how to clean leather boots

How to Make Your Boots Last Forever

August 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm , by

Okay, so they probably won’t last forever. But buying a new pair of boots is a big investment—even cheaper boots aren’t usually cheap, especially if they’re real leather. (For the record, they should be leather if you want to wear them for more than a season.) After you fork over your hard-earned cash for a cute new pair, there are some easy steps you can take to keep your boots looking like new, or at least aging gracefully. So we asked David Mesquita of Leather Spa in New York City to spill his secrets. Busting out the shoe polish isn’t the most exciting way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but getting years of wear out your sexy boots is definitely worth it.

The rules for general upkeep: Condition the leather periodically (2-3 times per season) and finish with a water and stain repellant spray. FYI: Water-proofing your boots once when you buy them, or at the beginning of the season, isn’t actually enough if you wear them all the time. For tall boots, you really do need to get inserts (or stuff with paper) to keep them upright and prevent weird creasing. We like these genius blow-up boot shapers that deflate (and don’t take up tons of space) when you don’t need them. And always be sure to store your boots in a well-ventilated area.

When your boots get dirty or worn: First you want to clean the leather by wiping off any dirt or dust. Use a slightly damp (not wet!) sponge or leather cleaner. If the color is faded, try using a colored cream or polish. Some creams also condition so you can skip the leather conditioner if you go that route. If you use polish, go old school and brush and buff your shoes after wiping off polish to get that new-leather shine. For non-leather boots, use a sponge to clean them with water and a mild detergent. If your boots get creased, you can’t actually de-crease but you can make them look less worn by using your leather polish in the same shade as your boots to fill in the color.

What if your boots get totally soaked in a snowy, salty, slushy winter mess:  You have a one-to-two-day window to clean them before the stains set in. Never dry leather boots with a hair dryer or any other heat source! Instead, stuff with newspaper to help absorb the water (replace as needed) and air dry. For salt and stains, combine 1/3 cup white vinegar with 1 cup water and apply with a sponge or paper towel. If your at-home triage doesn’t work, it’s time to call the professionals but take your boots in asap. The longer the stains sink in, the less chance you have of saving them.

What to do about stinky boots: Always wear socks or tights if you can. If you do go barefoot in your booties, sprinkle powder (we like Gold Bond) in the shoes before wearing them. If they’ve really gotten smelly (hey, it happens), try Leather Spa’s Odor Bloc which helps kill the bacteria that make your shoes smell.