The Situation:

After a weekend walking around in Seattle’s poor rainy excuse for a summer, I noticed that my favorite black flats were covered in white marks. The marks look not unlike the stains that are common from road salt in the winter – and like road salt stains, these were persistent and refused to be rubbed away. The shoes in question are made by Born of a particularly soft leather, with unfinished seams at the heel. In addition to the change in appearance, the texture of the leather had become somewhat brittle. It was time to put on the ‘ole Nikwax thinking cap.

Note the white lines on the upper near the toe and heel
Note the white lines on the upper near the toe and heel

Nikwax products work best when used as a team (cleaner+proofer), so for this job I chose Footwear Cleaning Gel  to remove the white marks and any additional dirt/grime/grit and Conditioner for Leather to restore softness and flexibility to the leather as well as to waterproof the leather so this wouldn’t happen again. Since these flats are one of my favorite (and therefore frequently worn) pairs of shoes, I also enlisted the help of Waterproofing Wax for Leather in Black to restore color at the toe and heel where it had begun to fade.

The arsenal: Footwear Cleaning Gel and Conditioner for Leather
Almost all Nikwax products are colorless. This product was designed to add color back to black leather goods (look for the black cap at your local retailer).

The Process:

  1. Get the first shoe wet. Nikwax products are all water based (and travel on water), so there isn’t any such thing as too much water/too wet.

    Using the faucet works just fine, but if this makes you nervous you can also use a sponge or wet rag to dampen the shoe - just make sure to get it good and wet anywhere that you'll be applying products
  2. Scrub the shoe with liberal quantities of Footwear Cleaning Gel– feel free to use the sponge applicator, your hands, a soft bristled brush – whatever it takes to get all the grime off (be gentle if your shoes are made of lambskin, suede or anything super soft and scratchable).
    It'll look filmy or soapy - like this!

    3. Rinse the shoe well – again use plenty of water.

    Rinse thoroughly - water temp doesn't really matter, just don't use HOT

    4. Apply Nikwax Conditioner for Leather – use the sponge applicator or your hands to work it into the (still wet) leather. Pay special attention to seams or areas where things have been attached like straps, laces, etc…

    All Nikwax products are non-toxic, so don't be afraid to work the Conditioner into the leather with your fingers

    5. Let the product sit on the leather for a couple minutes (literally, 2 or 3 is fine).

    It'll look milky or filmy - don't panic, this is temporary 🙂

    6. Remove excess product and buff with a soft cloth/rag.

    Wipe off/rub in all visible product. If any remains, it WILL be visible after it's dry

    *7. This was the point at which I applied the Waterproofing Wax for Leather in Black. Generally you won’t be able to apply anything AFTER a waterproofer (because it won’t be able to penetrate). But, since I was applying it to badly scuffed/worn areas, I just used a light hand with the Conditioner and then went back over the same spots with the black. IF you choose to use a colored Nikwax product, be careful, the liquid is runny and it can stain.

    The finished product - the white marks are gone and the leather is soft and flexible again!

    7. Repeat with shoe #2.

    BEFORE - looking pretty sad, indeed!
    AFTER - they look new again! Boo-yeah, Nikwax!


Any and all of these products can be found online at retailers like Amazon, REI, Altrec, Backcountry. Or use the Dealer Locator on our website to find a Nikwax dealer in your ‘hood.

And… since we are who we are, I couldn’t resist…


Have fun! Enjoy the sun! Stay dry.

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