How to Clean Leather Boots

how to clean leather boots - how to guide

This is a simple guide on how to clean leather boots. For many of us, a new pair of boots is an investment and keeping them in top shape should be a priority. Knowing how to take care of leather boots is the key to them looking and feeling great for years to come.

Wether you are looking for the best way to clean work boots or how to clean brown leather boots, this guide is for you! Quick note: This guide can also be applied if you need to know how to clean leather shoes.

When to clean your boots:

A good rule of thumb is to clean and condition your leather boots every ten wears. You should clean them sooner if you are wearing them in harsh conditions such in the mud or near salt. You want to avoid your leather getting dry as this can lead to cracking, so it’s a good idea to get into the habit of cleaning and maintaining your leather boots throughout their lifetime.

Supplies needed to clean leather boots:

  • Horsehair brush (or a soft-bristle brush alternative)
  • Cedar shoe tree
  • A soft clean cloth (an old t-shirt will do)
  • Leather Cleaner
  • Leather Conditioner
how to clean leather boots supplies needed

Before you begin:

Manufacturer’s instructions: Do your leather boots have cleaning instructions? Sometimes there are special care instructions you may need to take into consideration. Check your boot manufacturer’s website or call their customer service phone number if you are unsure.

What type of leather are your boots? This cleaning guide is for finished leather. For suede and roughout boots we recommend following our Suede Boot Cleaning Guide.

Cleaning leather boots

1. Use a horsehair brush

Brush off the dirt and debris from your boots using a horsehair or other soft haired brush. Wipe down your leather boots with a clean damp cloth afterwards.

If mud or dirt is caked on your boots then you can use a butter knife to scrape off the large chunks. Be gentle and make sure not to scratch your boots. Do this before applying a brush.

You should also clean the welt of your leather boots as this is a common place for dirt to accumulate. You can use a q-tip or cloth to wipe down the welt.

You can clean the welt of your boots with a Q-Tip

You can clean the welt of your boots with a Q-Tip

2) Use a Leather cleaner (for deep cleaning)

If your boots are still dirty after brushing you can move forward with a leather cleaner. Put a small amount of cleaner on a cloth and work it into your leather boots. Wipe the cleaner off after your finished and allow the boots to dry. If a cleaner was used, you can begin the conditioning process while the leather is still damp.

3) Condition your boots

Always make sure your boots are clean before conditioning your boots. Dirt will get trapped under the conditioner resulting in further damage to the leather down the line.

How to condition leather boots depends on the type of leather. Boot polish should be used for smooth finished leather. Use oil to condition tanned leather boots. Simply follow the instructions on your boot oil or polish as each method of application may vary depending on the brand.

4) Let your boots dry

Let the boots dry up to 24 hours in a cool and dry environment. Make sure to insert a cedar shoe tree so that the boots remain their shape. Avoid direct sunlight as this could cause damage to the leather. Do not put your boots in a dryer or next to a heating source such as a fireplace. 

Removing scuffs and stains from leather boots

how to get salt stains out of boots | clean leather boots

Removing scuffs off leather boots

For smooth finish leather: Drip a little bit of oil on a cloth and rub the scuff with even pressure. This takes time and patience but it works like a charm.

For regular and tanned leather: Use a thin layer of polish to cover up the scuff and rub it in. The polish will fill the scuff. Follow the instructions on the polish used for best results.

How to get salt stains out of boots 

Use your brush to wipe off any excess salt that may still be on the boot. Create a 50/50 water and vinegar solution and moisten a clean cloth with the solution. To remove salt stains from leather simply rub the stain with the diluted vinegar. Let your boots dry and repeat the process as needed. 

The key here is to not let the salt sit on your leather boots. Unfortunately with repeated exposure to salt you may find it very difficult to remove the stains if they are not cleaned promptly. To prevent permanent salt stains make sure to clean them immediately after wear.

How to get oil stain out of leather boots

For an oil stain on leather you will need cornstarch or talcum powder in addition to a cloth. Using a clean and dry cloth, soak up any excess oil from your leather boots. Make sure to not rub the oil in, you just want to soak up as much of the oil as possible before moving on to the cleaning process. 

Use cornstarch or talcum powder to cover the oil stain on your leather boots and allow it to sit overnight. The powder will absorb the remaining oil out of the leather so it is important to give it the time to do so. Afterwards, brush off the remaining cornstarch using a soft brush or cloth. Make sure to not rub the powder into the leather. Repeat process as needed.

Tips on how to care for leather boots:

Use a leather protector: After the cleaning process is complete you can add a leather protecter to avoid dirt and damage to your leather boots. 

Purchase a leather boot cleaning kit: Many boot brands offer their own pre-assembled cleaning kits for their boots. These kits usually come with everything you need to keep your leather boots lasting longer.

Use a cedar shoe tree: Get in the habit of using a cedar shoe tree when your boots are not in use and always use a cedar shoetree while cleaning your boots. Shoetrees not only help your boots retain their shape but they also protect the inside of the boot from moisture and aid with getting rid of bad smells.

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