Skip to main content

How to care for leather boots and shoes

Most people find themselves wearing their leather boots for a year or two before dumping them. What they don’t know is that quality leather boots can last more than 10 years. Of course, this is achievable through proper care of your shoes and good wearing habits.

For example, wearing your boots in snow or heavy rain can really impact their profile and structure. You’ll need to tend to them frequently to ensure they’re in great shape. Additionally, the kind of surfaces you walk on and the number of times you wear your shoes in a week also matter.

Whatever the case, it’s really essential to learn how to care for leather boots properly. Here is what you need to know.

Person wearing black leather boots

The tools and supplies you need

First, you’ll need to ensure you have the necessary tools and supplies for proper shoe care. These include:

  • Polishing brush
  • Shoe polish
  • Leather conditioner
  • Leather cleaner
  • Polish applicator

You can buy these items online or at a local store.

Clean your boots/shoes

Before cleaning the boots, be sure to remove the laces to make it easy to access every section. You can buy new laces or wash the old ones with soapy water to remove grime and dirt.

Place the boots on a flat surface, such as a board or an old table. Use the leather cleaner or an old rag to remove dust, salt, and other foreign substances that are likely to be trapped under the polish. This also helps to get rid of excess oils for the seamless application of moisturizer and polish.

The cleaner also helps to strip away layers of old polish accumulated on the boot’s surface. You can also use a solvent to give your shoes proper cleaning.

Condition them

Once you’re certain your boots are clean, you’ll then need to condition them. One thing you need to know is that dirt is not the biggest problem for your leather shoes. Dryness is usually the biggest culprit, and conditioning is the ideal way to address this issue.

Dry, unconditioned leather usually leads to cracks and eventually results in torn boots. Your leather shoes normally get dry due to water damage. As it penetrates through the boot’s surface, water weakens the fibrous interweave of your shoes, and this causes visible cracks. In this case, there’s no way to fix the cracks once they appear. You’ll need a new pair.

How to condition leather boots

Conditioning your leather boots is the only method to prevent dryness. It keeps the leather supple and water resistant.

  • You’ll need a good leather conditioner or balm. Use the applicator brush to apply the conditioner/balm to your shoes.
  • You can use a rag to rub the conditioner/balm on the leather in circular motions. Ensure the product gets in all the creases and crevices of the shoes. Two to three applications will suffice, especially if the boots were severely dried out.
  • Wipe off excess conditioner and let the boots dry for about 20 minutes in the open air. After a few hours, use a rag to wipe the shoes to remove excess moisture and oils.

If you live in an area with a temperate climate, try to condition your boots every three months. For those who wear their shoes every day, it is advisable to condition them every month.

Polish your boots

Polishing your shoes after conditioning them isn’t really important. It just helps to make the leather smooth. If your leather shoes are rugged, it’s not necessary to polish them. However, polishing works well on leather dress boots, resulting in a shinier and smoother surface.

Get a shoe polish color that matches the color of your boots. Use the applicator to work the shoe polish evenly over the boots. Then use a polishing horsehair brush to give the boots a quick buffing, and let them dry for at least 15 minutes.

Bear in mind that there are two types of shoe polish: Wax-based polish and shoe polish. Wax-based polish provides more shine than the cream option. On the other hand, a cream polish adds nourishment and moisture to your boots.

Final thoughts

Walking woman wearing leather boots
Maria Markevich/

Some leather boots, especially winter boots, can be quite expensive. This underscores the importance of knowing how to care for leather boots properly. Keep in mind that leather boots that look great impact your overall appearance and style.

If you live in sunny areas or wear your boots every day, always ensure you give them a deep cleaning at least once a month. Remember to dust off your leather shoes every day to improve breathability and reduce dryness.

While most boots are usually waterproof, you can take extra measures to make them even more water resistant. This includes applying a waterproof spray over the surface of the boots.

Editors' Recommendations