If you buy a new car, a cute little puppy dog, or a new suit, you better know how to take care of it. I don’t know about you, but I want whatever I buy to last as long as possible and look the best that it can look. Handmade boots are definitely no exception to this way of thinking. Some items that you buy are definitely “buy it and forget about it” type of items. They really don’t need any maintenance or care to either get what they were intended to do or to keep their intended appearance looking its best.
The appeal for leather really isn’t hard to understand. Man’s ancestors have been using leather for as long as they have been walking upright. From hats, to shirts and pants, to their beloved footwear. Leather has been a natural resource that was not only tough and durable, it also looked good.
Besides being durable and tough as nails, we have to remember leather is basically just skin. It can dry out and crack, stain in appearance and warp out of shape. Below, you will find the best way to keep your handmade leather boots not only looking their best, but also feeling as comfortable as they were the first day that you bought them.
Leather Care Principles, No Matter What Type
Leather needs to breathe. Just like skin, leather needs some ventilation to prevent mildew and rot. Air can naturally pass through leather, leaving moisture to evaporate naturally. That can’t happen when your leather is all sealed up, though. So don’t ever store or transport your leather boots in plastic bag (whoops — guilty of that one!) or something similar. Either use the storage/travel bag your boots came with, or some type of breathable fabric — such as a pillowcase or some other breathable fabric bags which are great for carrying leather shoes or boots.
Keep leather away from direct sunlight/heat. If for some reason your leather boots get water logged, you may be tempted to stick them outside in the sun or use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. DON’T DO THAT! Leather, like skin or other fabrics can dry and crack or even warp when dried out too quickly. Your best bet is to leave them inside and dry out naturally. Even if it takes them a couple days, this is your best bet to minimize damage. Also, do not store your leather boots in direct sunlight. If your closet or room has a window that lets in sunlight, make sure your boots are not exposed. Leather fades naturally over time, but sunlight speeds up this process. Darker places with a little humidity are preferred places to store your leather boots. Remember to have some air flow though so mildew does not occur.
Regularly clean your boots with a damp cloth after use. The best way to keep your leather boots from aging prematurely, even if you do nothing else, is to give it a regular wipe-down with a damp cloth. Out of all the leather items you could own, your leather boots are the quickest to accumulate dirt, dust, and all manner of other abrasive particles that lead to premature wear and tear. If you just wear them once, but are outside say in the wintertime in the slush and slop or wearing them in the city where they may accumulate who knows what kind of sludge from the city streets, you know best when your boots are dirty. Preserve your leather boots by wiping them down weekly, or even after a single use with a wet cloth or even paper towel if need be. Get a great leather boot care kit to keep them looking great.
If you’re like me, you may have thought that giving your shoes or boots a good polish now and then is all that is needed to keep them healthy and looking great. Let’s take a look at your options and exactly what they do.
Polish. No, not the people. Polish is basically just for looks rather than something that protects your leather boots from the elements or every day crud and grime. You know, to get that military shine that everyone loves. You may want to examine the polish carefully since some do contain moisturizing elements that you may or may not want depending on what you are wearing.
—Check out our post on Boot Stuff and Accessories to get the best product!—
- Conditioner/Cream. Conditioners or creams that you may use for your boots will not make your boots all shiny like polish will, but will help to break in the leather and make them nice and soft. If this is what you are looking for, you may want to do it every couple months or every 6 months depending on the conditions you are wearing them in. I remember always using saddle soap on my combat boots when I was in the Marines to “soften” them up a bit and make them more comfortable to wear. Something to think about.
- Waterproofing. Generally speaking, your leather boots don’t need waterproofing! Most leather goods these days are treated in one form or another. It might be a good idea when your purchase your boots that you ask the person that made them what their thoughts are on waterproofing them and give them an idea on what type of environment you will be wearing them in. In most environments and
conditions, your leather boots will hold up just fine to rain, snow, etc. If you’re someone who is hiking with leather boots, or you’re regularly out in deep snow or heavy rain with them, then you should waterproof — and even then, it’s more for the contents of the leather item (your feet) than the material itself. If you’re unsure about
waterproofing, ask the manufacturer. They’ll tell you whatever treatment it already has, and if the product needs additional care based on your activities and uses.
Things To Consider For Your Leather Boots
When you aren’t wearing your handmade leather boots or shoes, you may want to consider purchasing and keeping your boots in cedar shoe trees. Cedar shoes help in a number of way. They will help to keep your boots dry and to retain their shape and also help to reduce creases. Dress shoes should be cleaned and polished more regularly than leather boots. Boots are usually sturdier and made with a thicker leather.
Work-style or everyday wear boots probably don’t need as much care as a quality pair of handmade leather boots (which you will be most likely wearing on special equations or dress up type functions), but they should be wiped down weekly (even twice weekly if you wear them allot) and conditioned every couple months depending on where you live, what time of year you are wearing them, and how often you wear them.
To Sum Up Your Leather Care
To sum it all up, just use some common sense. Don’t blow dry your boots if they get wet. Keep them out of the sun. Let your boots breathe, and wipe them down regularly with a damp cloth. If you want, use a leather conditioner every six months or so and waterproof if needed, but you probably don’t need to do that. Easy Peasy. Your boots will look great for a long time if you follow these simple steps.