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Cleaning and Waterproofing Your Workboots


March 1, 2022

Man wearing work boots

Whether you are working out on the farm or hiking through rugged terrain, you need a pair of work boots that can stand up to the great outdoors. Cleaning and caring for your work boots can extend their longevity and keep them looking as good as new for longer.

Waterproofing work boots ensure that you will not have cold and wet socks, making your workday more comfortable and reducing the risk of developing blisters. Ready to give your work boots the star treatment? Here is how you can keep your leather footwear in tip-top shape.

Break In Your New Boots

If you have new leather boots, we recommend breaking them in for several days or more before cleaning them and applying a waterproof treatment. A break-in period can vary depending on the boot type and brand. Some boots may already feel broken in, while others may take longer to break in.

How Often Should You Clean Your Boots?

Boot care frequency depends on how often you wear your boots and how dirty they get. When your work boots are visibly dirty, it is time for a good cleaning. Even if you have high-quality work boots, regular cleaning can extend your footwear’s life.

What You Need to Clean Your Leather Boots

Cleaning older boots requires time and patience but can significantly improve the look and function of your leather boots. Boot care supplies depend on the condition of your boots. Here are a few items to consider:

  • Shoe brush
  • Small, soft-bristled brush (toothbrush)
  • Soft, clean, cotton rag
  • Leather conditioner
  • Waterproofing treatment
  • New pair of insoles (optional)
  • New pair of laces (optional)
  • Mild soap (optional)
  • Lighter (optional)

Most of these supplies should be easy to find at home, but others like leather conditioners or a water-based cleaning agent are affordable and available online or in-store at Wilco Farm Stores.

Cleaning Your Boots

Brown workboots

Before you can waterproof your boots, you must thoroughly clean them. Dirt, oil, and other debris can prevent the waterproofing agent from working effectively.

To begin, you will need to remove the laces and insoles, making it easier to clean the tongue of the boot. Are your soles and shoelaces dirty? Submerge them in about an inch of warm soapy water for a few hours or wash them by hand to dislodge any excess dirt or mud.

If your insoles have an odor problem, rub dryer sheets or baking soda over the surface of the insoles to reduce the smell. Once your shoelaces and insoles are properly cleaned, rinse them and leave them out to dry.

Start by using a dry brush to remove any dirt and grime from the entire boot. For caked-on dirt, use a damp cloth to wipe down every part of your work boot, from the uppers to the toe guards. Use a small, soft-bristled brush to properly clean the welt without damaging the stitch.

While many leather boots are high quality and designed to handle water, we recommend avoiding soaking your boots when cleaning them. To clean the rubber outsoles, use a brush or wet cloth if necessary to remove the debris. Do not use any abrasive chemicals, since they can damage the rubber outsoles. Dry off any water with a clean rag.

If you notice any loose fibers fraying from the stitch lines, you can use a lighter to carefully and quickly burn off those loose fibers. After gently and quickly lighting the loose fibers, move the lighter away and rub the loose fibers back to the stitching.

Once the boots are properly clean, you can let them dry a bit before waterproofing them. Keep in mind, leather work boots should still be damp to help draw the waterproof solution into the boot material.

Conditioning Your Boots

Over time, leather work boots can develop cracks on the surface due to a lack of moisture. When cracks appear, they are nearly impossible to amend. For this reason, it is vital to keep leather supple by conditioning them about every month or so.

To condition your work boots, you will need a clean cloth, a leather conditioner, and a small applicator brush. Use the cloth to remove all the dirt on the boots. Use the brush to apply the leather conditioner to a small area to see if it works. Make sure your boots are completely dry.

Apply the conditioner in a circular motion throughout all the creases. If the boots are very dry, repeat the process up to three times and allow the boots to dry for about 20 minutes. After half a day, rub the boots with a dry and clean cloth.

Waterproofing Your Boots

Brown leather workboots

The waterproofing product you use will depend on your work booth material. There are various waterproofing agents available. Read the manufacturer’s application instructions before applying to your footwear.

Before using any waterproofing product, read the product’s instructions and label. Some products can darken the material’s color. If necessary, test out the product on a small area of the boot to ensure it works as advertised.

Spray

Sprays are primarily used for suede, leather, and synthetic materials. Sprays can be applied in an even and light coat six inches from the shoe. Some waterproof spray options may require additional coats for better waterproofing capabilities.

Wax

Wax works best with suede and leather boots. Use a hairdryer to slightly warm the wax and apply it over the boot with a clean cloth. Apply to wax in an even and thin layer and remove any leftover residue. Buff the leather with a soft cloth or brush to give it a shine.

Cream

Cream can be used to waterproof leather work boots. To apply the cream, use a clean cloth or the product’s applicator to rub the cream throughout the boot.

Dry

After applying the waterproofing treatment, you will need to let your leather boots dry naturally. Keep them in a space with low humidity and proper ventilation. Avoid using a hairdryer to speed up the drying process, since it can heat up and loosen the footwear’s glue or lead to leather cracks.

If necessary, use a fan to speed up the drying. Add newspaper balls into the boots to help absorb the excess moisture in the boots. When they have sufficiently dried, it is time to put them on and get ready for your workday.

For efficient footwear drying, try the Peet Shoe Dryer, which uses natural thermal convection technology to thoroughly dry your footwear. The shoe dryer does not have fans or moving parts, meaning its noise-free operation will not blow hot air into your boots or damage the material.

How to Clean Rubber Boots

For some tasks, you may use rubber work boots. To clean rubber boots, use a wet rag to remove dirt and debris. The sole of the boot can be cleaned with water and a brush. Remove the insole to clean and properly dry it before putting it back into the boot. Rubber conditioning products can be used based on the manufacturer’s instructions.

Storing Work Boots

Classic cedar wood shoe

After the workday is done, store your work boots on a cedar boot tree. Cedar boot trees can absorb moisture from the shoes and help them maintain their original shape for years to come.

Why Should You Take Care of Leather Boots?

Excessive oiling and poor boot maintenance are two common factors that can quickly result in rips, stains, and other damage that affect the function and look of your boots. Keeping your work boots clean, waterproof, and conditioned can not only extend the life of your footwear but also keep them looking new.

Shop for New Boots at Wilco Farm Stores

While work boots can last for several years, there may come a time when you have to replace your old pair with a new pair. For all your work boot needs, shop at Wilco Farm Stores. We carry men’s and women’s work boots from the world’s top brands, including Georgia Boot, Durango, Carhartt, Ariat, Danner, Justin, DryShod, Muck, and many more. Shop in-store or online today!

We would love to see your favorite leather work boots. Use #mywilcolife on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and tag Wilco Stores.

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