How To – Cleaning and Restoring Work and Dress Boots

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    Taking care of your boots means they will last longer and look better but it also increases your comfort and that can make your work day a whole lot easier.

    Whether you work at new construction sites or like to wear boots as a main footwear choice there are some pretty easy steps to take from the time you first buy your boots.

    Many high end stores will or at least use to offer to seal your boots when you first bought them. I can remember ordering my first decent pair of boots in high school and after I picked them out the store held them for a couple days while they were sealed and protected.

    Sealing your boots when you first get them is mandatory no matter what type of leather you are purchasing.

    Suede boots or shoes are especially prone to water and dirt damage and must be sealed at time of purchase unless you will only be wearing them inside and no one does that.

    If you were in the military you would have a daily inspection in boot camp and they would expect you to follow the same regiment throughout your service even though you may not get as harshly inspected 3 years in to duty.

    The reason they put so much importance on continued maintenance is that in previous wars solders were lucky to have a good pair of boots and while fighting in the field there was little chance for resupply.

    With this in mind it is just as important for you to care for work boots that you depend on every day to earn a living or even boots you wear around your home because there should not be a reason to replace boots that were damaged due to neglect. It is just a waste of money and you may find yourself without good footwear when you really need it.

    Honestly I have to tell you today I normally purchase all man made material boots and sneakers with steel toes. For many reasons they are a better choice for me but in addition to being cheaper they are also water tight until they fail. At that point you more or less have to replace them. A decent pair of boots made of all man made materials are hard to find and that shouldn’t be the case today. Leather should always be more expensive and rare then plastic.

    Sealing Your New Leather Boots

    There are a few different products that you can use to seal your boots the products that I like are a paste wax type product that you rub into the surface of the leather however if you have suede boots you should look for a spray on product that will not discolor the leather.

    You should apply the product as soon as you purchase your boots before they are worn.

    Once sealed you will need to maintain your boots by reapplying the sealer as often as needed. This might be once a season or once a week and it will depend on what environment you are using them in.

    In the Winter if you are constantly in rain, mud and snow you can expect to need to clean your boots with soap and water then apply a sealer once a week.

    Repairing Light Damage to Leather Boots

    If you find that you have scuffs or stains it is important to take care of them as soon as you notice.

    Suede material can be cleaned with a small scrub brush or tooth brush and for harder stains you can use a special eraser block to remove the dirt.

    For work boots you can actually use an eraser. I suggest that you look for the white or gray ink pen erasers that have a little bit of grit in them.

    For dress shoes you can use a synthetic eraser.. the type that you can see light through.. they are available at hobby or drafting supply shops.

    You can also use a cotton cloth and a little baking soda however you have to be careful because baking soda will leave a white residue that is very hard to remove completely.

    For light abrasions it is important that you apply sealer and polish to reduce the spread of damage. Dress shoes should be polished weekly or monthly with a matching color polish.

    Removing Overall Dirt from Leather Boots

    If you come home with dirt on your boots you should never let it dry overnight and if you are out you should try to get to a bathroom to wipe them down. This is important for all types of stains and dirt.

    If you have boots that have an overall discolored look you can use saddle soap or standard mild soap and water followed up by saddle soap.

    Once the boots are clean you should let them dry and seal them before use.

    If the boots are beyond your ability to clean you can try bringing them to a cobbler / shoe repairman.

    Honestly by the time you get to that point you will probably be looking at more money then you want to spend if the boots are cheap. If you have very expensive dress shoes then it is worth the trip and they can save many shoes that you can not repair yourself.


    Final Note

    When I get a new pair of boots I normally seal the inside of the boot along with the outside. This improves its water tight seal and locks in the moisture that keeps the boot flexible. Spray sealer works better on the inside but don’t saturate the padded sole.

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