Winterize Your Leather Boots

Winterize Your Leather Boots

Leather boot maintenance is one of the best ways to take care of your boots and feet so that they both last a lifetime. Leather boots are very easily damaged by salt during the winter and deformed by moisture. Unprotected leather will dry out, crack, weaken, and tear. Weatherproofing your boots should be done regularly, especially at the start of each winter.

Cleaning Your Dirty Boots

If they aren’t brand new, they may need to be cleaned. Your boots might already be covered in salt from past winters (noticeable white stains). There are a dozen different ways to clean your boots. First, remove the laces and insoles so that you don’t damage them. Fresh salt stains can be wiped off with a damp, warm cloth. Old, dried-in salt stains are best removed with a brush or toothbrush and a solution of half water and half vinegar. Gently scrub the stains with the solution and then wipe with a damp, warm cloth. Allow the boots to dry. Stuffing boots with newspaper can help maintain their shape when drying.

Conditioning the Leather

Conditioning the leather essentially repairs stiff, dried out leather and brings back its suppleness. For new boots, conditioning can also help remove some of the leather’s stiffness and keep an ideal level of moisture throughout the leather so that it doesn’t dry out and crack. Conditioner will be absorbed into the leather fibers and bring it back to life. Remember, leather is dead animal skin and needs the same nourishment and protection that your own skin has naturally. It’s very important to know what type of leather your boot is made out of because each type of leather is conditioned in different ways with different conditioners.

Winterize Your Leather Boots

I swear by mink oil because it conditions and waterproofs my boots. I simply apply a dime sized glob of mink oil to my boot and work it in with a rag or my bare hands. I also like the fact that mink oil darkens my leather boots a bit as well, but others opt for other products for this same reason. The boots in the above picture were treated with mink oil.

Waterproofing The Leather

Some new boots already come conditioned and waterproofed or “weatherized/winterized.” However, you don’t know how well they are actually conditioned or waterproofed. A second conditioning may be needed just as wood may need a second layer of finish, a car may need a second layer of wax, and a wall may need a second coat of paint. Waterproofing your leather boots is the second step of the process that helps protect your boots from rain, snow, ice, and slush by acting as a sealant.

Some conditioners, like mink oil or neatsfoot oil, penetrate the leather but also provide an outer waterproofing coat. Paraffin wax or natural beeswax act as great water repellents. Sometimes waxes are sold as part of the conditioning product or sold separately as a second solution. There are also spray-on products that provide an effective waterproofing coat to the leather. Pay close attention to thoroughly cover the seams of your leather boots, as they are the most penetrable part of the boot. A good sealant can extend the life of your boots for many, many winters to come.

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6 years ago

I’ll second the Obenauf’s LP, I usually treat new or dry boots with the Obenaufs Leather Oil until they won’t absorb it anymore and then coat it with the LP. The oil tends to absorb quicker and penetrate better but the LP is more durable and adds a good amount of waterproofing.

-Boot buyer/manager at an outdoors store

Sam (@samschil)
7 years ago

My favorite conditioner/water repellant is Obenauf’s LP. It’s a beeswax/propolis based conditioner, and in addition to being very great, it smells amazing while you’re working with it.