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How to Keep Shoes from Dry Rotting

How to Keep Shoes from Dry Rotting

If you own exquisite leather shoes or heels, the words “dry rot” should send shivers down your spine. Some people believe it will never happen to them; however, if you store your expensive shoes incorrectly, your Christian Louboutins, Tom Fords, Allen Edmonds, or Salvatore Ferragamos are at risk of developing dry rot. You are also not immune to this tragedy if you have pricey Cowboy boots, especially those manufactured with exotic skins.

This article will show you how to prevent dry rot in your leather shoes. But before we get into that, let’s look at what dry rot is and what causes it.

What Is Dry Rot and What Causes It?

Leather degrades owing to a lack of moisture in the material. This degradation is what is known as dry rot. When the oil in the leather evaporates completely, the material’s fibres become brittle and break, resulting in irreparable damage. If your leather shoes are stored in a warm, dry environment, the process will most likely occur. Dry rot can also happen when your shoes are stored in severe temperatures, such as extremely hot or cold temperatures, as well as high humidity levels.

The degradation will not occur overnight. It’s a long process that will eventually ruin your shoes, regardless of how expensive or inexpensive they are. There is no way to repair your leather after it has become dry-rotted. Any leather that hasn’t succumbed to dry rot can be saved, but anything that has rotted is lost forever.

Ways on How to Keep Your Shoes from Dry Rotting

Invest in Pure Leather Shoes

One technique to avoid dry rot is to buy shoes made entirely of leather. They are rather pricey, but they are well worth purchasing. Furthermore, it is straightforward to tell the difference between a shoe made of pure leather and one made of synthetic material. Many shoe stores, sadly, will not tell you the difference. As a result, purchasing from reputed brands is critical.

Here are few ways to tell the difference between genuine leather and synthetic materials:

  • Pure leather shoes are heavier than non-leather shoes. As a result, when ordering your pair of new shoes online, always check the weight on the package.
  • Feel the texture. The texture of pure leather is not like that of plastic. It’s a little rough.
  • Smell the shoes you want to buy.  Pure leather has a distinct odour that distinguishes it from synthetic materials.
  • Scratch the shoe lightly with your fingernail’s tip. If the shoes are constructed of genuine leather, scratching should not cause any damage.
  • When purchasing shoes online, always make sure to read the description thoroughly. Also, check to see if the seller has a return policy.

Store Shoes in a Dry Environment

Another approach to keep your shoes from dry rotting is to store them somewhere dry. The best option is to keep them in your closet. Check for moisture and temperature variations that could cause the material to degrade and disintegrate.

Avoid Storing Your Shoes in Plastic Shoe Boxes

Shoe boxes, whether constructed of plastic or cardboard, are a poor choice for long-term shoe storage. This is because they can aid in the process of dry rotting. They obstruct natural air circulation, creating the ideal conditions for moisture to build up and eventually mould. Instead, an open shoe shelf or an open shoe rack can be used.

Use Shoe Trees, Desiccants, or Newspaper to Help Absorb Moisture from Your Shoes

Using cedar trees to preserve your shoes for a long time and prevent dry rot is by far the most satisfactory solution. The cedar absorbs moisture while also acting as an antimicrobial and deodorant. Not only will you be able to keep mould and pests out of your shoes, but your shoes will also smell good. Investing in a pair of cedar shoe trees may be the most significant investment you can make for your shoe maintenance because they last forever and are quite inexpensive.

If you don’t have access to shoe trees, desiccant can be used to keep moisture away. Silica gels can be purchased in packets or tubs and placed in the closet to absorb moisture. Stuffing your shoes with newspapers will retain their form and also absorb some of the moisture if you’re on a budget.

Every Couple of Months, Wear or Condition Your Shoes.

Shoes are designed to be worn, and leaving them in the closet for an extended period can be damaging. Wearing your shoes every now and then will expose them to fresh air, and cleaning them before and after wearing them will remove any bacteria that has begun to build inside them. 

Even when you are not wearing your shoes, try treating them with dedicated shoe care solutions like shoe polishers or conditioners for rejuvenating advantages. Treating once or twice a year is enough to prevent dry rotting.

Other Useful Tips That Can Keep Your Shoes Going For a Very Long Time

There are many other things you can do to extend the life of your shoes. Remember that your shoes, even the canvas ones, are not machine washable. Shoes should be hand-washed with soapy water and a cloth. It must be done before the stain has a chance to be fully set. When cleaning leather, a baby wipe comes in handy. After washing them, pack them with newspaper and air dry them. These shoes will not only dry but will also eliminate odours, retain their shape, and prevent dry rot.

If your shoes aren’t already water-resistant, you can make them so. You can use commercial water repellents that come in a spray form. Beeswax can also be used. It is a straightforward do-it-yourself job. Before applying any waterproofing to the surface of your shoes, make sure they’re clean and dry.

Before you replace your shoes, try to repair them if possible. An experienced cobbler can assist you with almost any issue. They can even polish your shoes if they are of an odd colour. Sometimes a simple heel replacement is all that’s required. A professional cobbler can even buff your shoes to make them look brand new.


The worst thing that can happen to your leather shoes is dry rot. If one of your shoes gets affected, the best you can do is let them finally rest in peace. It’s essential to keep the leather oiled but not wet. They must be properly conditioned and stored. Your shoes should last a long time if you start with high-quality leather and take proper care of them.