Leather boots are versatile pieces of footwear that can serve as both a fashion statement and a practical necessity. They can be a stylish complement to an outfit, provide comfortable support for everyday walking, or be a requisite for certain types of jobs. With the right care, leather boots can last for years. This guide will walk you through the process of cleaning, conditioning, and maintaining leather boots to ensure they look and feel their best.
The Essence of Leather
What is Leather? An outcome of tanned animal hides, predominantly from cattle, leather transforms into a sturdy and flexible fabric through various treatments, ideal for footwear.
Historical Glimpse: With roots in ancient Egyptian and Roman civilizations, leather, due to its resilience, was the top choice for footwear and armour.
Why it is important to look after leather boots
Prolonged Lifespan: Leather is not just any material—it's a natural one. And like all things natural, it has a tendency to degrade over time. However, with regular care, this degradation can be slowed down significantly. The longevity of your boots can be drastically improved, transforming them from just another purchase to a long-term investment. This longevity means you're not only getting more bang for your buck, but you're also showing respect for the craftsmanship that went into creating the boots.
Maintain Appearance: Beyond the obvious longevity benefits, there's the simple matter of aesthetics. Leather has a rich allure, a certain timeless charm. Regular cleaning and conditioning can ensure that this charm is not marred by unsightly stains, cracks, or scuffs. A pair of well-maintained leather boots exudes professionalism and style, making a statement wherever they go.
Comfort and Hygiene: The benefits are not just skin deep. A well-maintained leather boot is a comfortable boot. Leather, when cared for, remains supple and soft, caressing the foot rather than constraining it. On the other hand, leather that's left to dry out can become stiff and chafe the skin. Moreover, a boot is an intimate piece of clothing, one that's in direct contact with your skin for hours. Dirt, sweat, and other detritus can build up, providing a haven for bacteria. Regular cleaning ensures your boots remain a hygienic, pleasant place for your feet.
Economic, Sustainable, and Emotional Value: The economic aspect of boot care can't be overstated. In the simple calculus of cost-per-use, a boot that lasts longer because it's well-maintained will always be more cost-effective. From an environmental perspective, longer-lasting boots mean less waste, playing a small part in reducing our carbon footprint. Lastly, many of us form emotional bonds with our possessions. A pair of leather boots might be a cherished gift, a memento of a special journey, or a reward for personal achievement. Caring for them is a way of honouring those memories.
Daily Maintenance for Leather Boots
- Rotate and Rest: Let your boots breathe by alternating usage. This respite ensures their freshness and natural shape retention.
- Shape Preservation: Boot trees or shapers help maintain the pristine form, keeping unattractive creases at bay.
- Moisture Management: Dry the boots naturally when soaked, steering clear of direct heat sources. Insert newspapers for rapid drying and shape conservation.
- Protection: Apply a leather protectant spray before exposing boots to the elements, safeguarding against potential stains and water damage.
Routine Cleaning of Leather Boots
Setting up for cleaning
- Find a spot where you can clean without worrying about the mess, such as your garage, porch, or on tile or linoleum flooring indoors. Laying down newspapers can prevent messes.
- Leather cleaners can have a strong odour, so ensure proper ventilation by opening windows or using fans.
Preparing the Boots
- Remove any laces to ensure you can clean every nook and cranny of the boots. Keep the laces safely aside.
- If your boots have zippers, unzip them to access and clean the leather behind.
Dusting Off the Boots
- Use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush off any dust or dirt. This preliminary step can remove superficial dirt and light stains.
- Give special attention to areas like the tongue (under the laces) or the leather strips behind zippers. Dust and dirt might not be as obvious on brown or tan boots, so inspect them closely.
Choosing the Right Cleaning Agent
- For most leather (excluding suede), standard leather cleaners are suitable. Some brands might have their own recommended cleaners.
- For suede boots, avoid water or typical leather cleaners. Instead, purchase a suede brush and use it to gently clean the surface.
Applying the Cleaner
- If you're using leather soap (like saddle soap), dampen a soft cloth, rub it over the soap to create a light lather, and then clean the boots with this lather.
- For liquid leather cleaners, pour a small amount onto a damp cloth and work it into a light lather before cleaning.
Cleaning the Leather
- Use the prepared cloth or brush to move in small circular motions across the boot surface.
- Ensure you reach every part, including under flaps or tongues and the leather strips behind zippers.
Drying the Boots
- Once cleaned, wipe the boots with a dry cloth to remove any excess cleaner.
Treating Stains and Scuffs
- Tough Stains - If a stain doesn't come out on the first try, you might need to repeat the cleaning process. Ensure that you condition the leather after each cleaning to prevent it from drying out
- Home Remedies for Stains
- Dish Soap: For milder stains, a lather made from dish soap can help. After applying, always wipe with a damp cloth and then dry.
- Petroleum Jelly: Effective for scuffs and scratches. Ensure the boot is clean, apply the jelly on the affected spot, and then buff it with a dry cloth. Avoid using on suede.
- Vinegar Solution: Useful for salt stains. Mix white vinegar with water, apply with a cloth, and then wipe clean.
- Cornstarch: Helps in absorbing grease stains. Apply, leave it on for some time, and then wipe off. It's effective on both leather and suede.
- Rubbing Alcohol: Can be tried for ink stains. However, test on a hidden area first to ensure no damage or discolouration occurs.
3. Seek Professional Help: For deep-set or stubborn stains, it might be best to consult a cobbler or a professional shoe cleaner.
Conditioning and Polishing
- Conditioning: After cleaning, it's crucial to condition leather boots to prevent them from drying or cracking. Apply a leather conditioner using a soft cloth and small circular motions. Allow it to dry and absorb.
- Polishing: For boots with a smooth finish, polishing can bring out a shine. Use a shoe polish that matches the boot colour. If you're looking for a natural alternative, olive oil can be used to bring out a soft sheen.
Remember, whether it's for style or function, taking care of your leather boots will extend their life and keep them looking pristine.