FAQ Shoe Care Shoe Storage

How to Keep Shoes From Dry Rotting?

Last Updated on November 2, 2022 by Nicholas

If you store your shoes for a long time without wearing them, you risk having them fall apart and break down. The weakest link is the glue which starts yellowing. After that the soles start crumbling, the rubber breaks down and the leather starts to dry rot. Why does that happen and how can keep shoes from dry rotting?

Prevent shoes from dry rotting

Dry rotting process starts when too much moisture is inside your shoes for a long period. Your shoes should be exposed to air, and one of the best ways to do so is using a shoe tree. (preferebly cedar) With a plastic shoe tree, you need a few silica gel packs in the shoes to absorb excess moisture. Without a shoe tree, try stuffing your shoes with acid-free paper — it will help the shoe retain its shape and absorb moisture.

Why do shoes dry rot?

Despite its name, dry rotting in shoes has little to do with actual rotting, and more with mold damage resulting from too much moisture.  The main reason shoes dry rot and break down is because they are stored in a humid environment where mold forms and attacks the leather or the other materials that shoes are made of.

Related: How to glue your outsole to your shoes

How to keep shoes from dry rotting?

The secret to keeping your shoes from dry rotting is storing them properly in a dry environment, using cedar shoe trees, silica pockets or newspapers to absorb extra moisture, and wearing them or treating them with shoe care products at least every couple of years to reinvigorate them.

If you’re planning to store your shoes without wearing them for a long time, here are the steps you need to take to prevent your shoes from dry rotting.

1. Invest in a high-quality pair of shoes from the get-go

We can talk about how to store your shoes properly and the perfect environment all day long, but if your shoes are made from low-quality materials, they will not stand the test of time, even if you don’t wear them at all.

Fake leather and rubber deteriorate much faster than real leather or suede. Soles made from low-quality materials crumble much faster, and glue deteriorates faster than proper stitching. If you are planning to store your shoes for a couple of years and only wear them occasionally, you can’t cut corners regarding quality.

2. Store them in a controlled, dry environment

Shoes must be stored away from extreme heat or cold, and not exposed directly to the sunlight. Keep them in a dry environment without a high room humidity or sources of moisture. A room closet is an ideal choice to store them. The laundry room in the basement? Not so much.

The use of a sealed bag is helpful when storing sneakers that have already started falling apart. (explained in the video below)

How To Save Your Sneakers From Falling Apart by MJO23DAN

3. Don’t store your shoes in a plastic shoe box

Shoe boxes (made of plastic or cardboard) are terrible for storing your shoes long-term and can enable dry rotting. They prevent natural air circulation and are the perfect environment for moisture build-up and eventually mold. Use a shoe rack or an open shelf instead to keep shoes from dry rotting.

4. Use shoe trees, desiccants, or newspaper to absorb moisture

Using cedar shoe trees is the best option to store your shoes long-term and prevent dry rotting. The cedar absorbs the moisture and has anti-bacterial and deodorant properties. Not only will you keep the mold away, and any bugs that may attack your shoes, your shoes will also smell nice. Since shoe trees last forever and are quite cheap, investing in a pair of cedar shoe trees might be the smartest investment you can make for your shoe care.

If you don’t have access to shoe trees, you can use desiccants to keep the moisture out. Silica gels are sold in tubs or packets and can be placed in the closet to absorb the moisture.

Shoe trees help keep your shoes from dry rotting
Shoe trees help keep your shoes from dry rotting

If you’re on a budget, stuffing your shoes with newspaper will keep their shape and absorb some of the surrounding moisture, this will keep shoes from dry rotting as well. (less effective than shoe trees though)

5. Wear your shoes or condition them every couple of years.

Shoes are made for wearing, and keeping them in a closet for a long time is detrimental. Wearing your shoes every once in a while will expose them to fresh air and the process of cleaning them before and after the wearing will eliminate the bacteria that starts to form inside them.

An even better alternative is to treat your shoes with dedicated shoe care products like shoe conditioners or polishers, even if you’re not wearing them, just for the reinvigorating benefits. Once or twice per year should be more than enough to prevent any type of dry rotting.

Keep shoes from dry rotting explained (video)

Why do my unworn shoes fall apart? by Foot Geekz

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