How to Clean & Waterproof Shoes and Boots

Dirty, soggy shoes?

Over time, shoes and boots get dirty and lose their original waterproofing. Even if your shoes have a waterproof membrane, like GORE-TEX, BDry, or eVent, the outer material will eventually soak up water. If your shoes are wet on the outside, that means water vapor (foot sweat) can’t escape, and soon, pruney swamp feet will follow. Luckily, it’s easy to clean and re-waterproof your shoes and boots to keep your feet dry and happy.

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Clean first. 

Clean your shoes? Yes please. If you want to re-apply waterproofing, you need to do it on a clean surface. Brush off clumps of dirt and mud, and then scrub your shoes with Footwear Cleaning Gel. It is designed to remove embedded dirt particles, and prepare shoes for waterproofing.

Then Waterproof.

Once your shoes are sparkly clean, apply the appropriate waterproofing product for your type of footwear.

Apply the waterproofing while your shoes are still wet. Let sit for a few minutes, then remove excess with a damp cloth. If you’re using Waterproofing Wax for Leather, buff out all excess by rubbing it into the leather much like lotion.

Let your shoes dry naturally.

Do not place next to direct heat, as it can cause soles to de-bond and leather to dry and crack. If you want to speed things up a bit, put newspaper or paper/cloth towels in your shoes to soak up excess moisture.

 

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15 thoughts on “How to Clean & Waterproof Shoes and Boots”

    1. Hi Ken,

      Great question! If you’re worried about discoloration we would recommend testing a small, inconspicuous are before applying to the entire shoe.

    1. Hey there! We make a product called Fabric & Leather Proof that comes in our footwear bundle, that would be perfect for those boots. It is different than the Waterproofing Wax for Leather. It is more geared toward mixed fabric boots, like the ones you linked to. It can be found HERE. I’m confident it will work perfect for you! – Brennon

  1. Do you only put fabric and leather proof on used shoes or is there some benefit to putting it on new shoes?
    And if the shoes are already clean and dry then should they be re-wet in order to apply the fabric and leather proof?
    Thanks

    1. Hey Paul!

      You can waterproof new OR used items. The benefit is always the same…improved water-repellency and protection, that maintains breathability. If a product is new, it definitely has a higher level of functionality and performance to begin with, so you may not see as quite as large of a contrast in “before and after” water-repellency, but the treatment can definitely prolong the life of the product and give it an initial boost. It would be similar to waxing a brand new car.

      As long as the shoes are clean, you can jump straight to the waterproofing step. And yes, generally speaking, having damp fabric helps to draw in the waterproofing treatment even better.

      Hope that helps!

      Brennon

  2. Is the fabric and leather proof only relevant to shoes that have experienced some wear? Or is it relevant to new goretex shoes too? Does it have to go on wet shoes or is dry ok?

  3. Hi there! I bought your product today for my shoes including work shoes. Am I able to polish them as normal once the nikwax product dries? Thank you for helping

    1. Hey Maz! Nikwax is water-based, so it is compatible with many other finishes and applications. You should feel confident using your normal polish after an application of Nikwax, but like anything you try for the first time, do a spot check on an area of the shoes that’s not as visible, just in case. Hope that helps! – Brennon

  4. Hi my boots are a mixture of textile and suede, which one of your products would I need to waterproof them. Thanks, Rich

    1. Hey Richard! I recommend always leaning toward the “pickier” fabric…the one that requires a little more maintenance. It sounds like the suede is the more particular fabric, so I would recommend Nubuck & Suede Proof.
      Make sure you give it a quick clean first, with Footwear Cleaning Gel. It’s specifically designed to clean in a way that is compatible with N&S Proof.

      Hope that helps! – Brennon

  5. What is the best way to remove the white spots on shoes after the nikwax fabric and leather proof has been applied and the shoes are dry? I assume is because i had excess nikwax in certain areas, hence the spots. Thanks!

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