How to Waterproof Your Leather Boots!
Odds are that we have all owned a pair of leather boots, at some point in our lives. Maybe it was for fashion, way back in high school, when we were in our “punk-rock stage.” Or maybe it was for our job that we had a couple years ago as a construction worker. Or maybe it was for all those hiking trips we took last summer. We may even own a pair currently…
Or two, or three…or eleven…
Clarks, Wolverine, and Red Wing are some of the older, more widely-known manufacturers of leather boots, but countless other apparel and footwear brands have jumped on board over the last few decades, making leather boots a staple in their footwear lines.
Leather work boots can be found in countless industries: Law Enforcement, Ranching, Farming, Restaurant/Food Service, Carpentry, Construction, Marine & Fishing, Military, Plumbing/HVAC, Machine & Manufacturing, and more. Leather hiking boots are seeing a resurgence in popularity, and stylized leather boots have always been a staple in the fashion & design industry.
Like all fabrics and materials, leather can wear down, making it more susceptible to water-absorption in wet environments and drying out & cracking in dry environments.
But there is good news! With hardly any effort at all, we can not only extend the life and performance of our leather boots, but we can also refresh their appearance. Here at Nikwax, we’ve tried to produce the most user-friendly, low-maintenance, stress-free, time-effective, environmentally-conscious, and affordable waterproofing products on the market. So if you’re looking for the simplest method of waterproofing your boots, you’ve come to the right place!
I recently decided to try to give some fresh life to my favorite pair of full-grain leather, hiking boots. It had been a solid 9 months since I gave them a deep clean, and I was suddenly starting to doubt their level of performance, as my feet were beginning to become damp after the last few uses on wet, rainy hikes.
Here are the things that I used and the steps that I followed, to revitalize and refresh my tired, full-grain leather boots:
- A sink
- My boots
- Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel
- Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather
- Optional: A cloth or soft sponge
1. Prepare the boots.
Step A: Remove the laces and prepare the cleaning/work area.
Note: Most laces can simply be cleaned by throwing them in with your dirty laundry. Also, I just did one boot at first, to be able to show the contrast and difference between the “before and after”. You can, of course, do both boots at the same time, or one right after the other.
Step B: Saturate the leather upper and tongue of the boots with water, making sure to do so evenly and gradually. Rub off noticeable dirt smudges to prepare the boots for the Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel.
2. Clean the boots.
Step A: Following the simple directions on the bottle, apply the Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel thoroughly, using the scrub brush on the top of the bottle to remove dirt and grime. Leave no area unscrubbed!
Note: Don’t forget to scrub your soles, while you’re at it! Shine those babies up!
Step B: Rinse off the boots, removing all the soapy gel that is visible.
Note: No need to dry the boots completely, afterward, because our next step works on both dry and wet leather.
3. Waterproof the boots.
Step A: Grab the tube of Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather and squeeze out a few dime-size spots of the wax onto the leather upper. Then, using either your hands or a cloth/sponge, rub and massage the wax into the leather, spreading it out evenly over the whole surface.
Note: You will likely need to squeeze out several more little spots onto the surface, as you go along, to cover it entirely. Be sure to really work the wax into the seams and edges of the material, and rub it in until you cannot see any spots of wax coagulating anywhere.
Step B: Once the wax is sufficiently rubbed in, leave the boots in a safe place where they can dry naturally, undisturbed.
Note: Unlike other products, Nikwax products do NOT require high-heat drying or baking. If you dry the boots artificially using a fan, heater, blow-dryer, etc., then you risk altering the shape and fit of the boots. In some cases of high-heat drying required by other products, the soles of the boots have been known to disbond, or start to detach from the rest of the boot.
I did this whole process with my hands…applying the water, applying the wax later on, etc. All Nikwax materials are safe for skin so I didn’t hesitate. They also rinse off hands very easily with soap and water. Again, we want to help create the easiest way to waterproof your boots. No mess, no stress.
When it comes to waterproofing anything – boots, gear, tents, shoes, apparel – always remember to CLEAN then WATERPROOF. The same thing rings true with leather boots. Dirty boots will not be able to absorb the waterproofing agents that are trying to become absorbed into the leather. Dirt actually attracts water, and so the dirtier your boots, the more likely water will find it’s way into your boots’ leather upper.
Waterproofing your leather boots doesn’t have to be an extensive, time-intensive, or expensive process. In about 10-15 minutes, you can give your well-loved boots just what they want…a much happier, longer life.