Care Tips from Alden of Madison

The most common mistake men make in caring for their cordovan shoes is using too much polish, and polishing the shoes too often.  The excess polish creates a layer of build-up which has three negative effects:  1) it covers the natural beauty of the leather, 2) it creates a grainy texture in the creases of the shoes, 3) and the build-up of polish scuffs easily and attracts dust.

To avoid these effects, use only the thinnest film of polish when polishing your cordovan shoes.  Just a very small amount, spread very thin over the shoe, is all that is needed to restore the color and luster to your cordovan shoes.  You should not have to polish your cordovan shoes frequently, and often all that is needed is to brush and cloth them in order to remove scuffs and restore the shine.

After the polish is applied, let it dry.  Once the polish is dry, we often wipe the excess polish off with a paper towel before brushing the shoes with our horsehair brush.  Lastly, the remaining film of polish may be wiped away with a soft buffing cloth.

For shell cordovan shoes, Alden recommends using paste wax polish, and not shoe cream.

Here are the “don’ts” of shell cordovan care:

1. Do not use ‘neutral’ polish
2. Do not clean cordovan shoes using saddle soap
3. Do not attempt to clean cordovan shoes using petroleum distillates or cleaning fluids
4. Do not use any spray shines or aerosol type waterproofs
5. Do not attempt to dry wet shell cordovan shoes with heat or a heater.  Wipe them dry, and allow them to dry naturally
6. Do not attempt to polish shell cordovan shoes while wet

For cleaning shell cordovan shoes, Alden recommends using only a damp soft cloth.

Contact with water can sometimes cause cordovan leather to form small raised areas called ‘welts’. (tiny bumps) This is normal, and the welts will recede once the shoes are allowed to dry.  Wipe the shoes dry as soon as convenient, and allow to dry naturally.

Often on new shell cordovan shoes, a white, waxy substance will form.  This is also normal; the residue from the tanning of the leather.  To remove the white wax, simply wipe off with a paper towel.  To remove the wax in difficult areas, such as between stitches, use a toothbrush.

Following these simple care instructions should prolong the beauty of your cordovan shoes, and help you to avoid the consequences of some common care misconceptions.