Hundreds of years ago, moccasins were worn by Native Americans to protect their feet, constructing them from leather and other varieties of animal skins. Today, this type of footwear is as popular as ever, thanks to the comfort that it offers to the wearer’s feet. Moccasins are also quite versatile, which means that they can be worn either indoors or outdoors. However, just like with any other footwear type, moccasins tend to get grimy and dirty, and without proper care and cleaning, their appearance will be affected and their lifespan shortened. Read on to find out how you can care and clean this comfortable footwear.
How to clean moccasins? Depending on the material used in the construction, there are different ways to clean a moccasin.
- Moccasins that have a deerskin or moosehide upper are delicate, and you will want to exclusively hand wash them with cold water to preserve their quality. If you must machine wash your moccasins, set your machine to the gentle cycle and use cold water.
- If your moccasins are made from suede, use a suede brush or a nail file to get rid of mud or scuff marks. If they happen to get wet, use a clean towel to remove the moisture.
- Moccasins that have sheepskin uppers should be cleaned using a soft, damp cloth. To remove dirt or scuff marks, use a suede eraser. If you need to wash your sheepskin moccasins, use a gentle detergent that is specifically made for use on the material.
- Regardless of the material used in the design, always allow your moccasins to air dry. Using a heater or drying your moccasins in direct sunlight could damage the material.
Moccasins are known to become more supple and comfortable with continued use, and when you properly care for them, they can serve you well for a couple of years. However, if you allow grime and dirt to accumulate on your moccasins, they will age very fast and fall apart after a few uses. Here are some tips on how you can clean and care for your moccasins.
How to care for your moccasins
To prevent oil stains and water spots, apply a leather spray that is of good quality and allow two hours for it to dry. You should be able to use the spray on any type of leather, sheepskin, or suede moccasins. Use a protective spray before you wear your moccasins for the first time, and then apply weekly or monthly depending on how frequently you wear your footwear. Be careful not to apply the spray on any fur trimming on your moccasins as the fur usually has its own specific natural protective oils.
There are various ways you can clean moccasins. Listed below are the different techniques you can use for variable material types.
- Deerskin and moose hide – Deerskin and moose hide are materials that are renowned for their abilities to age beautifully. These leathers contain natural oils in their hides that help to enhance their appeal. You might notice markings or signs of wear not too long after you start wearing your deerskin or moose hide moccasins, but this should not be a cause for alarm.
When hand-washing moccasins made of these types of material, always use cold water. Apply a mild detergent or soap, the same variety that you would use on a delicate piece of clothing. Rinse your moccasin using cold water. If you opt to machine wash, ensure that your washing machine is set to the gentle or delicate cycle. Just like with hand-washing, use cold water and a small amount of mild detergent or soap.
Hang your moccasins to dry, or if you want to speed up the drying process, blot your footwear with a soft, dry towel to get rid of excess water.
- Suede – If your suede moccasin has been treated with a water and stain repellent, wipe any spills using a damp soft cloth. For more stubborn stains, consider buying a suede cleaning kit that comes with a stiff brush and a suede eraser.
If you didn’t initially use a protective spray on your moccasin and it happens to get wet, wipe away the moisture using a clean, dry towel. Never use a heater or blow dryer to dry your moccasins since these drying techniques will only damage your footwear in the long run. Once they are dry, use a suede brush to restore the nap.
To remove mud or scuff marks, use a suede brush or a nail brush, although gently applying softly textured sandpaper is just as effective.
- Cowhide & other leather varieties – If your cowhide moccasins get dirty or wet, opt to use cleaning products that are specifically made for use on leather shoes. After cleaning them, allow your leather moccasins to sit and dry for a minutes before you shine them with a soft cloth.
For your leather moccasins to age well, ensure that you treat them using a leather shoe conditioner that is of good quality regularly. Leather moccasins tend to absorb a natural conditioner more easily than synthetic varieties. Additionally, a conditioner will keep your leather moccasins soft and supple.
- Sheepskin – The outer layer of sheepskin is a variant of suede that should be protected from water damage using a protective spray. Use a soft, damp cloth to clean the outer portion of sheepskin moccasins. To get rid of scuff marks or dirt, use a suede eraser.
If your sheepskin footwear is in dire need of a wash, use a quality cleaning product that specifically caters to the material and keenly follow the washing products that may be indicated on the product packaging. Once the moccasins are clean, soak up excess water using a soft towel and then let them air dry.
- Fur trim – The fur that is usually found around many moccasin designs easily becomes dirty, so it is important to clean it as well. Gently brush the fur using a soft brush or an old toothbrush to get rid of the dirt. Prepare a spray bottle of water (preferably cold) and go on to spray the fur lightly, ensuring that you don’t soak it completely. Use a clean damp sponge to gently rub in cleaning foam that is made to clean sheepskin. Scrub the fur trim to remove all the residue, and then use a dry cloth or a clean sponge to soak up the excess water. After the fur dries, you can use a soft suede brush to go over the moccasins lightly.
- Fleece lining – Depending on the design, if your moccasin features sheepskin or fleece liners in its some construction, you may be able to remove it. If this is the case for your moccasins, remove the lining as regularly as possible and hand wash tam using a cleaner that is sheepskin-friendly. Once clean, stretch them to dry. If the liners cannot be removed, use a non-detergent soap to carefully wash them and then air dry them.
3. Freshen and deodorize
Moccasins, just like any other footwear type tend to emit an odor when worn frequently. To get rid of any unappealing smells, use a shoe freshener or deodorant of your choice that has anti-bacterial properties to keep your moccasins smelling fresh and your feet healthy. Alternatively, you can go all-natural by ditching the deodorant in favor of baking soda. Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda into your moccasins. Leave the moccasins overnight to allow the baking soda to suck out the musky odor, then shake it out the next morning
Weatherproofing your moccasins is especially important if you use them outdoors, and if you live in an area where there are frequent downpours. When wet weather occurs, it can completely damage your moccasins, so you are better off weatherproofing them to keep them protected. You can use silicone, although beeswax is the most suitable for most material types. To prepare beeswax, place it in a boiler and heat it over low heat until it completely softens. Rub the beeswax into the upper of the moccasins, ensuring that you work it in exhaustively along the seams for added protection. Allow the moccasins to dry, then use a soft cloth to buff them.
Alternatively, you can rub a hunk of beeswax or a colorless wax candle over your moccasins. You will want to keep doing this until the moccasin is a lighter color as a result of the wax rubbing off on them. Once you have covered the entire shoe, use a hairdryer on a high heat setting to blast the moccasin to melt the wax. Go over the shoe slowly, angling or waving the hairdryer as needed. Keep doing this until the wax completely disappears, which will be indicated by the moccasins going back to their original color.
5. Drying your moccasins
Always air dry your moccasins, but keep them away from direct sunlight to keep the material from cracking or fading. Air drying on its own can take quite a bit of time, so there are various techniques you can use to speed up the process:
- Hang them in front of a fan – For this drying technique, you will need a fan and a towel that you can place under it to absorb excess moisture. Suspend your moccasins in front of the fan using S-shaped pieces of wire. Before hanging your shoes, test the wires to see if they are strong enough to hold them in place. Once you confirm this, proceed to place the moccasins with their insides facing the fan. Turn the fan on the highest setting and let them dry overnight, checking on them regularly to ensure that they are drying well.
- Put them to dry under the sun in the shade – Another way you can speed up the air-drying process is by placing your moccasins in the sunshine. This technique is especially effective on a sunny and bright day. If the liners of the moccasins can be removed, take them out and let them dry separately. Never place your moccasins under direct sunlight since this will only cause damage to the material.
- Stuff and wrap them with sheets of newspaper – One of the most effective yet non-invasive techniques of drying your moccasins. To get started using this technique, you will want to take out the insoles of your moccasins if they are removable and place them in front of a fan to dry separately.
Ball up several newspaper sheets and stuff them into the moccasins. Ensure that you fill the moccasins with newspapers so that even the far-to-reach areas are covered. Newspapers dry moccasins by absorbing all the moisture present. To dry the exterior of the shoe, use a fresh batch of newspapers to wrap the upper of the moccasins, then use rubber bands to keep them in place. As the moisture is absorbed, the newspapers will get wet, so you will need to replace them with dry sheets every few hours. Keep doing this until your moccasins are completely dry.
- Use a towel – If you don’t want to wrap your moccasins in newspapers, try using a towel to dry them. For this technique, take the corners of a dry towel and tuck it inside the moccasins. Wrap the other parts of the towel around the upper of the moccasin and then place it under a fan to help speed up the drying process. Just like with the technique that uses newspapers, you will need to swap the towel for a drier one once it becomes damp. Do this until your moccasins are completely dry.
- Put them in rice – To use this drying technique, you will need a sizeable plastic container that will comfortably hold your moccasins as well as rice. Put the rice in the container, remembering to leave enough space for your moccasins. Place your clean moccasins on top of the rice and shut the container. Allow it to sit for a few hours for the rice to suck out the dampness and consequently dry the moccasins.
If you have moccasins or are thinking of buying a pair, cleaning and caring for them is of utmost importance if you want to maintain their quality. By regularly removing stains and dirt, you will preserve their appearance as well as prolong their life. However, as you clean and dry your moccasins, you have to ensure that you use the right materials and techniques so as not to inadvertently damage them.