How to Fix Scratched Leather Shoes? 8 Easy and Effective Strategies

Leather shoes scratch easily from regular use. While light scuffs add character, deep gashes can ruin the look of fine leather shoes. Thankfully, there are handy tricks to fix scratches at home and make shoes look polished again.

What’s the best way to fix minor surface scratches?

For light scuffs, use toothpaste or nail polish in a matching color to easily buff away and cover minor imperfections.

How can I repair cracked or peeling leather?

Apply leather conditioners and balms which soak into cracked pores and restore essential oils to prevent the leather from drying out further.

What household items can fix scratched shoes?

Toothpaste, nail polish, vinegar, olive oil, chapstick and touch up crayons or markers can all hide or fill scratches effectively.

How do you restore shine and color to old, dried leather?

Apply chapstick as a DIY conditioner, letting it soak in fully, then buffing vigorously with a horsehair shoe brush to stimulate oils and shine.

What causes cracks and scratches in leather shoes?

Friction and abrasion from walking on rough surfaces, infrequent cleaning allowing dirt buildup, improper storage bending and wrinkling leather, and dryness from climate or sun exposure.

How can I cover large conspicuous scratches?

Use leather dyes or touch up crayons in a matching shoe color to effectively fill in and conceal wide gashes or scratches through the finish.

What protects leather against future scuffs and mars?

Applying silicone or beeswax polish creates a protective moisture barrier that seals leather pores to prevent staining, drying, and scratching.

How can I restore an aged patina on damaged antique leathers?

Gently rub white vinegar directly onto scratched areas using a soft cloth. Vinegar balances the leather’s ammonia finishing, blending patinas.

This article reveals 8 ingenious DIY techniques to remove, conceal, and prevent ugly scratches on leather footwear. From using toothpaste and nail polish to leather balm and shoe polish, these simple methods will have your shoes looking sharp in no time.

How to Fix Scratched Leather Shoes
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#1 Use Toothpaste to Buff Away Surface Imperfections

For minor scratches, regular toothpaste removes light scuffs. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to scratches with a soft cloth. Gently rub the toothpaste using circular motions to lift the abrasions. Buff continuously until the scratches become less noticeable, then wipe clean. The toothpaste’s chemicals gently smooth the leather.

#2 Cleverly Camouflage Scratches with Nail Polish

Nail polish in a matching shoe color hides superficial scratches well. Use a matte or satin polish and thinly apply it over scrapes with a small brush. Let the ingenious nail polish disguise dry completely before wearing so it blends into the leather.

#3 Recondition the Leather with Moisturizing Balms and Creams

Quality leather shoes have a protective finish that can crack, enabling scratches. Leather conditioners fill deeper mars and offer a moisture barrier. Massage conditioner into scratches using gentle, circular motions until it absorbs fully into pores. This rejuvenates cracked leather and lessens the visible damage.

#4 Disguise Scratches with Leather Dyes and Stains

For conspicuous scratches that penetrate through finishes, leather dyes conceal imperfections remarkably. Match the dye coloring to your shoes and brush thinly over scratches so the dye permeates cut leather pores. Let the dye cure overnight before buffing the surface with a soft cloth. The dye masks scratches adeptly.

#5 Cleverly Conceal Old Scratches with Touch Up Crayons

Leather touch up crayons instantaneously mask worn areas and stubborn scratches. Simply color over the imperfections matching your shoes’ hue. Use fine sandpaper to smooth the crayon if needed. Touch up crayons fill scratches faster than dyes with no wait time.

#6 Refresh Patinas by Rubbing Scratches with Vinegar

For antiqued leather with patinas, rub white vinegar directly onto scratches with a soft cloth. The acetic acid in vinegar restores leather’s ammonia finish, blending patinas so scratches vanish. Repeat until the aged look becomes uniform. Stuff shoes with paper to retain the shape as they dry.

#7 Use Chapstick to Refresh Color and Shine

Rejuvenate old, dry leather prone to cracking and scratches by rubbing Chapstick into it. Chapstick’s waxes add moisture and buff away blemishes. After it absorbs fully, buff the leather with a horsehair shoe brush to stimulate oils for sheen. Chapstick is a handy leather reconditioner hiding scrapes.

#8 Prevent Future Damage with Silicone or Beeswax Polishes

Leather polishes containing beeswax or silicone seal pores and add a protective coating. After repairing scratches, apply polish and let dry overnight. Buff vigorously with a horsehair brush. This waterproofs leather and prevents future scratches, scuffs, staining or drying out.

Why Do Leather Shoes Get Scratched?


Leather shoes are beloved for their stylish look and luxurious feel. However, they require proper care as quality leather is vulnerable to scratches, scuffs, and abrasions from daily wear. But why exactly do leather shoes scratch so easily?

In this comprehensive guide, we analyze the reasons leather footwear sustains surface damage and develop unsightly gashes over time. With helpful subheadings, we explore how scratches occur and can worsen through 4 main causes:

  • The inherent properties of leather
  • Insufficient shoe care
  • Exposure to elements and environments
  • Improper storage techniques

Armed with this knowledge, leather shoe lovers can better prevent scratches through proper precautions. Read on for an in-depth look at why leather shoes scratch and how to mitigate it.

The Natural Qualities of Leather That Lead to Scratching

Leather Lacks a Protective Coating

Unlike synthetic shoes made of vinyl, pleather or plastic, the porous surface of genuine leather lacks a protective top barrier. This means there is no defensive layer to shield leather from exterior abrasive forces that cause tearing, holes, and scratches from use. Even with shoe polish and conditioners, leather remains vulnerable.

Leather Is Skin, So It Scratches Like Skin

Leather comes from animal rawhide, most commonly cattle. So like human skin, it can easily sustain cuts, scrapes and scratches. Without an intact epidermis or fur, leather lacks durability against friction and sharp materials. This causes visible surface wounds on shoes.

Finer Leather Grades Mark More Easily

The highest grades of leather come from the animal’s top layer of skin which yields fine pores and a smooth grain. But without a rough protective texture, high-grade leather scratch and scuff faster than lower grades. Expensive leather shoes display wear quicker despite their beauty.

Everyday Habits That Can Scratch and Damage Leather

Not Using Shoe Trees to Retain Shape

Failing to use cedar shoe trees after wearing leather shoes can cause creasing, abrasions and stretched-out areas. The friction and pressure from shoes bending without support creates cracks in the surface coating where scratches form.

Walking on Rough, Abrasive Surfaces

Just taking a short walk on concrete or gravel can scratch leather soles and heels. Even carpet or wood floors with embedded grit scratch and scuff leather through abrasion. Leather requires smooth walking surfaces to prevent damaging friction.

Not Cleaning Shoes Properly

If mud, soil or everyday dust accumulate on leather, shifting dirt particles act like sandpaper. Attempting to wipe caked-on dirt carelessly also creates superficial scratches through friction. Failing to clean leather properly mars the surface.

Storing Shoes Improperly

Throwing leather shoes loosely into a closet or pile leads to dents, cracks, and surface damage. Shoes knocking together without structure or rubbing against objects scratch and displace pigments. Always store cushioned shoes upright in shoeboxes away from moisture.

Environmental Causes of Leather Shoe Scratching

Dry Climates Cause Leather to Crack

In arid weather, leather loses essential moisture and oils. As leather dries out it becomes brittle, inflexible and prone to cracking or peeling. Once the surface coating develops fissures, friction and contact easily turn cracks into deeper gashes and scratches.

Rain & Snow Can Stain and Soften Leather

Wet weather causes water stains and discoloration on leather, breaking down shoe polish and finishes. As leather absorbs moisture it expands, then contracts when drying out misshaping shoes. This leads to future cracking and scratches through the distorted leather.

Ultraviolet Rays Discolor and Damage Leather

Extended sun exposure bleaches and fades leather, causing abrasions to form more readily. Like skin cancer in humans, the UV radiation breaks down collagen fibers in rawhide leather allowing scratches through the weakened structure.

Road Salt and Chemicals Cause Wear

Chemical deicers and salt used on winter roads get trampled into shoe soles. The mixture of salt, gravel and chemicals abrades and erodes leather soles through friction. This permits scratches and openings for water damage on shoe undersides.

Avoiding Damage through Proper Leather Care & Storage

Now that you know precisely why quality leather footwear sustains scratches, you can help prevent damage. Here are key methods for keeping leather shoes looking pristine longer:

Waterproof & Condition Frequently

Use leather conditioners and creams monthly, plus protective sprays to moisture barriers against the elements, salt stains and UV rays. Oils replenish dried leather while silicone-beeswax polishes seal pores.

Clean Gently & Use Shoe Trees

Use horsehair brushes and microfiber cloths to lightly clean dirt buildup. Always insert cedar shoe trees after wearing to absorb moisture and maintain the shape. Trees prevent friction and creasing that degrades leather.

Walk Carefully on Smooth Surfaces

Avoid concrete or stick to groomed grass when possible. Be extra careful on escalators, stairs or rough terrain not to scuff shoe toes and heels.

Limit Chemical & Sun Exposure

When possible, avoid heavy road salt or protect with galoshes. Seek shade to prevent UV fading during extended wear. Stuff shoes with tissue when not being worn.

Store Properly in Cool, Dry Conditions

Keep shoes off the floor to prevent dampness and mold. Wrap shoes in breathable dust bags inside moisture-wicking shoeboxes away from direct light or heat sources like radiators that can dry leather.


Knowing how and why leather shoes scratch informs prevention through proper care and handling. Treat your leather footwear gently, keep shoes polished and trees inserted, walk carefully and store shoes properly. With extra care, buttery leather shoes will develop an appealing patina over time rather than unsightly gashes. Scrupulous care leads to durable, lifelong leatherwares.

Now that you understand the root causes of leather shoe scratching, you can take key steps to protect your cherished kicks. Handle high-quality leather shoes with care and they’ll retain their beauty for years.

About the author

Hello, I'm Freddie, the driving force behind 'One Running Shoes Solution.' As a passionate runner and aficionado of the sport, I've dedicated myself to helping fellow athletes navigate the often daunting task of choosing the perfect pair of running shoes

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