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Rehabbing Your Shoes With Acetone: The Second Most Dangerous Game


As a follow-up to our grand opus on shoe maintenance, a few of you have written in suggesting a more unorthodox solution: rubbing down your scuffed shoes with acetone.

First, we should tell you that this is a bad idea. It’s unnecessary for most scuffs, the acetone will numb your fingers for months and there’s a distinct chance you’ll accidentally set yourself on fire. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll put down the chemicals, bring your shoes to a professional and never speak of this again.

But, just in case you’re unconvinced, we’re going to tell you how to do it.

The acetone strips the leather down to an unfinished state, so don’t expect the shoes to come out looking the same as when you bought them. In fact, you’ll only want to do this for shoes with a hideous finish.

You’ll need gloves (to guard against the finger numbing), cotton balls, a few rags you don’t mind permanently staining and a enough products to refinish the shoe when you’re done. Rub the shoes with an acetone-splashed cloth and you’ll start to see layer after layer of finish come off onto the rag.

Eventually, you’ll have a rawer, more supple leather with roughly the patina of a fogged up mirror—at which point, you’re ready to trade the acetone for leather conditioner, followed by shoe cream, to bring it back to wearable condition. (We might even throw in some wax polish, for waterproofing.)

It’s an all-day, full-service reboot—the kind of advanced sartorial move it takes at least three pairs of ruined bluchers to master. If you can pull it off right, you may want to consider a second career as a cobbler. Otherwise, keep on walking.