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Winter has arrived, and you finally have a chance to break out those leather boots that you bought for hiking over the summer. You’ve chosen the perfect outfit to go with them, and you feel on top of the world. You step out into the great outdoors and go about your business as usual.
Then you get home later and go to take off your boots, and you see it. Your leather boots have been ruined by water. It’s a terrible feeling, but fortunately one you can avoid next time. Even if you have gotten your boots wet, you can clean them up and with a little work get them ready for the next time you wear them out. You can even make your boots ready for hiking in the winter so your feet won’t get cold during your long hike.
Check our our reviews about the best hiking boots for men and women.
While it’s not possible to completely waterproof boots for winter because prolonged exposure to wetness will allow some moisture to get in, there are some simple steps to waterproof your leather boots for winter before you take them out into the elements. Not only can you keep your boots from getting ruined by water, but you can keep your feet dry too.
Make Sure Your Boots are Completely Dry
Before you can waterproof boots for winter, you have to make sure they are completely dry. If they have gotten wet outdoors, you can’t just apply a waterproofing material until they are dried out. Follow these steps to make sure your boots are dry:
- Use a cloth to wipe off any excess water from the outside of the boot.
- Dry out the inside of the boot by placing a towel or newspaper inside and letting it sit until it has absorbed all of the moisture.
- Avoid placing your boots near a heat source like a heater, as it can crack and damage the leather. Don’t use a hair dryer either. You can use a regular fan, though. Let your boots dry in room temperature.
- Let your boots sit for a day or two until they are completely dry.
Clean Your Boots
Before waterproofing your leather boots for winter, clean them well so the waterproofing product can fully cover the leather. Remove the laces and brush with a toothbrush or a shoe brush to remove dirt and grime. If you come across stubborn spots use a little water on a toothbrush to gently scrub it off.
Know Your Material
The kind of leather your boots are made of will determine what kind of product to use to waterproof them. Do some research to figure out what your boots are made out of. For example, they may be made of full-grain leather (the most common type of leather for boots), suede, or nubuck.
If you’re not sure what your boots are made of, usually you can find out from the manufacturer’s website, and if you don’t have access to that, you can ask a local cobbler.
Types of Waterproofing Products
There are several types of leather waterproofing products that are used for different types of leather. Waterproofing products come in sprays, waxes, and creams. Sprays are best for suede boots while waxes and creams are best for full-grain leather and nubuck.
Waterproofing products can be natural or synthetic. Natural products are best for real leather, as they work well with the material and don’t contain any harmful chemicals. Synthetic products can sometimes cause damage to leather and create discoloration over time. Look for a product that contains natural oils and waxes. Mink oil and beeswax products are a great choice.
When looking for a waterproofing product, remember that some products can make your boots darker. Read the product label to make sure you’re using the right one. Pay attention to the color as well. Some waterproofing products are tinted, while some are clear and can be used for any color boot.
How to Waterproof Leather Boots for Winter
Leather boots are waterproof to some extent, especially boots made for hiking, but over time the leather can lose its natural moisture and get dry and cracked. This allows water to seep in, further ruining your boots and getting your feet wet.
What you’ll need:
- A stiff brush
- A waterproofing product (wax is best for full-grain leather)
- A cloth for applying and buffing
How to waterproof:
- Dab up a small amount of wax onto your application cloth. If the wax is too hard you can soften it with a hair dryer.
- Starting in the lower part of the boot, rub the wax into the leather in small, circular motions.
- Make sure to give special attention to the seams, as these are most vulnerable to water.
- Let the boots sit overnight so the treatment can cure.
- Use a soft cloth to buff off any leftover residue and polish your boots.
How to Waterproof Suede Boots for Winter
Suede requires different treatment from full-grain leather, as it can easily be damaged and stained. Use a spray treatment specifically designed for suede boots.
What you’ll need:
- A soft brush or soft cloth
- Waterproofing spray for suede
- Stain erasers (optional)
How to waterproof:
- Brush the suede so that the grain is going in one direction. If your boots have water damage already, you can use a stain eraser to help remove any marks.
- Spray the treatment evenly over the boots, avoiding staying too long in one spot.
- Let your boots sit for 24 hours to cure in a dry space.
Leather boots can be very expensive, so it’s natural to want to take good care of them, especially if you’re using your boots for something as strenuous as hiking in the winter. They’re naturally somewhat waterproof, but even the hardiest leather boots can’t always stand up to rain and snow.
Before you give up on ever wearing that pair of leather boots in the winter for fear of ruining them or having to buy a new pair of hiking boots, take a little time to get your boots ready for the elements. With a few simple materials and a few minutes of your time you can waterproof your leather boots for winter. Following these steps to waterproof your boots will ensure that those expensive boots will last you through the winter and for many more years to come!