If you aren’t familiar with the features of your boot (materials, technologies, etc.) then you should visit our BOOTS 101 post for a general overview. Once you’ve brushed up on your boot fundamentals, come back and determine the best treatments to extend the life of your boot.
For the best results, we recommend these three stages for complete care: CLEAN, CONDITION, and PROTECT. After you’ve determined what material(s) your boot is made of and whether or not it is ‘waterproof,’ ‘water-resistant,’ or ‘seam sealed’ (if you don’t know what these terms mean visit our BOOTS 101 post), scroll down for step-by-step instructions on caring for your boots.
LEATHER BOOT CARE
Leather boots, whether they’re waterproof or not, are a lot like your skin: dry boots crack. That is why it is important to care for your boots on a regular basis depending on daily wear. Properly caring for leather boots will extend the life of the boots and allow them to breathe, remain dry, and perform their best. We are going to break down leather boot care into two categories: care for waterproof leather boots and care for water-resistant/seam sealed leather boots. Let’s begin.
What you’ll need:
- Stiff bristle brush (a toothbrush will work)
- Clean, dry rag
- Boot oil or leather dressing (for conditioning)
- Boot Guard or Sno-Seal paste (for waterproofing)
- Gore-Tex safe waterproofing spray (for waterproof boots)
- Silicone or bee’s wax based spray (for water-resistant boots)
Waterproof Leather Boots
CLEAN: First, remove the laces from the boots. Now, with a stiff bristle brush, begin by removing any dirt and debris from the exterior of the boot. This includes any and all seams and beneath the tongue where dirt can become worked in. Then, with a dry rag wipe any remaining dirt and debris from the surface of the boot.
CONDITION: Apply a small amount of boot oil or boot dressing to a clean, dry rag. Apply the product to the rag, not directly to the boot. Using the treated rag, evenly apply the product to the surface of the boot, along the seams, and beneath the tongue. Wipe off any excess oil or paste. Conditioning boots revitalizes the leather by reintroducing oils. Because leather is a naturally porous material, oils and pastes absorb best. Always allow your boots to dry before applying protector.
PROTECT: There are two methods for protecting waterproof leather boots: the spray method and the paste method.
- For sprays, use a Gore-Tex safe spray (or any other spray safe for technical fabrics like Gore-Tex) by following the directions on the can. Gore-Tex safe sprays, such as Ultra-Dry Protector and Camp Dry, will not clog the pores in the waterproof liners. Using this type of spray will allow the waterproof system to breath and perform its best.
- For pastes, choose a paste designed for leather protection, such as Boot Guard or Sno-Seal. Evenly apply the product directly to the surface of the boot, along the seams, and beneath the tongue. Wipe off any excess paste. Some products, like Sno-Seal, require preheating the boots first. This allows the pores in the leather to open and readily absorb the leather protector. Allow the boots to dry overnight in a cool, dry place before putting the laces back on.
Water-resistant/Seam Sealed Leather Boots
CLEAN: (same as above)
CONDITION: (same as above)
PROTECT: Like waterproof leather boots, there are also two methods for protecting water-resistant leather boots: the spray method and the paste method.
- For sprays, use a silicone or bee’s wax based spray by following the directions on the can. Because water-resistant leather boots do not contain a waterproof liner, silicone and bee’s wax based sprays work best by providing a durable water repellent barrier.
- For pastes, (same as above).
RUBBER BOOT CARE
Like leather boots, rubber boots contain natural oils that prevent the boots from cracking. It is important to care for rubber boots on a regular basis to avoid premature cracking and splitting.
CLEAN: With a wet cloth, clean the entire surface of the boot from dirt and debris. With a clean, dry cloth, wipe off any excess moisture.
CONDITION: Using a rubber conditioner, spray the boots directly and allow them to dry for 2-3 minutes. Then, with a clean, dry rag wipe off any excess rubber conditioner.
PROTECT: (no application needed).
SYNTHETIC BOOT CARE
Boots that utilize synthetic materials, such as nylon, rayon, or Cordura, require simple upkeep. It is important to keep these material free from dirt and debris. Synthetic materials are used in combination with leather, but fully synthetic boots exist as well.
If the boots use a combination of leather and synthetic materials or are made of 100% synthetic materials and are waterproof follow the care instructions for waterproof leather boots using a spray, conditioning only the leather.
If the boots use a combination of leather and synthetic materials or are made of 100% synthetic materials and are water-resistant follow the care instructions for water-resistant leather boots using a spray, conditioning only the leather.
A WORD ABOUT OUTSOLES
While most outsoles are designed to comply with slip and oil resistance standards (some are even designed to resist chemicals, heat, or to maintain traction in especially cold conditions) it is important to keep outsoles clean from dirt and debris in order to prevent premature deterioration and to ensure that your boots perform their best from the ground up. Cleaning outsoles can be achieved by removing dry dirt and debris with a stiff bristle brush and then finished with a quick spray of water and a thorough wipe down with a clean, dry rag.