How to Care for Leather Boots to Make Them Last Longer

When it comes to caring for leather boots, you can not give your pair a buff of polish and call it a day. A proper regimen for leather boots care warrants much more than that.

Dirt, water, and sunshine are the main elements that suck the life out of your leather boots. If left unchecked, these elements may cause dullness, odor, creases, and cracks in your pair.

In this guide, you will find a simple-to-follow yet complete routine for leather boots care. The routine will help you double the lifespan of your leather boots. Here’s a sneak peek:

  • Daily: Dry, clean, and polish leather boots once every day.
  • Weekly: Remove bad odor from leather boots once every week.
  • Monthly: Oil and waterproof leather boots once every month.
  • Quarterly: Deep clean leather boots with saddle soap once every quarter.
  • Yearly: Remove creases and cracks from leather boots once every year.

Above was a bird’s-eye view of what a perfect routine to care for your leather boots looks like. Continue reading below to know each step in detail.

A Simple-to-Follow Routine to Care for Your Leather Boots

This may sound like an exaggeration but I wrote this guide to help you 2x the lifespan of your leather boots. I am very positive that if you do everything by the guide, you should be able to achieve this. With the positivity high, let’s jump into the actual guide:

Daily: Dry, Clean, and Polish Leather Boots Once Every Day

leather boots care with polish

Your daily regimen for leather boots care should include drying, cleaning, and polishing the pair. You may slack a little here and do this every other day as well.

Dry Your Leather Boots

Drying your leather boots should always be your first step when it comes to leather boots care.

If your pair is wet and you try to clean it, you will only spread the mud and end up with an even dirtier pair.

Similarly, if your pair is wet and you try to polish it, the polish will not be able to seep into the leather and will fail to nourish it. 

So, drying your pair is always the step to start with. Do this as the last thing at night.

Here is how to dry your leather boots the right way:

  1. Fill your boots with as many newspapers as you can fit inside them.
  2. Wrap some more newspapers all around each boot covering every inch of them.
  3. Wait for a while until the papers are fully soaked.
  4. Remove the soaked newspapers and repeat the process with some more dry newspapers.
  5. Doing this a couple of times should be enough to dry a damped pair of leather boots.

If you live in a snowy area or work in a wet environment, you may find that your boots are soaked all the time. In such a case, using the newspaper will not help much. Instead, consider investing in a high-quality boot dryer.

Clean Your Leather Boots

Cleaning your leather boots is a fairly simple task. The purpose is to remove any dirt build-ups on the leather. 

Here is how to clean your leather boots the right way:

  1. Lay a piece of newspaper on the ground to avoid staining the floor.
  2. Unlace your boots and loosen up the vamp area.
  3. Use a soft horsehair brush and give the leather upper a good rub to remove any dirt build-ups.
  4. Use a plastic scrubber to clean the outsole and remove mud/debris from the tread.
  5. Use a damp rag to clean the laces before putting them back on the boots.

Follow the steps mentioned above and you will have a sneaky clean pair of leather boots. This way, the leather will respond its best to further treatments you apply to it.

Polish Your Leather Boots

Polishing your leather boots every day will keep the leather nourished and supple for a long time. Moreover, it will give you a gentlemanly appearance as well.

There are three types of polish available in the market, cream-based, wax-based, and water-based. You may use either of the first two types but I would advise against using the water-based ones. They do more harm than good to leather in the long run.

Here is how to polish your leather boots the right way:

  1. Apply a small amount of polish on the leather. To apply a cream-based polish on boots, use an applicator brush. To apply a wax-based polish on boots, use your index finger but wrap a clean rag around it first.
  2. Buff the entire leather upper really well with a soft horsehair brush. It will spread the polish evenly all over the surface and bring the shine out of the leather.
  3. You may stop here if you are happy with the result. In case you want more shine, give the leather one more round of polish.

Take note that it is how well you buff the leather and not the quantity of the polish that brings the shine out of leather. So, use a small amount of polish only but buff the boots for a while.

Weekly: Remove Bad Odor from Leather Boots Once Every Week

leather boots care from odor

It may come to you as a surprise but humans have about 2,50,000 sweat glands on their feet. These sweat glands produce roughly half a pint of perspiration a day. [source]

Most of this perspiration gets evaporated into the air. But, some of it gets soaked in by the socks and the boots you wear. This creates a damp and warm environment inside the boots. 

The damp environment inside boots becomes a perfect ground for bacteria and fungus to grow. Once the bacteria and fungus start to accumulate, your boots start to stink.

But, you are smart and you have this leather boots care guide at your disposal. Every week, you will be performing a few steps to kill any trace of odor in your boots. 

Here is how to remove bad odor from your leather boots the right way:

  1. Take 2-3 teaspoons of baking soda.
  2. Pour the baking soda into a pair of socks.
  3. Place the socks inside the boots and leave overnight.
  4. In the morning, take the socks out of the boots.
  5. You will notice that your leather boots smell fresh now.

Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate has a very interesting property. It binds to the smelly particles and does not allow them to break free thereafter. Thus, once you remove the baking soda out of the boots, the smelly particles also get removed.

Monthly: Oil and Waterproof Leather Boots Once Every Month

leather boots water care

Modern leather boots come coated with a layer of conditioning oil and a water-resistant spray. Daily wear of the boots rips the leather off its protective layers. So, it is very important to restore these layers from time to time. Here’s how:

Oil Your Leather Boots

Leather is skin, although dead one, but it needs regular nourishment to stay soft & supple. Otherwise, it may soon go dry, get shrunk, and may develop cracks in it. The best way to keep it nourished and avoid damages to it is to oil it once every month.

For this purpose, you may use any animal-based oil available in your house. Both mink oil and neatsfoot oil work fine on most types of leather. Some vegetable oils work well too but they may leave the leather sticky. So, I do not recommend using them.

Here is how to oil your leather boots the right way:

  1. Clean the leather boots thoroughly for any dirt buildup. Even a small amount of dirt can compromise the end result.
  2. Use an applicator brush or your finger (with a rag wrapped around it) to apply some oil on the leather.
  3. Buff the leather really well with a soft brush or a clean rag. Spend a good chunk of time to buff the leather and work the oil deep into it.
  4. Leave the boots in shade to get dry for a few hours.
  5. You may give your leather boots one more round of oil but that’s it.

Waterproof Your Leather Boots

Always buy a waterproof pair of boots only and keep reproofing it from time to time. You need to waterproof your leather boots for two reasons. First, to save the leather from water. Second, to save the leather from the snow.

Snow causes more harm to leather than water does because snow contains some salt as well. This salt reacts with the upper and causes nasty stains and discoloration of the leather. 

So, to avoid the damage, it is a wise step to restore the waterproofing layer of leather boots once a month at least.

Beeswax is my weapon of choice here. It is an easily available household item and does not cost much to buy. Best of all, it is very effective at doing its job of waterproof leather boots.

Here is how to waterproof your leather boots the right way:

  1. Apply a thin layer of melted beeswax all over the leather upper. You may use your finger to do this but make sure the wax is not too hot.
  2. Take a clean rag and rub it all over the leather upper in a small circular motion. Rub well and work the beeswax into the leather.
  3. Take another clean rag and wipe the excess beeswax off the leather. Be quick and do it while the wax is still in a melted state.
  4. Keep cleaning the excess beeswax until there is only a very thin layer of wax left on the leather. Do not allow any wax build-up stay on the leather.
  5. Finally, leave the boots in shade and let them dry naturally.

Quarterly: Deep Clean Leather Boots with Saddle Soap Once Every Quarter

leather boots care washing

Spare some time every quarter to deep clean your leather boots, insoles, and laces. It will cut the chances of any long-term build-up of dirt, mildew, bacteria, etc. on your boots.

To lift dirt settled deep into the pores of the leather, a buff of brush or washcloth will not help much. You will need a cleaning agent that is harsh on dirt but soft on leather.

Enters saddle soap.

Saddle soap contains properties of both a detergent and a conditioner. It cleans and nourishes the leather at the same time.

Here is how to deep clean your leather boots with saddle soap the right way:

  1. Remove laces and insoles from your boots and wash them separately.
  2. Give your boots a quick buff with a horsehair brush to remove obvious dirt and debris.
  3. Use a damp cloth to take some saddle soap and apply it to the leather boots.
  4. Rub the cloth on the leather until there is some rich lather on the surface.
  5. Put the boots under a running tap to wash the lather off and clean the boots.
  6. Tap a piece of clean & dry cloth on the leather to soak any excess water.
  7. Let the boots air dry for a few hours. Do not use any heat source to dry the leather.
  8. Once the boots are dry, oil them well to restore their essential PH level.
  9. Repeat the process with laces and insoles as well before putting them back on the boots.

Yearly: Remove Creases and Cracks From Leather Boots Once Every Year

cracks in leather boots

By a year’s mark, your leather boots may develop some imperfections in them. The most common of all are creases and cracks in the surface. These imperfections occur regardless of how good your leather boots care routine is.

In case you notice creases or cracks occurring to your boots, do not fret. They are very easy to get rid of.

Removing Creases from Leather Boots

Haste while wearing and awkward bending angles may cause some creases in your leather boots. These creases look unpleasant and may force you to ditch your lovely pair for a new one. But creases in leather boots are easy to remove with a household item- steam iron.

Here is how to remove creases from your leather boots with a steam iron:

  1. Remove laces from your boots.
  2. Stuff your boots with some paper, cardboard, or rags.
  3. Cover the boots with a damp cloth that will prevent the leather from getting burned.
  4. Set your steam iron to a low temperature and let it heat a little.
  5. Iron out the creases in your boots the same way you iron out the wrinkles in your clothes.
  6. Remove the damped cloth and you will notice the creases are almost gone.
  7. Leave the boots in open for a few hours to air dry.

The key here is to keep the temperature setting at a low. Instead of using a high temperature, repeat the process many times with a low-temperature setting. However, you may increase the temperature only by a little with each round.

Repairing Cracks in Leather Boots

The worst that can happen to your leather boots is the occurrence of cracks in them. This is irreversible damage but it’s not all gloomy. You can do a few things to repair cracks in leather boots to an extent that they become almost unnoticeable.

Here is how to repair cracks in leather boots:

  1. Clean your leather boots well with a brush to lift off any dirt in the cracks.
  2. Fill the cracks with a filler compound. For fine cracks, mink oil and neatsfoot oil can act as filler material. For deep cracks, you will need to buy a professional leather repairing kit.
  3. Once the filler material is settled into the cracks, apply polish to make your boots look even.

Additional Tips to Take Care for Your Leather Boots

Here are a few bonus tips that you may want to add to your leather boots care routine. They contribute a lot to keeping your leather boots in good condition.

  • Buy Boots of Right Size: An ill-fit pair of boots lead to overstretching of the leather fibers. As a result, the fibers start to break apart. Eventually, your boots start to become pulpy and saggy. So, buy boots of the right size only. Here’s how to measure your foot size.
  • Take Time to Break-in Boots: Once you buy a new pair of leather boots spend a few days breaking into them. This way the boots will mold around your feet better. Otherwise, forceful wearing may distort the leather. Here’s how to break in leather boots.
  • Replace Insoles and Laces Regularly: Insoles have a shorter lifespan than the boots do. The same is true for the laces as well. So, keep an eye on when the insoles go flat or laces start to fray out. Replace your insoles and laces as soon as you notice this happening. Additionally, Replacing your socks every six months also helps to keep boots odor-free.
  • Own Two Pairs of Boots: If you can afford, own two pairs of leather boots for work and wear them on a rotational basis. This alternate wearing of boots will allow each pair to get dry fully and become ready for the next outing.
  • Store the Leather Boots Well: If you decide to put one of your pairs on rest, make sure you store them the right way. First, always store them in their original box only. Second, stuff the boots with some paper or rags to maintain their shape. Last, make sure you do not place other things on top of the box you store your boots in.

What’s Next…

Now that you have a perfect routine at your disposal to care for leather boots, it is time to take some action. Use your knowledge either to care for your next pair the right way or to revamp an existing one.

If you want to join me on the mission to save the leather boots of the masses, do not forget to give this guide a quick share :). Also, don’t forget to check our homepage for more boots care guides. Thanks!

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Liam Scout

Hey, I’m Liam Scout. I teach my readers how to style boots & shoes with different pieces of clothing and how to take better care of them. Follow my guides to double the charm and lifespan of your footwear. Thanks!