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How To Care For Leather Boots

23 August 2023

Leather boots are a timeless fashion statement, a blend of style and durability. However, to ensure they last a lifetime and maintain their lustre, proper care is essential.

At The Leather Colour Doctor, we are committed to ensuring your leather material remains in excellent condition. We’ll provide you with a step-by-step process of cleaning leather boots to keep them looking as pristine as the day you bought them, as well as giving you everything you need to know to maintain your leather footwear.

How Do You Clean Leather Boots?

Cleaning leather boots might seem daunting at first, but with the right tools and techniques, it's a breeze. Here's a comprehensive guide to ensure your boots remain in top-notch condition:

Best Leather Boots

Prepare Surface And Shoes

Before diving into the cleaning process, it's crucial to set up your workspace. Choose a well-lit area with a flat surface. Lay down a towel or an old newspaper to catch any drips or spills. Ensure your boots are dry; if they're damp, let them air dry naturally away from direct heat sources like radiators or heaters. Remove the laces to access all parts of the boot easily.

Remove Excess Dirt With A Horsehair Brush

Wipe away remaining dirt, dust, and debris using a horsehair brush. This type of brush is gentle on leather and effective as you remove dirt from crevices without scratching the surface. Brush in one direction to lift off the dirt, paying special attention to the tongue, seams, creases and all the stitching.

Explore: How To Stop Leather Shoes From Creasing

Horsehair Brush 1

Deep Clean With Saddle Soap And Damp Cloth

Saddle soap is a trusted cleaner for leather products. Dampen a clean cloth with warm water and swipe it across the saddle soap to create a light lather. Gently rub the lathered cloth in a circular motion on the boot's surface, and leave on for a few minutes. This will help remove ingrained dirt and stains. Once done, wipe away the excess leather soap with a separate damp cloth or wet towel and allow the boot to air dry.

Damp Cloth 1

Condition The Leather

Leather is skin, and just like our skin, it needs hydration to prevent cracking and drying out. Once your boots are clean and dry, apply a leather conditioner. Using a clean cloth, apply the conditioner in circular motions, ensuring even coverage.

Add A Pigmented Cream Polish

To restore colour and mask any scuffs or imperfections, use a pigmented cream polish that matches your boot's colour. Apply a small amount using a dry cloth or a dedicated shoe brush, working it into the leather in circular motions. This not only revives the colour but also provides an additional layer of protection.

Finish With A Layer Of Wax

For that final gleaming shine associated with boot care and added water resistance, finish off with a layer of wax polish. With a cloth, apply the wax in small, circular motions. Once you've covered the entire boot, buff it using a soft brush or cloth until you achieve a radiant finish.

What Materials Can I Use To Clean My Leather Boots?

To clean leather boots, you can use a horsehair brush to remove loose dirt and dust. For a deeper clean, saddle soap or a pH-balanced cleaner is recommended. Always use a soft dry cloth to apply leather soaps and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage the leather in the cleaning process.

Check out: How To Stop Leather Shoes Squeaking


Can I Use A Commercial Leather Cleaner?

Yes, you can use a commercial leather cleaner as part of your boot care process. Ensure its specifically designed for leather to maintain the material's integrity. Before applying to the entire boot, test a small, inconspicuous area to check for any adverse reactions.

These specialist conditioner products often cost more money, but many like the impact it has on a boot.

What Can I Use To Condition Leather?

To condition leather, you can use products like leather conditioners, creams, or natural oils such as mink oil or neat’s-foot oil. Leather conditioner helps to restore moisture, prevent cracking, and maintain the leather's suppleness.

How Do You Polish And Shine Boots

To polish boots:

  • Clean the boots thoroughly.
  • Apply a pigmented cream polish (matching the boot's colour) using a cloth or small brush in circular motions.
  • Allow the polish to dry.
  • Buff the boots with a brush, dry rag, or cloth until they look fantastic.
  • For an extra gleam, finish with a layer of wax polish, buffing until radiant.

Types Of Leather Shoe Polish

Leather shoes are a testament to elegance and durability. To maintain their sheen and longevity, it's essential to use the right product, with cream and wax popular.

Discover: Can You Dye Leather Shoes A Different Colour

Cream Leather Shoe Polish

Cream leather shoe polish is a softer formulation, often enriched with natural oils and conditioners. Here are its standout benefits:

Deep Nourishment: Cream polishes are known for their conditioning properties. They penetrate the leather, providing deep nourishment and ensuring the material remains supple, minimising natural wear.

Colour Restoration: Over time, leather can fade or develop scuffs. The cream is excellent for restoring the shoe's original colour, masking imperfections, and reviving its overall appearance.

Easy Application: Due to its creamy consistency, it spreads easily and uniformly, making the application process smooth and hassle-free.

Protection: While primarily known for its conditioning properties, the cream also offers a protective layer against minor spills and stains.

Cream Leather Shoe Polish

Wax Leather Shoe Polish

Wax leather polish is a firmer formulation, primarily composed of waxes like carnauba or beeswax. Its benefits include:

High End Finish: If you're aiming for that mirror-like finish on your shoes, polish is the way to go. It provides a brilliant finish that's hard to achieve with other products.

Water Resistance: Wax polish creates a protective barrier on the leather, making it more resistant to water. This is especially beneficial in rainy or snowy conditions.

Durability: The protective layer not only guards against water but also against dirt, dust, and everyday wear and tear, ensuring the shoes last longer.

Stain Defence: Wax polish can help prevent stains from setting into the leather, making subsequent cleaning easier.

Both cream and wax leather polishes have their unique advantages. Cream polish is ideal for regular maintenance, nourishment, and colour restoration, while wax polish is perfect for achieving a high shine and offering robust protection. Depending on your shoe's needs and the look you're aiming for, you might find one more suitable than the other, or even use them in tandem for optimal results.

Wax Leather Shoe Polish

Is It Possible To Waterproof Leather Boots?

Yes, it's possible to waterproof leather boots. After cleaning and conditioning, apply a waterproofing agent specifically designed for leather. Waterproofing products create a protective barrier against dampness. Regular reapplication is necessary to maintain the waterproofing effect.

How Do I Deal With Saturated Leather Shoes?

If your leather shoes are saturated with water, follow these steps:

  • Remove excess water by gently blotting with a soft cloth.
  • Stuff the shoes with newspaper or paper towels to help maintain their style and absorb moisture from the inside.
  • Allow the shoes to air dry, away from direct heat sources like radiators or heaters, as direct heat can damage the leather.
  • Once dry, condition the leather to restore its suppleness.

How Do I Clean Gum Or Wax Off My Leather Boots?

To remove gum or wax from leather boots:

  • Place the boots in a freezer for a few hours. This will harden the gum, making it easier to remove.
  • Gently scrape off the hardened substance from the soles using the edge of a credit card or a blunt knife.
  • Clean the area with a leather cleaner to remove any residue.
  • Condition the leather to keep it moisturised.

The Leather Boots

How Do I Remove Grease And Oil Stains From Leather Boots?

For grease and oil stains on leather boots:

  • Blot the stain immediately with a cloth to remove excess grease or oil.
  • Sprinkle talcum powder over the stain and let it sit for several hours. The powder will absorb the grease or oil from your boot.
  • Gently brush off the powder using a soft brush or old toothbrush.
  • Clean the area with a leather cleaner and condition afterward.

What Do I Do If My Boots Are Exposed To Salt?

Salt can damage leather and leave white stains. If your boots are exposed to salt:

  • Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar to create a cleaning solution.
  • Dampen a cloth with the solution and gently wipe the salt-stained areas.
  • Allow the boots to air dry.
  • Condition the leather to restore moisture and protect against future salt damage.

Should I Buff Leather Boots?

Yes, buffing leather boots is recommended after cleaning and polishing. Buffing with a soft cloth or brush helps to bring out a radiant shine and enhances the leather's natural lustre. Regular buffing also helps to maintain the boots' appearance and prolongs their lifespan.

The Best Leather Boots

Different Cleaning Tips For Specific Types Of Boots

Boots come in various materials, each with its unique characteristics and care requirements. Proper cleaning not only ensures they look their best but also extends their lifespan. Here, we delve into cleaning tips tailored for specific boot types.

Nubuck/ Suede Boots: Suede and nubuck are soft, velvety types of leather that require special attention due to their delicate nature and ease of picking up scuff marks. Here's how to care for them:

Brush Regularly: Use a suede or nubuck brush to gently brush away dirt and debris. Always brush in the direction of the fibres to maintain the nap.

Stain Removal: For liquid stains, blot immediately with a cloth to absorb as much as possible. For dried stains, try gently rubbing with a pencil eraser or a suede eraser.

Water Protection: Suede and nubuck are particularly susceptible to water damage. Use a water-repellent spray designed for suede/nubuck to protect them. Ensure the boots are clean before applying.

Avoid Direct Heat: If your suede or nubuck boots get wet, let them air dry. Avoid placing them near heaters or direct sunlight, as a direct heat source can cause the material to warp or fade.

Storage: Store in a cool, dry place. Using shoe trees or stuffing them with paper can help maintain their shape.

Synthetic / Hybrid Boots: Synthetic boots, or hybrids that combine synthetic materials with natural ones, are durable and often more resistant to the elements. Here's how to clean them:

Wipe Down: Use a damp cloth to wipe away dirt and grime. For tougher stains, a mild soap solution can be effective.

Air Out: After wearing, especially in damp conditions, let the boots air out to prevent the buildup of moisture and odour.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals: While synthetic boots are generally more resilient, it's best to avoid harsh chemicals that can degrade the material over time.

Conditioning: Some hybrid boots, especially those that combine synthetic with natural materials, can benefit from occasional conditioning to maintain flexibility.

Storage: Store away from direct sunlight, which can cause discoloration or degradation of synthetic materials over time.

Cool Leather Boots

Maintenance Tips For Leather Boots

While it is good to clean leather boots, you should also take great care of them, lessening the need for cleaning. Here are some maintenance tips:

  • Don't wear your shoes every day
  • Clean them after each wear
  • Store leather shoes with a shoe tree in them
  • Avoid inclement weather
  • Polish them every 6 wears
  • Store shoes in a dust bag when not in use
  • Take care with the tongue, laces and stitching when maintaining leather boots

At The Leather Colour Doctor, we help you clean leather boots, condition them and take you through the entire process. For proper care advice and guidance with all full grain leather boots, get in touch today to learn the little TLC tips that ensure you clean your boots the right way.

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