Cleaning Leather Shoes

Leather boots never go out of style and can last a lifetime. However, they can get dirty and smelly over time, especially if you use them for work.

Although leather boots can get pricey, their ability to be easily restored to their original form makes the investment worth it. A little cleaning and conditioning can go a long way, making your leather boots last even longer.

Fortunately, it’s easy to learn how to clean leather boots, and doesn’t cost a fortune. This guide will show you the best way to clean leather boots along with some maintenance tips.

Why You Should Clean and Maintain Leather

After a long working day, you’re probably thinking only about a sweet escape, forgetting about all the dirt accumulated in and on your leather work boots. However, cleaning and maintaining your leather boots is vital if you want them to serve you for years to come. Here are several reasons why:

  • Hygiene: Needless to say, accumulated dirt can not only damage the leather, but also your health. But keeping your leather boots clean will prevent such unpleasant experiences.
  • Durability: There’s no going back once the leather cracks open, but if you keep your boots clean, you’ll prevent all the dryness and cracking caused by dirt and grime. And if you condition them once you’re done with cleaning, you’ll increase their lifespan even more, keeping them soft and good-looking for years to come.
  • Style: Wearing well-maintained leather boots can make you look more competent, which can open more doors for you regarding work. Besides that, you’ll look good.
  • Color: Proper cleaning can help keep your boots looking as good as new. Still, some fading has to happen because of factors you can’t control, including sunlight. However, wiping away scuff marks, excess dirt, and grime will keep the original color of your leather boots longer.

How to Clean Leather Boots in 8 Easy Steps

Now that you know why you should clean your leather boots and keep them well-maintained, it's time to learn how to do it properly to keep them gorgeous.

1. Remove the Laces

Remove the laces from your leather boots and shake off as much dirt from the laces as you can, and wash them with your laundry. If they are so dirty that they need to be replaced, do so. 

2. Knock Off the Dirt

To shake off the dirt from your boots, simply knock them together a few times and then wipe off excess debris with a dry cloth. Try to get rid of as much dirt as you can before cleaning, as wet dirt can seep into leather and dry them out. Also, small dirt grains can scratch your uppers while cleaning.

3. Make Use of Saddle Soap

If you want to make your boots look as good as new, clean them with saddle soap. First, fill a bowl with hot water, dampen a clean rag, and lather up a small amount of saddle soap. Once you’ve done that, lather each boot until they are completely covered with the saddle soap solution.

4. Rinse and Dry Your Leather Boots

Wipe off the saddle soap solution with a clean, wet cloth. If you can still see the grime on your leather boots, repeat the process until they are clean. Once done with rinsing, let your boots dry naturally or dry them with a boot dryer.

5. Prepare Your Boots for Conditioning

Warm your boots slightly to prepare them for conditioning. You can do this by leaving them in indirect sunlight or with a hair dryer. Just make sure not to overdo it - boots should be comfortable to touch, not hot.

6. Condition Your Leather Boots

When new, leather boots are so supple and beautiful thanks to the leather’s natural oils. However, much of it is lost after several months of wear. You can restore these oils by conditioning your leather boots with a high-quality conditioner.

Do this by applying your conditioner with a clean cloth using small circular motions. Ensure the entire boot is covered. Then, use the horsehair brush if you have one to buff the boots and break any excess conditioner. This way, you will also evenly condition the boot.

7. Don’t Skip Waterproofing

While some conditioners boost the leather’s natural waterproofing, it’s still recommended to add a layer of some waterproofing agent to ensure water doesn’t get the best of your boots. That’s especially true if you work in wet conditions, hike on muddy trails, or live in a humid environment. There are three options you can use to waterproof your leather boots: beeswax, liquid-based wax, and silicone spray.

While silicone sprays are the easiest to apply, they don’t last as long as the other two alternatives. Beeswax is a popular choice as it both waterproofs and conditions the leather. If you have full-grain leather boots, beeswax treatment is an ideal option. 

However, you should avoid it if your boots feature Gore-Tex liners, as it can damage the material’s breathability. In this case, liquid-based wax does wonders. While it isn’t as durable as its bee counterpart, it’s easier to apply and absorbs much faster.

To apply beeswax, put a small amount on a clean cloth, work it into the leather in small circular motions, and let it absorb. Repeat the process a few more times. Once you notice the leather doesn’t absorb wax anymore, remove any excess with a clean rag.

To waterproof your boots with a water-based wax, apply it to the leather with the built-in sponge. The leather will absorb it in a matter of minutes. If there’s any remaining residue, wipe it away with a clean cloth.

8. Make Your Leather Boots Shine

Once you’re done with cleaning, it’s time to polish your leather boots to make them shine. Polishing will also help remove scuff marks and scratches.

To polish your boots, wrap a clean cloth around your finger and apply a small amount of boot polish to it. Then, gently dab the polish around the boot and rub it in with the rag, distributing it evenly on all boot’s parts. All that’s left to do now is to thoroughly buff the boot’s surface using a brush or another rag. Once dry, your boots will shine as if you just bought them.

How to Clean Leather Boots from the Inside

The boot’s insides can get smelly. If that’s the case with your leather boots and their insides are also made of leather, you can follow the instructions described above. However, if the lining is made of some other material, you can use a damp cloth, put a few drops of saddle soap on it, and rub it around the boot’s inside until foamy. Then, use another wet cloth to wipe all the foam down. Once clean, let them dry naturally, or use a boot dryer.

You can also mix white vinegar and water and wipe down the boot’s inside with the mixture. Alternatively, you can place a knotted sock with baking soda in the boot overnight and let it absorb any unpleasant odors.

Removing Different Stains from Your Leather Boots

Some stains are more stubborn than others, and that’s especially true when it comes to leather boots. Here’s how to clean leather boots from different stains.

Water Stains

To remove water stains, blot them with a cloth until dry. If that doesn’t work, use a damp cloth and gently wipe the stain, starting from the center and moving outward.

Grease or Oil Stains

Using a dry cloth, blot the oil or grease, lifting as much of the excess as possible. Then, dust the stain with cornstarch or talcum powder and let it sit for around 20 minutes to absorb the oil or grease. After that, remove the cornstarch or powder using a soft-bristled brush. Repeat the process as many times as needed until the stain is gone.

Ink Stains

If the ink stain is terrible, you’ll probably have to visit a professional. However, if the stain is still fresh, you may be able to remove it yourself. You can do this by blotting the stain with a soft, dry cloth, but don’t rub it or scrub it as, this way, the damage will spread. If the ink is transferring to the cloth, the process is working.

Once the cloth stops soaking up the ink, rub the remaining stain with a dab of soap and a dry cloth using small circular movements to prevent spreading the ink further. If you get most of the stain off your boots, the rest will fade over time.

Scuff Marks

To remove scuff marks, combine two tbsp. of baking soda with just enough lukewarm water to make a paste and apply it to the scuff marks. Then, rub the area with a soft cloth. Clean the paste using another damp cloth.

Another way to remove scuff marks is by using non-gel toothpaste. The process is the same as with baking soda.

Salt Stains

Sidewalk salt stains can really ruin the appearance of your leather boots. To remove salt stains, use a solution made of equal parts white vinegar and water. Gently rub the solution onto the salt stain and wipe it away with another damp cloth. Note that you may need to repeat this process a few times.

How to Clean Your Suede Boots

The suede is leather made from the underside of the animal’s skin, giving it a smooth feel. However, cleaning suede can get tricky because water can damage this delicate type of leather. Still, a few drops won’t do much harm, but you should still be careful. 

To clean your suede boots, you need to get a brush specifically designed for cleaning suede and use it to gently remove grime and dirt. Then, go over a boot with a soft bath towel, gently scrubbing the lingering dirt.

If you have stubborn stains on your suede boots, use a suede eraser to remove them. But if the stains still won’t come out, consider using a bit of white vinegar and water and apply it onto a clean cloth, gently rubbing it into the mark.

Find Your Pair of Leather Boots

Now you know how to clean leather boots! Leather boots never go out of fashion, and when well-maintained, they can last a lifetime.

If you’re looking for a new pair, feel free to check our collection of stylish boots and choose your pair.