Leather work boots are super cool but they can fade super fast if you’re not careful. Even an expensive pair can show cracked and faded surfaces within a few months. Feeling upset? Don’t be.
Instead, be proactive and learn how to take care of your leather boots so they remain new and stylish for years to come. However, maintaining premium leather boots doesn’t mean just rubbing off the dirt with an old cloth or brush. Proper upkeep of such beautiful footwear involves cleaning, conditioning, and polishing. We are here to explain these tasks step-by-step, so you don’t need to worry even if you don’t know what to do.
How to Maintain Leather Work Boots
A pair of work boots is supposed to get exposed to outdoor elements all the time. They come in contact with all those dirty and harsh elements, such as mud, dirt, water, salt, snow, and greasy elements. To keep the leather surface properly shiny and crack-free, you need to take extra care of them besides just cleaning. We’re going to explain all the parts in detail, so you get a clear-cut idea about the complete maintenance task.
Section One: Cleaning
The materials you will need for cleaning leather work boots are:
- Pieces of cloth or microfiber towels
- Saddle soap or leather cleaning soap
- Horsehair brush
- A damp rag
The Steps for Cleaning
The first step of cleaning is to remove the laces and wash them in soapy water. Replace them with new ones if they show signs of wear. Then, you have to remove the loose dirt particles with the help of the horsehair brush.
The buffing should be light so it doesn’t damage the delicate leather surface. You should brush the shoes every time after coming from outside. If that’s not possible, do this at least once a week.
Dab some saddle soap on a damp towel and rub that on the boot upper. Apply more soap on the areas that look a little too worn out or faded.
Keep the boots in the open to air dry them. This simple cleaning task is likely to make the shoes as good as new.
Section Two: Conditioning
Cleaning will restore the looks of leather boots but that is not enough to keep them protected. A dry condition is the main culprit damaging leather products. There is no way to restore leather once it starts cracking.
To avoid this condition, you have to keep the shoes away from water and moisture. However, that is not possible all the time. For keeping your leather boots supple and impeccable, you’ll need to condition them once in a while.
The materials necessary for conditioning leather work boots are:
- Clean cloth pieces or microfiber towels
- A high-quality leather conditioner
- A small applicator brush
Not all conditioners will suit your leather boots. So, do a patch test before applying it all across the boots. Pour a little conditioner on the applicator brush and put on a small spot on the shoe upper. While it can slightly darken the leather’s shade, no drastic change should take place. Wait for a few hours to see if it actually changes the color or not. The best way to stay safe is to use a high-quality product.
The Steps for Conditioning
If the patch test result is positive, apply the conditioner with the applicator brush all across the upper area. Then, use a rag or microfibre towel to dab the conditioner properly on the surface. With gentle strokes, apply the conditioner in a circular motion by going back and forth repeatedly. Make sure you have covered all the parts and creases.
Don’t skimp on the conditioner. Apply as much as the boots need. If you are not regular with conditioning, the leather may be dried out and need to be conditioned 2 to 3 times. However, a pair of boots that are regularly taken care of don’t need more than one layer of conditioning.
When do you know that the conditioning is done? Well, when the leather appears to be moist, you’ll know that it doesn’t need any more conditioner. Wipe the boots with a soft rag and leave them in the open until they are dry. Give them another gentle rub with a dry cloth after around 12 hours.
Conditioning with Oil
Instead of conditioner, you can use leather oil that is specially produced for keeping leather products from drying out and breaking apart. Such oil products are a blend of various natural and artificial substances, such as fats, oils, waxes, and more.
Just like the conditioner, you will need to oil your boots regularly to keep them supple and flexible. Doing so will not only increase the shoes’ lifespan but also keep them in pristine condition.
If leather oil is not at hand, vegetable oil, olive oil, or coconut oil can be used as a substitute. You can also use household items, such as hair serum or hair conditioner for conditioning leather boots.
Section Three: Polishing
Maintenance of leather boots doesn’t demand polishing but doing so will make them look shiny and increase their lifespan. After all, a pair of shiny polished boots look more elegant and impressive.
A quick polish every day is recommended if you wear the boots daily. Otherwise, once a week is enough to keep them in a good condition.
The materials necessary for polishing leather shoes are:
- A cream or wax-based polish
- An applicator brush
- Soft clean rag
- A brand new horsehair brush
Cream and wax-based polishes are two different products that have different application processes.
Using Cream Polish for Shining
The color of the cream polish should match the color of your work boots. With an applicator brush, apply the cream evenly all across the upper area. Take a small amount and work in a small area instead of applying a lot of cream at the same time. When the entire upper is covered, give it a quick buffing with the horsehair brush. Let the boots air dry for 15 to 20 minutes.
Cream polish is better for retaining the natural texture of leather, instead of making it look shiny. This type of polish feeds leather with moisture to protect it from fading.
Using Wax-based Polish for Shining
Wax polish provides a lot more protection for leather than cream polish. It creates an extra protective layer that safeguards the upper material from outside elements.
Instead of the applicator brush, use a soft cloth for waxing. Wrap the cloth around one of your fingers and dip it into the wax. Then, apply it to the leather upper with gentle, circular movements. Keep doing this until the whole upper area is coated properly. Using the horsehair brush, buff the waxed area. If it does not look shiny enough, reapply the wax and buff again.
If you decide to apply both cream and wax polish, the second one should be the final coating. When the leather work boots are clean but dry, you should use both polish types to get a better result. It will keep the leather supple along with creating a nice shine. A wax-based polish locks in the conditioner and creates a layer for protecting the surface from water and salt.
Section Four: Waterproofing
High-quality leather work boots are completely or partially water-resistant. All you have to do is to be regular with conditioning and wax polishing. For low-quality leather, use a waterproof spray.
If your leather boots get drenched in water or snow, all you can do is to let them air dry at room temperature. Don’t try to use a hairdryer or any type of heating device because the leather will crack at high heat.
FAQs about Leather Boot Maintenance
What should be the ideal frequency of conditioning leather boots?
It actually depends on the weather of your living/work area and the regularity of wearing the boots. Doing it every 3 months is fine in a mild climate but dry weather demands it every month.
Should I oil new boots?
No. People who like to maintain their work boots might get an itch to oil brand new shoes. However, you should wait until the shoes break in properly to fit around the contour of your feet. Oiling them during the break-in period will make the leather expand too much, resulting in a pair of sloppy boots.
Is there any way to prevent leather boots from cracking?
Yes, by avoiding a dry environment. Leather shoes need to be kept in a place where the humidity is at least 40%. If you live in a dry area, use a humidifier to get the desired moisture percentage. Another way to prevent cracking is to condition the shoes regularly.
Can I use petroleum jelly on leather boots?
Yes, you can use petroleum jelly as a polishing substance. Put a small amount on a soft rag or microfiber towel and rub on the upper in a circular motion. Use another piece of cloth to wipe off if there is any excess. It is also great for removing stains and scuff marks.
What is the average lifespan of leather boots?
It actually depends on the material quality, frequency of use, environment, and a few other factors. For example, low-quality bonded or pleather shoes will last for six months if you wear them outdoors on a regular basis. Keeping them indoors on carpeted floors will extend the lifespan to 3 to 5 years.
On the other hand, high-quality leather shoes can literally last indefinitely with the right care and maintenance.
Leather shoes are highly functional work boots that add a sense of style to your casual outfits. They also stand out from work boots made of other materials. As these boots are expensive, the only way to get the value for your money is their proper upkeep. It increases their lifespan and helps you enjoy all the perks of leather boots. High-quality leather shoes will last indefinitely with thorough maintenance. Following our suggested cleaning, conditioning, and polishing methods will help you take the best care of your leather work boots.