’t want to put these in the washing machine. A damp rag and maybe a little dish soap and water is all that’s needed if there are stains. You can let these air dry separately.

Drying your boat shoes: Whenever your boat shoes get wet, you want to let them try out for 24 hours. Keep the laces separate during this time. Resist the temptation to let them dry in direct sunlight. The sun will dry them out too much. This could result in the leather of your boat shoes cracking and fading.

Deodorizing your boat shoes: Leather and water have a bad habit of making bad odors. Baking soda can be a help here. Sprinkle the insoles with baking soda to help reduce odors. You can let this sit for 24 hours as well. Shake out the excess baking soda when you are ready to wear the shoes again.

Keep your boat shoes dry: You want to do your best to keep your boat shoes dry. Let them dry out away from sunlight or heat. A good 24 hours to air dry is best. You can stuff your boat shoes with newspaper to help dry them out.

Polish your boat shoes: This step isn’t necessary, but it is a nice touch. If you like polished leather boat shoes, you want to do it when your boat shoes are perfectly dry. Make sure you have a rag or drop cloth down to avoid shoe polish stains. Use another rag or cloth to lightly apply the polish. Horsehair brush is best for working it in. These often come with shoe polish kits. Or you can buy one on is own. Brush it in with a circular motion.Let the polish dry once is evenly applied. Use a clean cloth to buff the boat shoes up when you’re done.

The Bottom Line

You can clean Sperry shoes and other leather boat shoes with minimal effort. This will keep them looking great and lasting for a long time. This is important since good boat shoes are part of boating etiquette. A small amount of preparation and cheap materials will extend their life considerably. Make sure you have a pace to let them dry when done. Remember that leather needs extra care. You can’t treat quality leather shoes he way you’d treat cheap shoes. But keeping them clean is worth the time and effort.

About Ian

My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

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2 Comments

  • Rob v. on August 17, 2021

    The second paragraph of this article contains some text that does not belong. It may have been hidden text in the original file. Look for text that reads: I don’t even know what is real anymore. Delete it and republish to remove so as to remove the distraction from your message.

    Reply

    • Chris Riley on August 19, 2021

      That was sort of strange. I don’t think it was hidden text, I think it was just someone multi tasking and adding that by mistake. I went and ahead and fixed everything. Thanks for letting us know.

      Reply

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