How To Care For Leather Moccasins

A brief article on the care of leather moccasins.

Moccasins are a type of footwear that Native Americans wore. The word comes from North Eastern tribes where it referred to a shoe with a puckered u-shape over the arch. Depending on the area of country the Native Americans were located dictated what type of moccasin they wore. Plains and desert Native Americans made a hard-sole moccasin with extra layers of leather on the bottom. Eastern Native Americans living in forested areas tended towards soft-sole styles. The turned-up toe on many styles prevented objects from driving the seam into the toe. Even one-piece styles were typically sewed along the side inside of the middle to make walking easier.

Today, the word moccasin covers many types and styles of footwear. Caring for your moccasins varies depending on the style, material and use. Soft leathers from deer for moose were used for the upper part as well as the whole soft moccasin. Hard-soled moccasins used leather or rawhide from larger animals whose hide is tougher.

Leather is a porous material. It will collect dirt and lose its shine. It is a good idea to clean new leather as well as used leather. Make sure the leather is warm before working on it. Warm leather makes the fiber relax and better able to soak up the lotions. Leather that is conditioned will keep out dirt and water on its own. Always use a circular motion to clean and make sure you have worked up a nice foam on the sponge. Stop regularly and blot with clean cloth to keep dirt coming off.


To clean smooth leather moccasins, first use a cleaner to remove surface dirt. A good quality saddle soap can be used. If the leather is extra dry, add about 25 percent water to some of the cleaner. This will allow the cleaner to stay on longer. Then apply a leather conditioner, which will lubricate and soften the leather. On the top part of the moccasin, apply a polish paste. This can be time-consuming especially if there is a lot of decoration to work around.

If the moccasins are to be worn outside, they should be weatherproofed. Weatherproofing should be done on the whole shoe with special attention to the soles. One solution for wet or snow to use is a mink oil-beeswax mix. The solution is heated until the wax is melted. Next, using a paint brush, apply it to the bottom of the moccasin and let dry.

For suede and nubuck, be sure to use cleaners and conditioners made for this type of leather. As with smooth leather, be sure to treat them before wearing the first time. When water does not bead on the shoe, it is time to protect them. Use a rubber-tipped brush regularly to keep the nap from going flat. By brushing off dirt before it has a chance to work into the leather will extend the life of the moccasins. Be gentle with nubuck as it is softer than suede.

If you have sheepskin liners in your moccasins, remove then regularly and hand wash using a woolite. Stretch them and lay flat to dry. Check with the person or company who you got the moccasins from, some of them can be turned inside out and either hand washed or machine-washed before conditioning.

© High Speed Ventures 2011