How to Take Care of Boat Shoes

How to Take Care of Boat Shoes
Boat shoes, also known as deck shoes and topsiders, are designed for outdoor utility and spend a lot of time exposed to the elements, especially salty water and bright sunlight. Caring for topsiders is crucial to keeping your shoes in good working condition when you need them. Knowing how to take care of boat shoes can prolong the life of your shoes and allow you to focus on the boat, the sky and the open water without worrying about how soon you'll need to go shopping for a new pair.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Shoe trees or paper towels Shoe horn Shoe polish and buffing cloth (for smooth leather) Brush (for suede) Mild soap
  • Shoe trees or paper towels
  • Shoe horn
  • Shoe polish and buffing cloth (for smooth leather)
  • Brush (for suede)
  • Mild soap
Step 1
Shine smooth leather boat shoes before wearing to protect the surface of the leather from water, salt and dirt.
Step 2
Use cream or paste polishes rather than liquids to take care of boat shoes made of smooth leather, and avoid quick-drying polishes that contain alcohol, which can make leather boat shoes dry and brittle rather than protecting them.
Step 3
Condition smooth leather with oils and conditioners designed for treating leather and restoring the luster over time. Condition only every other time you shine smooth leather, or less often in moist climates.
Step 4
Keep boat shoes free of dirt, dust and salt deposits by brushing off your shoes when you remove them and periodically while wearing them for an extended period of time.
Step 5
Clean suede boat shoes by sprinkling cornmeal onto the suede surfaces and massaging into the leather in a circular motion. Allow the shoes to sit overnight, then brush out the cornmeal.
Step 6
Machine wash mesh or canvas boat shoes only if the shoes contain no leather patches and are labeled safe to machine wash. Use cold water and regular detergent to wash the unlaced shoes in a cycle with like-colored towels, repeating the spin cycle to remove excess water.
Step 7
Allow all topsiders to air dry at room temperature when wet--whether from washing, perspiration or sea water. Never leave shoes in direct heat or sunlight to dry, since this will dry out, crack and even shrink the materials.
Step 8
Store boat shoes with moisture-absorbing shoe trees inside or paper towels stuffed in the toes to keep the shoe's shape. Use a shoe horn when putting on boat shoes to maintain the shape and structure of the back of the shoe over time.
Step 9
Check the soles of your boat shoes regularly and have soles replaced or repaired when they display signs of significant wear and tear, since the soles of your boat shoes are crucial to their function on deck.
Step 10
Remove spots on your boat shoes using a pencil eraser for minor scuffs or a vinegar and water solution for deeper stains. For oil spots on smooth leather boat shoes, apply rubber cement, allow to dry and rub off to remove oil.

Article Written By Lesley Graybeal

Lesley Graybeal has been writing articles for internet content since 2006. Her work can be found on a range of hobby and business resource web publications, including and, as well as several academic journals. Lesley earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from the University of Georgia, and is currently completing her dissertation in Social Foundations of Education.

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