Treatment and Care for Leather Boots

boots after treatment

The boots after the care and treatment of cleaning.

After logging a little over 30 miles on my new hunting boots this far, it was time to provide them some attention. My approach to my boot care was inspired by a youtube video series by Wranglerstar. The process includes utilizing saddle soap to clean the leather and make the pores susceptible to accepting the final coating of a leather preservative. The process took me a weekend from start to finish — not that it was super time consuming — it really was a matter of work a little and wait a while. As you can see the boots now look almost new, the leather is slightly darker than when they were off the shelf new, but that doesn’t matter to me as I figured it doesn’t to most people either.

clean shop towel
polish brush
saddle soap
Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP

Clean dirt & mud off your boots
1) Remove your boot laces and if they look like they may need to be replaced then this would be a great time to do so.

2) Just using moderately warm water, and depending on your condition of your boots, clean & knock off the excess dirt/mud. You can either run your boots under the faucet, I chose to just use a clean shop towel and get it wet from the faucet and use that to clean the excess dirt off my boots.

3) Now that your boots and free of mud and grime, go ahed and crinkle up some newspaper pages and stuff them into your boots and let your boots dry. If you have a boot dryer then you can skip using newspaper and just put your boots on your dryer.

Insert detail of saddle soap

Detail of saddle soap during the cleaning process.

Clean Leather
1) With your boots dry and no visible excess dirt on them, use your hands to apply saddle soap to your boots. The primary areas to focus on will be the areas of the boots that get the most usage: toe, base of tongue near toes, arch, heel. Really rub the saddle soap into these areas, don’t worry at this point to much about the higher up leather along the shin area.

2) If you also have leather on the tread of your boots along the heel you can work some saddle soap into this area as well. You want to be fairly liberal with this stuff as it’s main purpose is to not only clean the leather, but to get all the pores of the skin to open up and be ready to accept the leather preservative.

3) Alternate back and forth between each boot when applying a second coat, again paying attention to the toes, arch, heel, and the base of the tongue along the top of the foot area (think of the area where when you step on rocks and how the shoe bends and get in there and really work that area). Wipe any excess along the seam of the inside where the laces go and the tongue itself. Generally wiping excess up into the parts of the boots that are typically covered by your pant legs and those areas of the boot that are not as abused as much.

4) Dry your boots. If you don’t have a boot dryer, then put crumpled up newspaper inside to draw out moisture and dry your boots over night or for at least 12 hours before proceeding to the final step.

products used to treat boots

The two products used to clean and treat my leather boots.

Treat Leather
Now that your boots are clean from saddle soap and they are dry, then you can proceed to the final step of adding Obenauf’s Heavy Duty Leather Preservative (LP). The process is exactly the same as how you applied the saddle soap. You will apply with your bare hands as the temperature of your hands will warm the beeswax and propolis up and allow you to really work it into the pores of the leather. More than likely you will work a second coat of the preservative. The best way to tell if your boots are thirsty and you need to add an additional coat is once you’ve applied one boot and have moved onto the second boot, when your done with that one, look at your first boot and if you don’t see any excess to wipe off then I would go ahead and apply another coat of Obenauf’s. If you do see excess try to work it into the high use zones of the boot outlined above and if the leather still doesn’t take it in, the go ahead and use a clean shop towel to wipe the excess away. After you have liberally applied the leather preservative then go ahead and dry your boots once again with either a boot dryer or reusing the newspaper method.

Now that you’ve applied Obenauf’s you can relace your boots and they are ready for further trail use. I know see how it’s not really time consuming, as the steps of actual work only take about 15 minutes here and there, it’s mostly just a waiting game between processes to let your boots dry before moving on to the next step. Since I’ve gone through this process myself I know that I will continue to do this and to take great care of my boots as they take great care of my feet when I’m in the back country. Plus, by taking the time to protect my boots I plan to have them last me a long time and take me on many adventures in the woods.

Boots photographed before cleaning.

These are the boots prior to the cleaning and treatment of the leather for a before photograph.


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