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Time to rinse and shine your wardrobe accessories

From pencil erasers to old pillowcases, here are some home remedies for the upkeep of your wardrobe accessories during the lockdown

While fabric mesh or canvas sneakers can be put in the washing machine, clean leather sneakers with a wash rag
While fabric mesh or canvas sneakers can be put in the washing machine, clean leather sneakers with a wash rag (Photo: iStock)

You may not be wearing your precious white leather sneakers during the lockdown but it’s an excellent time to invest in some accessory upkeep, from sneakers to diamond jewellery to leather goods. Lounge reached out to a sneakerhead, a leather expert and a jewellery manufacturer to ask them for tips on maintenance.


A product merchandiser at Nike, Nakul Kakkar is responsible for curating the assortment of sneakers that are sold in India. He owns 60 pairs and wears them regularly. He cleans them himself, unless the material requires professional dry-cleaning. “Most sneakers are made from synthetic leather and can be brushed with an old wash rag dipped in laundry detergent mixed with water," Kakkar says.

White synthetic leather sneakers need a little more care, though, as they can turn yellowish with time. Kakkar suggests dipping your shoes in fabric whitening bleach for a while to keep the shine.

Sneakers made from fabric mesh (most running shoes) or canvas can be put in the washing machine but Kakkar warns they should never be dried in a washer-dryer. “The heat can make the fabric contract and they end up becoming smaller," he says. Cool water for washing and air-drying away from the sunlight are advised to maintain colour.

Always wash sneakers after removing the laces because the eyelets can collect a lot of dirt
Always wash sneakers after removing the laces because the eyelets can collect a lot of dirt (Photo: iStock)

For sneakers made from leather or suede, he recommends the rag-cloth method or dry-cleaning instead of a machine wash.

Always wash sneakers after removing the laces because the eyelets can collect a lot of dirt. An easy way to remove dirt spots, Kakkar recommends, is to clean with an old toothbrush.

Sneaker protectors and their kits are usually available in the market. “Fashioning such cleaners at home with chemicals can be very difficult and isn’t advised," says Kakkar.

Foot odour is an unpleasant reality and while sports detergents—used especially for the durability of sporting gear—and odour sprays can help, pantry ingredients like white vinegar or baking soda are also effective when used on shoes.

Sneakers may be sturdy but if you have room, it’s best to keep them in the cloth bags and boxes they came in.

A golden rule: clean sneakers as soon as they have been used. “We all tend to procrastinate on cleaning it the next time we wear it but cleaning it as soon as you are back home is just easier. It prevents the stains from becoming more and more permanent," says Kakkar.

Do a patch test before cleaning a leather product to prevent potential stains.
Do a patch test before cleaning a leather product to prevent potential stains. (Photo: Alamy)


Mallika Sharma, founder of The Leather Laundry (TLL), a leather-care service, comes from a family of leather manufacturers and exporters. She founded TLL in 2015.

It’s said that water can make leather hard and stiff but that’s only if too much of it is used. First, says Sharma, “brush off dust using a soft cloth or a leather-care brush. For dirt, leather can be cleaned using a soft cloth, like muslin that is dampened with warm water with some mild soap and a few drops of vinegar, but be sure to do a patch test before going through with the process." Even if you are sure about the quality of the leather used in your product, you never know how it could react to the cleaning method. A patch test protects you from a potentially big stain on any visible part of your product.

This process will remove dried water stains and scuff. “If there’s any residual salt on the leather, wipe its surface with a damp sponge before it dries out, otherwise the leather will crack," she suggests. Finish it off by drying it with a towel.

While dirt on patent leather can be cleaned easily with a soft fabric dipped in water, it’s better to be cautious with stains. “Patent leather is highly prone to dye transfers through scuffing and scratching. If the stain is fresh, then quickly remove it by applying petroleum jelly or isopropyl alcohol. If neither works, the stain has been absorbed into the lacquer,"says Sharma. You should then avoid isopropyl alcohol because it will destroy the lacquer.

For suede, the process is different. Sharma says: “Gentle brushing with a suede brush is recommended to clean suede leathers. For dry stains, clean with a pencil eraser or fine sandpaper. In case of a liquid spill, blot quickly—without pressing down too hard—instead of wiping off, to prevent the liquid from seeping in deeper."

The secret to leather’s suppleness is natural oils in the hide. These can evaporate over time, leaving the leather shrunk and stiff, with its surface beginning to crack. “The best solution for this is leather conditioners. I wouldn’t recommend any home remedies for it," says Sharma.

The key to keeping leather accessories in shape is to keep them stuffed, since leather can crease easily: “You can use crumpled butter paper, bubble wrap or plastic cushion air bags but not newspaper since the ink tends to rub off on the inside."

If you can’t store the items in bags, old pillowcases can be a good alternative —never use plastic, warns Sharma. “Leather needs air to breathe and the slightest bit of moisture can cause mildew or mould." A cool, dark place to store is ideal since sunlight can leave leather discoloured.


Sanjay Ranawade, chief manufacturing officer, jeweller division, at Titan Co. Ltd (which owns Tanishq), has a simple tip for cleaning jewellery with fine diamonds and studded gemstones. “Mix a few drops of very mild soap, like handwash, with warm water in a bowl. Depending on how dirty the jewellery is, you can let it soak for a bit. Use an old toothbrush to brush it clean under running water but be sure to keep a filter just in case any loose part falls off," he says. You can use a hair dryer to dry it.

Antique, vintage jewellery such as kundan or jadau needs regular maintenance. Ranawade says, “Since these pieces are usually kept in the usual velvet-lined jewellery boxes, the diamonds tend to discolour because of their alignment and the jewellery’s reaction with the glue used to make the box." A better way to store such jewellery would be to keep it in soft cotton or muslin cloth and plastic boxes, he suggests.

You will need a jeweller to repair loose parts. But you can keep the clasps and hinges lubricated yourself. “Use a safety pin tip to apply very little coconut oil in these joints to keep them functional," Ranawade says.

While the commercial liquid solutions used to keep metals glowing might not be possible to make at home, you can use the soap and water mixture for metals such as gold and platinum. For silver, which gets tarnished quickly, lime juice can be used to retain the shine.

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