Leather Boot Care
March 22, 2012
Filed under Footwear
A good pair of hiking boots can last for many years, or they can be ruined in one outing. It all depends on how you treat them on and off the trail.
Leather boot care begins while they’re still brand new. There are two things that damage boots the most: water and jagged rocks. To help care for leather boots, use a boot dressing when they are new and subsequently after each outing. My choice is Danner Boot Dressing, it applies like a soft shoe polish and is available in clear or pigments to match leather colors. Use a clean cloth, apply a light coat to new boots, and use a dry cloth to wipe off. A healthy application will help protect new leather from damage. According to Danner, boots with Nubuc, suede, and rough-out leather need no conditioning.
For an even more protective waterproof coating, I treat the leather with products such as Huberd’s Shoe Grease or Sno Seal. These are applied with bare hands when boots are clean, dry and warm. Thoroughly rub the product into the leather, applying an extra healthy dose along the seams and where the upper and sole are joined. Allow the first treatment to dry overnight and then apply a second coat. Periodic reapplication will keep the boots waterproof, which goes a long way toward preventing damage. Here are a few more tricks for good leather boot care.
Dirty Leather Boot Care
Most of the time, dirt can simply be scrubbed off using a stiff brush. For stubborn dirt, treat the leather with boot dressing.
- Apply dressing with a clean, dry rag using a mild scrubbing action to loosen the remaining dirt.
- Allow it to be wiped off with a second clean dry rag.
Saddle Soap is another product used to clean soiled leather, and it also helps restore flexibility and softness to stiff leather. Saddle Soap is not for use on Nubuck, suede or (rough-out) leather, because it eliminates the texture. To begin:
- Clean the leather with a stiff brush to eliminate surface dirt.
- Use a moist sponge or rag to bring the soap to lather.
- Rub the lather into the leather for several minutes.
- The more you rub it in, the softer and cleaner the leather will become.
- Remove excess lather with a lightly damp, clean sponge or rag.
- Finish by rubbing the boots with a clean, dry cloth, then set them aside to dry.
Synthetic boot materials (usually polyester) can be cleaned with a stiff brush and a little clean water. Dirt and stains usually come right off.
Wet Leather Boot Care
Water is a killer on leather boots, if you don’t take the proper steps when drying them. The worst case is if you set soaked boots next to the fire or heater to dry; you’ll find that the leather is brittle the next morning. If the leather becomes hard and stiff, it’ll crack the next time you use the boots, so be sure to soften the leather before the next use.
Boots must be dried slowly at room temperature. Keep them away from heat sources such as a fire or furnace vent.
- Prop the boots open in front of a fan or use a boot drier such as the Peet Dryer (www.peetshoedryer.com) to circulate gently warmed air inside.
- This also helps prevent the growth of mildew and bacteria that can cause damage inside.
- Stuff the boots full of wadded up newspaper or rags to help prevent shrinkage.
- Remove the damp stuffing periodically and replace with dry.
- You can also use adjustable shoetrees to help retain the shape of the boot. n Before the boots are completely dry, work saddle soap into the leather and then follow with a treatment of boot dressing to keep the leather soft. Then set them aside to finish drying.
It’s impossible to keep boots from getting wet and dirty, but with good leather boot care it is possible to keep them from being ruined.