S.O.S. from Water Damage

Don't let water damage ruin your favorite shoes - take action!

Sooner or later, it happens. No matter how much you love and care for your designer shoes, no matter how careful you are when walking around, they’re bound to get wet. A little wet is no trouble – light drizzle or a small splash can quickly be dabbed away with a paper towel, because you’re clever and already treated your shoes with a good water repellant, right?

But what about a true disaster? What happens when you plunge ankle deep into an unseen puddle, get caught in a torrential downpour, or take an unfortunate misstep during a poolside party? Now your shoes are in real trouble, and their only hope is for you to remain calm and spring into action.

Step 1) Remove the patient from danger

This should go without saying, but get those shoes off your feet ASAP. If the soaking happens just before you enter your house after an evening out, this will naturally be the first thing you do. But even if your shoes get drenched early in the evening and far from home, you need to take them off if you have any hope of salvaging them. Walking around in wet shoes – leather in particular – is a sure-fire way to damage them beyond repair.

Step 2) Open the airways

Also to be performed immediately. Remove insoles and laces, unbuckle all buckles and unzip the zippers. Do whatever you can to allow better circulation throughout the shoe.

Step 3) Commence first aid

Grab yourself some paper towels and dab away all the water you can, inside and out. Next, wad up more paper towels as tightly as you can and shove them into every crevice inside the shoe. This will help draw out more moisture, and should be repeated every fifteen minutes until the towels come out dry. If possible, this step should also be done immediately. If away from home, there’s no shame in sneaking off to the ladies room throughout the night to tend to your drenched footwear.

Step 4) Begin a gentle recovery

With the excess moisture gone, the immediate danger is over and you can wait until getting home before proceeding. But don’t delay too long as there’s still going to be plenty of water soaked into the fabric. Again, leather is especially vulnerable because it tends to shrink as it dries. Insert a shoe tree to help it maintain its shape. Unfinished cedar shoe trees with split toes are best as they’ll continue to further absorb moisture, but for some shoes a high-heel stretcher might be a better fit.

Once the shoe tree is in place, put the shoes someplace away from direct sunlight or heat sources – let them dry at room temperature. This may take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days, so patience is key. Get some rest, you’ve earned it.

Step 5) If symptoms persist, consult a doctor

Once dry, it’s time to assess any long term damage. If you’re lucky, your shoes are fully recovered. For leather shoes, apply some leather conditioner to (ironically) restore the leather’s natural moisture. Then spray on some material-appropriate water repellant and you should be all set.

Note: leather shoes with metallic coloring often require special treatment – consult with manufacturer instructions before applying any conditioners or sprays.

If there’s still apparent damage, it’s time to enlist the help of a professional. A stretched or warped shoe is probably beyond hope, but other issues such as splitting seams or discoloration may yet be salvaged. If you don’t already have a cobbler on speed dial then check the listings, or better yet ask the manager at your favorite department store – they often know which local businesses have experience with luxury shoes.

Just as mothers shouldn’t be without a pediatric first aid kit, shoe lovers shouldn’t be without a shoe first aid kit. For water damage, it’s always smart to have paper towels and at least two shoe trees on-hand. When it come to soaked shoes, time is of the essence and shopping around for supplies after the fact wastes precious hours.


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