For the next rainy or winter season, your first step should be to waterproof your leather boots. Not only will it increase the longevity of your boots but will also save you from getting sudden chills.
No matter if you work in wet spaces or hike muddy trails, this waterproofing guide got you covered. I have been following the process laid out in this guide for years with great success.
In this guide you will learn:
- How to prepare your leather boots for waterproofing.
- How to choose the right waterproofing compound for your boots.
- How to waterproof the boots made of different types of leather.
- How to test the result of the waterproofing treatment.
In This Article
Let’s Start Waterproofing Your Leather Boots
The steps below will help you waterproof your leather boots making them ready to combat water, snow, and winters. It is important to follow the guide in the same order as laid out for the best results. Here you are:
Prepare Your Leather Boots for Waterproofing
Spend some time preparing the leather for the treatment. It will make the leather ready to respond at its best to the waterproofing treatment.
The preparations include cleaning the dirt and locking in the moisture. This will allow the waterproofing compound to seep deep into the leather and stay put for long.
Even a small amount of dust or dirt on the leather surface can compromise the results. So, spend a good chunk of time cleaning your boots.
Same way, some moisture in the leather is necessary to draw the waterproofing compound deep into the leather.
In short, for the waterproofing treatment to be successful, your boots should be clean and moist. Here’s how to achieve this:
- Remove the laces from your leather boots.
- Rub the leather upper with a horsehair brush to remove loose dust & dirt.
- Put the boots under a running tap and scrub with a dish scraper to remove stubborn dirt.
- Tap dry the leather boots with a piece of cloth to remove the excess water.
- Apply some leather oil on the damp leather to lock in the moisture.
- Dry the boots for a few hours, preferably overnight.
- Once dry, your leather boots will be ready for the next step.
Choose a Waterproofing Compound for Your Leather Boots
Wax, spray, and cream are the main compounds used for waterproofing leather boots. They are very effective but on different types of leather.
In this step, you will determine what waterproofing compound you will use on your boots. For this sake, take into account the type of leather your boots are made of. Here are your options:
Wax-based waterproofing compounds are the most popular ones. They are best suitable for regular full-grain leather. But, they are not so suitable for suede, nubuck, and synthetic leather types.
You can buy a branded product or use beeswax to waterproof your full-grain leather boots.
Spray-based waterproofing compounds are getting very popular these days. They are great for suede and nubuck leather but not so great for full-grain and synthetic leather.
Sparays waterproof suede and nubuck leather without flattening the nap. For that reason, they are great for these leather types.
You will have to buy a branded product only. There is no effective DIY alternative for sprays. Fortunately, spray compounds are quite affordable.
Cream based waterproofing compounds are picking up the heat these days. They are very effective but for synthetic leather only.
Synthetic leather is quite waterproof by nature. It only needs a touch of reproofing every once in a while. For that reason, using beeswax or spray solutions on synthetic leather is overkill. Use creams instead.
You will have to buy a branded product only. Do not use home-based creams or vaseline for this purpose.
Give Waterproofing Treatment to Your Leather Boots
This is the time to give your leather boots the actual waterproofing treatment. After this step, your boots will be ready to combat both water and snow. So, let’s start making your boots waterproof. Here you are:
For Full Grain Leather Boots
- Take an ample quantity of a wax-based compound on your fingers.
- Apply a liberal coat of the compound all over the leather upper until fully covered.
- Rub the wax for a few minutes with your fingers to work it into the leather.
- Blow some hot air on the leather with a hairdryer to melt the wax and bake it deep into the leather.
- Buff out the excess wax with a soft horsehair brush.
For Suede and Nubuck Leather Boots
- Get a branded spray-based waterproofing product made for suede and nubuck leather only.
- Shake the bottle well before use.
- Hover the bottle about six inches away from the boots and apply an even coat of spray all over the leather upper.
- Let the boots sit for a few hours for the waterproofing spray to cure.
- Use a suede brush to clean up the surface and re-fluff the nap.
For Synthetic Leather Boots
- Take a small quantity of a cream-based compound on your fingers.
- Apply it sparsely all over the leather upper.
- Buff the upper well with a horsehair brush.
- Clean the boots with a piece of cloth until the cream disappears into the leather.
- Let the boots sit for a few hours before use.
Run a Faucet Test to Gauge the Results
It is the time to see the fruits of your labor.
We are going to do a small test to be double sure that your leather boots are waterproof and ready to rock on the road.
Before taking the test, make sure the waterproofing treatment is cured and the boots are dry. Here are the steps to follow:
- Put the toe box of your leather boots under a running faucet.
- Notice how the water behaves on the leather surface.
- Ideally, you will see much of the water escaping the leather into the drain and a few drops beading up on the surface.
- If you see otherwise, your leather boots are not fully waterproof and you will need to repeat the process.
- Don’t forget to tap dry the excess water with a piece of lint-free cloth.
Mistakes to Avoid When Waterproofing Your Leather Boots
- Regardless of what waterproofing compound you use, make sure you cover the seams and area near the sole very well.
- Do not use any direct flame to heat the compound and work it into the leather. At best, you can use hot air from a hairdryer but that’s it.
- If your leather boots have a Gore-Tex membrane, no waterproofing treatment is needed.
- A waterproofing compound may make the leather a bit darker when applied. So, it is wise to test the solution near the heels first before applying it to the entire upper.
- Do not skip reading the manufacturer’s guidelines before using any waterproofing compound.
How Often Should You Waterproof Your Leather Boots
Waterproof your leather boots whenever water stops beading up on the surface. It will happen when the waterproofing layer on the leather gets compromised. The longevity of the layer depends on how often you wear the boots.
Another factor is the type of waterproofing compound you used.
For example, it is common for the wax-based compound to stay effective for a month at least. Sometimes, wax-based waterproofing can last you a whole winter.
Whereas, spray-based waterproofing is less durable and lasts a few weeks only. That will force you to waterproof your leather boots more often.
In short, the best way to determine when to reproof your leather boots is to run the faucet test every once in a while. Put the toe box of your leather boots under a running faucet to see how the water behaves on it. If the water stops escaping the leather or beading up, it is time to reproof your boots.
Now that you know how to waterproof your leather boots, it is time to put the knowledge into action. Make it an event to reproof your leather boots every month or when the water stops beading on the surface.
Waterproofing the upper is just one part to take care of your leather boots. You may want to check this complete leather boots care routine for getting the most out of your pair.