When you’re on the job all day, your boots are susceptible to dirt, grime, oil, water and other materials that can stain leather. However, cleaning your leather work boots is a breeze as long as you do it often and do it right.
Prepping and cleaning your boots
New leather work boots need to be prepped before you wear them. Even if they don’t require a breaking in period, you should wear them around the house for a few hours before going to the job site. If they are not waterproof, apply a waterproofing agent to the boots and give it some time to work. Once ready, you can wear your boots on the job.
After each shift, use a nylon brush to wipe off any dirt that has accrued. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe the leather clean. Do not blow dry your boots. Let them dry naturally because heat will dry out the leather and cause it to crack. If your boots are soiled all over, use saddle soap (or soap designed specifically for leather work boots) and a damp cloth to clean them thoroughly. Once every two to three months remove the insoles from your boots and put them in the washing machine or handwash them in mild shampoo. The inside of your boots should be cleaned with mild shampoo and a damp cloth every few months too.
Rid your boots of stains
There are professional-grade leather stain removers on the market or you can use household products to clean your work boots. Depending on the severity of the stain, you should be able to use what you have lying around.
- Water spots: Simply re-moisten the spot with a little bit of water and allow it to air dry.
- Unidentified dark spots: Mix one part lemon juice and one part cream of tartar into a paste. Work the paste into the spot then wipe the area clean with a soft cloth. If the stain still doesn’t come out after the tartar/lemon juice paste, try dipping a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and rubbing it over the area.
- Road salt stains: These can be particularly hard stains to get out so try blotting them with a soft cloth dipped in a mixture of water and white vinegar.
Tend to your boots while you sleep
Another important part of leather work boot maintenance is storing them properly. Place your boots on cedar shoe trees to keep them smelling fresh. Cedar is the best material for shoe trees because it absorbs moisture, salt and acid, and neutralizes smells. It also smooths out the lining and insoles of the boots without compromising their shape. You can also sprinkle the inside of your boots nightly with a little baking soda to neutralize odours if you don’t have cedar shoe trees.