If your work takes you out into all terrains, in all kinds of weather, then we think it’s definitely worthwhile waterproofing your boots. By waterproofing leather boots you can add many years onto the life expectancy and don’t forget – water can cause irreversible damage over time and cause your shoes to rot, fall apart, and become a good place for bad bacteria to hang out!
But before waterproofing your new pride and joy (if they aren’t already waterproofed), it’s always important to wear them for a week or so – that way you’ve broken them in a bit – they’ve molded to your foot and some of the resins in the leather get a chance to come to the surface – and those resins can make the waterproofing process less effective overall.
Okay, so you bought your new boots and you’ve worn them for a week or so. Next step – give them a really good scrub with a tough shoe brush – that’s going to get rid of any of those remaining resins. And generally, it’s always better to make sure your boots are clean before you apply any waterproofing agent.
And to make it easier to get into every nook and cranny, take the laces out of your boots. Then put the boot over your hand – it’s just easier to work with the brush and the oil – and get your hand right in there too, because once you start scrubbing, you don’t want the boot slipping off and oil getting on your clothes or on the floor. Using your other hand and your brush, get rid of all the dirt and any residue, making sure to get right into those seams too – because the stitching will fail if the leather is not kept healthy around it.
We also recommend you seal the seams on your leather boots before you put on your waterproofing product – Stitch Guard or an equivalent brand will make sure it’s not your seams that let go before the leather does.
Then start applying your oil with a cloth or a specific applicator that comes with your waterproofing product – using it pretty liberally to get in around the seam area, making sure you’re covering all the leather. Then, once you’ve oiled the whole boot, you can spend a bit more time focusing on the leather around those seams. And if your boots have leather tongues, make sure to get the oil into them as well.
Once you’re done – take your boots and let them dry overnight. Most of the oil will soak in, leaving just a bit of residue on the boot in the morning. Just wipe off the excess with an old cloth and guess what – you’re good to go!
It is really important to remember that some oils will darken the leather of your work boots – so make sure you’re prepared for that!
And try and oil your boots regularly – we recommend at least once a month, especially if the weather has been particularly bad. This will generally build in some future protection, under some of the toughest conditions.
The life of your boots will vary greatly, depending on the brand and how well you treat them. But remember – your work boots are a big investment and they’re hopefully going to look after you for a long time – so invest in some good oil and a good brush and take care of them regularly. A little goes a long way and they’ll pay you back in years of comfort and protection.
Here’s a basic check list to think about when you’re waterproofing your work boots, but also for generally helping them last longer:
- It can be a messy job so if you can, work over an old towel, or old newspaper and unless you can work outside – you’ll want to protect your floor from dirt and oil!
- Get some good rubber gloves – some brands of oil smell pretty powerful and when you’re getting stuck into waterproofing your boots, you might get some on your hands – and the smell won’t be so easy to get rid of! It won’t generally harm your hands, but it may take some time to wash out and your hand will feel greasy until it’s all out.
- Find a good place to dry your boots, or if you can, buy a boot dryer. A good one will last you a lifetime, so it’s worth considering. For these and your next boots too.
- Dry your boots out as often as you can, because weather aside – even a day’s worth of sweating can do damage to your leather work boots. Drying them out by the fire isn’t a good idea – it’ll just dry them out too quick and you’ll get cracking in the leather. Find a cool, dry place in the house and let them dry out naturally.
- And finally – find a reputable shoe repairer – they’ll get to know you and your boots and can give you good recommendations for getting the most out of your boots, for a longer, happier working relationship!