How To Keep Shoes From Dry Rotting

In this article, we shall look at how to keep shoes from dry rotting. Just because you bought a new pair of shoes and kept them in the closet does not mean they will be free from damage.

In fact, the smart thing is to keep checking them from time to time. Leather shoes are especially susceptible to different types of damage. Therefore, even when new, you still need to check on them regularly.

Why are my shoes dry rotting in my closet?

Well, there are many reasons!

For instance, shoes are likely to change if they are not used for a long time. They can shrink, change their appearance, or they can even start to tear.

On the same note, the glue joining different parts of the shoe may as well lose the adhesiveness and cause the parts to fall apart.

On the other hand, the leather may change its normal texture and become tougher and drier. If you look carefully, in most cases you will see that a powder-like white substance forms on the leather. This is a sign of fungus that causes dry rot.

Dry rot is different in different substances. You will notice the same on wooden furniture, unused cars and floors. In addition, you will also notice it in buildings that have not been used for a long time.

And now, you will start to notice it on your stored leather shoes. In that case, we should look at what causes this dry rot, and how best to prevent it. That way, you can keep your leather shoes in top condition.

What Is Dry Rot In Shoes?

Serpula lacrymans is the fungus that causes dry rot in shoes.When it attacks your leather shoes, one of its symptoms is the whitish dusty color. However, while this dust is not harmful unless people with asthma or specific allergies expose themselves to it, your shoes will not be safe.

On the same note, we might mention that dry rot occurs in leather shoes as well as rubber shoes. More so, it happens in both synthetic and natural rubber shoes.

How dry rot attacks leather shoes

The fungus causes the leather to be dry and rough, or even cracked. If you do not wear your leather or rubber shoes for a long time, they will shrink in size, to a point of not fitting you anymore. Therefore, you wake up one morning to wear your shoes to work, and you find that they hardly fit you anymore.

Image of what is dry rot

The reason is that the lack of flexing causes the shoes to shrink. In addition, the difference between extremely high and low temperatures cause the fibers to shrink and eventually, they start to break apart.

However, generally, a shoe affected by dry rot will have the signs even before you can fit it. For instance, the grayish-white powder or some sort of discoloration will be the first sign to show you that the shoes have been affected.

How dry rot attacks rubber shoes

The fungus Serpula Lacrymans does not really cause dry rot in rubber shoes.

In fact, in natural or synthetic rubber shoes, the dry rotting occurs because of chemical breakdown. Therefore, the chemicals that make the sole separate due to long-term use or due to extreme variations in temperatures.

One of the great needs of rubber is that you have to flex it quite often.  This means that you need to wear it, walk with it and so on. That way, it will keep the molecules intact.

In addition, if you fail to do that, it will lose its cohesiveness and the polymers will start falling apart. In fact, this is also the reason why car tires start to rot even when the car is stalled.

What Causes Dry Rot?

To understand what really causes the dry rot or the fungus attack in leather shoes, you have to understand the anatomy of leather.

In addition, you also have to understand how leather behaves under different conditions.

For instance,the leather making the shoes has oil in it. The manufacturers apply this oil when they are making the shoes in the factory.

If you check the condition of your new leather boots, you will see that they have a soft texture and that they lose the texture as they age. Therefore, when leather shoes are left to disuse for a long time, the oil in the leather evaporates and leaves it dry. This causes the fibers to disintegrate, causing it to break and form cracks.

To clarify something here, leather does not start to dry rot from not wearing it. Rather, it starts falling apart because of not maintaining it. You see, leather needs to be treated with maintenance oil from time to time.

Leather shoes are maintained using oils and conditioners. This keeps the leather nourished. A well-maintained shoe can last for years. Therefore, the key thing is to prevent the leather from losing its oil. That way, it stays intact for a long time.

How to Keep Shoes from Dry Rotting

Now that we know almost everything that there is to know about dry rot, we need to look into how to prevent it.

Thankfully, this should be easy. If you have leather boots that you keep for those special conditions, you can make a habit of taking them out of their box from time to time to check their condition. It is also good to apply a conditioner every now and then.

Keep Leather shoes Polished all the time

Always apply shoe polish or oils to your shoe. Shoe polish is especially good for locking in the oil in the leather. It is also affordable and the leather absorbs it very well.

Even if you do not wear the shoes daily, don’t take too long without applying oil or shoe polish to keep it from evaporating.

Additionally, keep your leather shoes from moisture by storing them in a dry place. In addition, try storing the shoes on shoe rack made of cedar tree. This tree is very good at absorbing moisture and keeping away fungus and molds.

If you are sure that you won’t wear your shoes for some time, get some silica packets. These are the same packets that you find in new shoes written “Do Not Eat.” They look like salt sachets and they have a role in the shoes. For instance, they absorb moisture from the shoes, therefore keeping them dry at all times.

Have you also seen second-hand shoes packed with newspapers or ordinary papers? That is another way of keeping your shoe in good condition. This is something that you can do easily at home

Store Your Shoes Away from Direct Sunlight

Keep your leather shoes away from direct sunlight. If you do not, it is going to suck the “lifeblood” out of the leather.

Shade will prevent the oil from evaporating and leaving the leather dry. If you store your shoes on a rack, just keep it along the corridor as opposed to the closets, laundry rooms, or on the floor. The shoes need a good flow of air. On the same note, airflow denies fungus a chance to multiply and attack your shoes.

Wear Your Rubber Shoes Often

Unlike the leather shoes that require you to recondition them after every so long, rubber shoes just require you to do one thing – wear them!

This helps to flex the rubber and keep it in good shape. If you fail to do this, leaving the shoes in disuse for too long will cause the molecules in the rubber to fall apart. That is how you will have lost your shoes.

And just to reiterate what we said, both natural and synthetic rubber shoes are affected by dry rot. Therefore, this method of how to keep shoes from dry rot applies to both types of rubber.

At the same time, invest in good, high quality rubber that will not disintegrate after exposure in the sunlight.

Plan for regular shoe maintenance

Just as other essentials like machinery require frequent servicing, you should do the same to your shoes. Plan for the time in the year when you go to your shoe rack to check the condition of all of your shoes. In addition, get some good oil and shoe polish for your shoes.

Do Not Use Plastic Shoe Racks

Avoid plastic shoe racks because they hinder good airflow over the stored shoes. In addition, they restrict the free breathing of the leather and hence keep the moisture within the racks. This eventually leads to molds and eventually they start rotting.

Image of how to repair dry rot shoes

If you must use a plastic rack, let it have enough ventilation to keep it as aerated as possible. This way, you will enjoy those loafers for more years. As we have already mentioned, Cedar tree has a scent that not only repels mites and bugs, but it also absorbs moisture, hence keeping your shoes safe.

Buy Pure Leather Shoes

Finally, invest in pure leather shoes. They are quite expensive but they are worth buying. In addition, it is very easy to distinguish between a shoe made of pure leather and that has been made of synthetic material.

Unfortunately, many shoe vendors will not tell you the difference. Therefore, it is important to buy from reputable brands. In addition, it is important then to know the difference.

How do you know pure leather?

  • They are relatively heavier than non-leather shoes. Therefore, check the weight of the package when ordering your shoes online.
  • Scratch slightly with the tip of your nail. The scratching should not cause any injury if the shoes are made of pure leather.
  • Smell the shoe. Pure leather has a smell that tells you the difference between synthetic material and leather.
  • Feel the texture. Pure leather is not plastic smooth. It’s somehow rough.
  • When buying online, just read the description carefully. In addition, ensure that the seller has a return policy.

Buying a pair of genuine leather shoes is one thing. Keeping it in topnotch condition all the time is another thing altogether.

Therefore, treat your leather shoes with love. You can do that by polishing them regularly with the necessary oils and polishes.

If you know that your leather boots are for special occasions only, just store them in the same box that they came in. You can also toss the silica sachets that they come with inside to absorb any moisture.  

Can You Repair Dry Rot?

It is better to learn how to keep shoes from dry rotting rather than trying to reverse the same.

 As seen above, dry rot mostly affects the internal of the shoes rather than the external. For instance, it starts with the fibers inside disintegrating and losing their force of attraction.

Therefore, it is more of a molecular process than a physical one. That said, this can’t be reversed. Once dry rot sets on your favorite shoe, you can do little. Even if you polish the shoes, you will only be locking in the rot, and it will rear its ugly head sooner than later.

However, there is some hope. For example, when you start to realize the change in color, by then, the leather has not started to rot. Therefore, you be able to save it by oiling it. However, if it has started to rot, crack or tear apart, you have lost it.


You have seen the dangers of neglecting your leather and rubber shoes. Therefore,  you don’t want your shoe to develop dry rot.

It is important to give your shoes the care that they deserves. In addition, proper maintenance costs so much less than buying a new pair. Therefore, allow the shoes to wear out while still maintaining their dignified state.

At the same time, keep your shoes in a well-aerated room to ensure they ‘breath’ well. In addition, invest in pure leather for optimum benefits.

Just doing these few and simple things can keep your shoes in great shape all the time. In addition, it is cheaper to know how to keep shoes from dry rotting than to have to buy a new pair.