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How To Take Care Of Leather Boots In Winter

Traditionally speaking, leather is heralded as one of the toughest non-synthetic materials around. Even when compared to things like nylon fabric, leather often comes out on top as more durable and long-lasting. For these reasons and more, it’s still widely used in the creation of all manner of outerwear — including jackets, gloves, hats, and (of course) boots.

Leather boots are undoubtedly a men’s style staple, especially when it comes to the colder times of the year. Of course, if you like your winter leather boots and you want them to last for years to come, you also have to learn how to care for them properly. While not difficult, per se, caring for your winter boots requires some deliberate practices that sometimes slip our minds. To help you keep them in tip-top shape for as long as possible, we’ve outlined the best way to care for your leather boots in winter in the following guide.

Before You Buy

Things To Consider

The first step to keeping your cold weather footwear in sturdy shape comes before you ever put them on your feet. In fact, it’s a consideration you should make for all your footwear, regardless of the time of year or the weather. We’re talking, of course, about the purpose of your shoes, boots, sandals, etc.Determining the usage of your footwear will allow you to choose those with an appropriate construction. You see, determining the usage of your footwear will allow you to choose those with an appropriate construction.

In this case, choosing your winter boots will require you to consider several factors. For starters, since you’re presumably purchasing them for winter wear, getting something with a bit of insulation is a good idea. Some winter-ready boots come with removable insulation. While not absolutely necessary, this is a handy feature that makes caring for said boots a bit easier, as you can take out the insulation to dry between uses.

Secondly, the quality of the leather used in the creation of your boots will affect their longevity. Cheap boots are made with cheap leather and, as a result, will break down more quickly and require replacements more frequently — even if you take careful steps to keep them in fighting shape. High-end leather is going to be more expensive, but the investment (in our opinion) is worth it, for you could have a pair of leather boots that will last for decades with the proper care.

Lastly, you should think about the kinds of weather in which you’ll be wearing your winter boots. If you live somewhere cold and dry, like the desert, you can probably get away without boots that feature a waterproof or water-resistant membrane. Of course, if you find yourself in rain or snow — even only occasionally — having something with GORE-TEX or a similar membrane built-in can make all the difference when it comes to how long your boots will last. Even then, there are still other steps you will need to take to ensure they keep on trucking through thick and thin.

Keep Them Dry

Be Wary Of Water

It’s of the utmost importance to remember that leather is a natural material. Though it is processed, dried out, and even dyed, it still needs to breathe and it will still absorb moisture. Even a waterproof membrane will not completely protect your leather boots, as the membrane will be beneath the exterior layer of leather. We’re not suggesting you avoid hoofing it through rain, sleet, or snow —When you’re done with your adventures, you should put your boots somewhere they can dry out. just that, when you’re done with your adventures, you should put your boots somewhere they can dry out.

Most folks will take off their boots in their garage or leave them on a stoop outside. In the short run, this is fine, but there are some issues therein. If your boots are wet and you leave them outside in freezing temperatures, the moisture might also freeze, causing damage to the boots both inside and out. If you have the option, we suggest keeping your boots somewhere with a higher temperature, inside your home. That way, they can dry out between wears. Similarly, if you have a removable liner, this would be the time to remove it and let it dry separately.

If you’re extra concerned, you can even go so far as to wipe the moisture from the outside of your boots using paper or cloth towels. This is not entirely necessary, but if you’d rather be safe than sorry, it’s an optional step. Just remember, some of the moisture will still be on and in the boot, even if you wipe them off entirely, so you’ll still want to let them dry somewhere warm.

Don't Overheat

High-Temperature Damage

While moisture is probably the chief nemesis of leather, there is another danger that can shorten the life of your leather significantly, especially when combined with moisture: heat. While it seems logical to get rid of moisture by exposing it to heat,Unlike living skin, leather cannot self-repair over time. there are some severely negative side effects when leather is introduced to this equation — ones which should be avoided at all cost.

Like human skin, leather can absorb moisture like a sponge, but it can also dry out. In fact, if you expose your wet leather to a high heat source, like a hair dryer, the leather will tighten and shrink to the point of cracking. Unlike living skin, however, leather cannot self-repair over time. That means, if you shrink and crack the leather of your winter boots, they will remain that way forever — requiring you to replace them for a new pair. And no, no amount of moisturizing will help make a difference. If you really want to care for your winter boots, allow them to dry at room temperature instead. The slower process will let the leather adjust accordingly and keep it from shrinking and cracking.

Stay Moisturized

A Natural Material

Whether winter, summer, spring, or fall, there are a couple things you should to do care for your leather regularly. The most important is probably moisturizing it — with keeping it clean a close second. As mentioned above, leather is a natural material — like your skin — and needs to be treated as such for longevity’s sake. Luckily, the process is quite simple, as outlined below:

  1. Make sure your leather is clean and dry. Most dirt can be wiped off dry or will only require a damp wipe or towel. For tougher dirt and grime, use a mild, unscented bar soap and some water to work up a lather over the dirt and grime. Once it’s sufficiently broken up, wipe it away with a damp towel and then wipe away the moisture with a dry towel. If that still doesn’t do the trick, using a leather brush and repeating the steps should elicit a positive result.

  2. Take the leather moisturizer of your choice and follow the instructions on it to apply it to your boots. Typically this will consist of rubbing the moisturizer into the leather with the help of a rag or brush, in a similar fashion to waxing a car. There are several types, including creams and oils, but the end results will be similar. Whatever you choose, just make sure to follow the instructions — we cannot stress this enough.

  3. You might think that polishing your leather is the final step to care, but we’d suggest against it in this case. Leather polish is not intended for outerwear, like leather boots. Rather, leave the polish for your patent leather dress shoes. Your winter boots don’t need it and won’t benefit from it. The conditioner of your choice should work just fine.

  4. Remember to repeat parts of the process regularly, between uses. If you really want to make your boots last, you should clean the leather after each use and condition them every 3-6 months — or more depending on how often you wear your boots and what the weather conditions are like outside (snow and rain will necessitate more frequent care). That’s a bit extreme, admittedly, but it’s the truth. Of course, missing a conditioning here and there isn’t going to spell doom for your winter leather boots, but they’ll last a good deal longer if you stick to the routine.

The Complete Guide To Leather Care

For a more in-depth look at how to clean and condition your winter leather boots, you’ll find everything you need to know in our complete guide on how to care for leather — even the gear you’ll need to get the job done right.

Sealers & Waterproof Wax

Extra Protection

This is where you’ll find the chief difference between normal leather care and leather care specific to winter (and inclement weather in general). As mentioned above, your best defense against snow, rain, etc. is to purchase boots with some measure of waterproofing built in, like GORE-TEX or a similar membrane. But there’s still more that can be done on top of that in the form of sealers and waterproof waxes. They’re not 100% effective, especially when you consider user error in their application, but they’re a decent defense that should at least be considered to increase the longevity of your winter-ready leather boots.

Typically, a waterproof coating should be applied to your boots once a year (make sure to check the instructions on yours to confirm this), but sometimes will be necessary more frequently depending on how often you use your boots and the conditions in which you use them. There are a few different types, as well, though they break down into two main categories: sprays and waxes. Sprays are faster and easier to apply, but they leave more room for user error and don’t work as well. Waxes take more time and effort, but they’re more effective in the long run. We’ve picked two of our favorites below:

Atsko Sno-Seal Original Beeswax Waterproofing

Made from all-natural beeswax, this waterproofing wax actually doubles as a conditioner, making it great for one-step leather care. It also dries solid, giving it the ability to last longer than balms or greases that might otherwise rub off. Best of all, it will keep your leather dry while still allowing it to breathe, which, as you now know, is necessary for a natural material such as leather.

Purchase: $8+

Bickmore Gard-More Water & Stain Repellent

Versatile and easy to use, this spray works for multiple types of leather, including Nubuck and suede — meaning you can use it on more than just your winter boots. In fact, it works on other articles of clothing, as well, like jackets, gloves, and even car upholstery. The spray also works without aerosol, in case you’re worried about environmental effects (you should be). If you’re not willing to take the time to apply a wax, this should do the trick.

Purchase: $11

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