As someone who has never, ever said, “Hooray, it’s winter!” I have to say that one of the only redeeming qualities of the season are a few of the wearable categories appropriate for this time of year. Boots happen to be pretty high on that list for me, and I always want to take the best care of my boots to prolong their wearability. Whether your issue is salt stains from harsh winter conditions or just your average amount of dirt from muddy puddles, cleaning and protecting your leather boots is a way to ensure they will be around (and in good condition) from one season to the next. Here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind when it comes to leather boot care:
- Cleaning – Whether you have a salt ring, dried cracks of salt around the bottom of your boot, or just dirty marks from day to day living, your first step is to clean your boots of all debris. For salt stains, use a soft cloth and mix of white vinegar and water (equal parts) to remove the stains. Allow the boot to dry, and buff with a soft cloth when finished. Try to remove salt stains as soon as they happen, and if you can get to them before they dry, a quick wipe with a damp cloth should do the trick. For general dirt, use a saddle soap that will also help condition and waterproof your boot. Wipe off dirt with a damp rag, rub the wet rag into the saddle soap to create a lather, rub the soap into the boot, and wipe off the lather with a damp cloth after a few minutes. If you feel like there’s too much saddle soap on your boots, you can always add a little more water to create more lather.
2. Erase scuffs.You have all you need to erase scuffs in your pantry closet! Just dab a soft cloth into the water, then into baking soda, and rub the scuffs gently until they disappear. Wipe the boot clean and allow the boot to dry before giving it a final buff.
3. Prevent future damage.Always try to give your boots a proper protective barrier at the beginning and end of each season (and in between too after any cleanings). Spray clean, dry boots with a waterproofing spray to prevent salt stains before they start. It’s a good idea to line all your boots up at once and do them all in one sitting.
4. Storing. Any time you are letting boots dry out (either from cleaning or wet conditions outside), leave the boots in a warm area but not a spot that is directly next to heat (like next to a radiator). If the heat is too harsh, it can make the leather more brittle and create cracks later on. Don’t store leather boots in plastic bags as the leather needs to breathe and a lack of air can cause the boot to dry out or even mold. If you don’t leave your boots out year-round, choose a box with a loose lid or a fabric bag for storage instead. And before you store your boots, make sure they are clean and dry, so you don’t have salt eating away at the leather for months during the offseason.
But what if I have suede boots? OK, suede boots are a totally different thing, and you can’t clean them the same way you would with smooth leather or you risk losing the suede quality and texture. Instead of getting the boot wet to spot clean, rub off dirt with a kneaded eraser or grab an emery board from your makeup drawer and sand off any marks. If those actions flatten the suede too much, you can bring the texture back by scrubbing the area with a clean toothbrush or terry cloth towel. For more heavy-duty matted stains, hold the boot over the steam from a steaming teakettle for a few moments, and then brush against the grain of the suede to loosen the dirt (and make a cup of tea since the water’s ready!).
Test your product first! No matter what kind of boots you have or what product you are using, make sure to test a small area of the boot first when using a product. You can also check with the boot manufacturer to see what items they recommend for cleaning and care of certain boots.
So remember, try and wipe off any dirt or salt soon after it makes contact with your boot to cut down on the amount of time you’ll spend cleaning them later. Taking care of your leather boots properly will not only allow you to keep them around longer, but they will look better over their lifetime too. Now get out there and give your boots the care they deserve!
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.