Leather boots look great when they are new, but old boots break down with long or rough wear. You may be wondering how to restore leather boots — or if they are unsalvageable once the dirt, salt, and moisture get to them.
There is good news: you can restore leather boots at home, and it doesn’t even take much effort. You can get your old leather boots (even a pair of work boots) looking like a new pair in just a few minutes.
We tried a few of these tips and tricks and had success with them!
Now we’re here to share the tricks so you can bring your pair of leather boots back to life, no matter how much wear they have.
In this guide, we will talk about how to restore leather boots, including:
- How to clean your leather boots
- How to condition your leather boots
- How to remove salt stains
- How to remove oil and grease
- How to remove general stains
- How to polish your leather boots
Tools You Need
To restore your pair of boots, you need a few basic tools. You can find these in many stores, both online and in person. They will do all the work you need to restore shine and luster to worn leather shoes.
Make sure you have:
- A horsehair brush
- Boot/leather conditioner
- Leather boot cream
- Cornstarch or baking soda (for grease stains)
- Clean, dry cloths
- Lemon juice and cream of tartar (for other stains)
- Leather oil
Leather boot polish
- Saddle soap or dish soap
- Vinegar (for salt stains)
How to Clean Your Leather Boots
Dirt, oil, salt, and ice can all break down your old leather boots. Cleaning them properly is the first step to restoration.
Luckily, doing this isn’t difficult — it just takes the right materials and a bit of elbow grease.
First, remove the old laces of your boots and put them in the laundry or replace them if they are in need of repair.
Then, brush off any dry dust, sand, or caked-on mud. You can do this with a soft cotton cloth or a stiff brush.
When the excess grit is removed, dip a cloth into a solution of warm water and saddle soap. If you don’t have saddle soap, you can use regular dish soap (though it’s not as gentle!).
Rub it gently in circular motions around the leather. Then rinse the rag out and repeat the method with plain water to wipe off the soap residue.
Then, pat the boots with a dry towel to wipe off as much of the excess moisture as possible.
Leave them to air dry, but take care that they are not in direct sunlight or near a source of heat (such as a fireplace or heater).
Too much heat or light will dry the leather out and possibly crack it during this delicate process. Drying the boots might take 24 to 48 hours.
Next, it is time to condition the boots. This helps restore the tiny fibers of the leather, protecting it from dirt and wear and restoring its softness and flexibility.
If you have boot oil, wrap a clean rag around your index finger and dip it in the oil, then rub it gently in circular motions over the leather to prepare it for conditioning.
If you do not have leather oil, you can prepare the boots by warming them slightly, either by placing them in indirect sunlight for about an hour or with a hairdryer on a low setting. Don’t let them get too hot, just slightly warm to the touch.
How to Condition Leather Boots
To condition leather boots, you will need some top-quality boot conditioner.
First, take the leather conditioner and use your hands to apply a generous layer all over the surface.
Using your horsehair brush, buff the leather slowly and evenly. This will remove the excess conditioner from the surface. Make sure to clean your brush thoroughly when you are done!
Next, apply boot cream. To do this, use a clean, dry cloth to rub the cream into the leather in circular motions.
Leave the boots to rest overnight. This gives the cream time to soak into the surface and add an extra coat of protection.
After the pair of boots has rested about 12 hours, take the clean horsehair brush and buff them once again, slowly and evenly.
How to Polish Leather Boots
Polishing leather boots might seem self-explanatory, but there is a method to the process! Following this method ensures that your boots get their natural shine back.
The most important part of polishing your leather boots is making sure you work on a small section at a time.
This process might take a while since you will have to pay careful attention and make sure that each part of the boot is in prime condition once again.
To get started, gather your boot polish along with a clean, dry rag and a small dish of water.
Wrap the rag around your index finger and dip it into the boot polish. Work your way in small, slow circles around the boot.
Whenever you notice that there is some resistance or a rough feeling, dip the rag in some water. This will give you a bit more power and help the shoe shine.
Spend some extra time on the spot until you feel it become smooth and it starts to shine with new life once again.
If a single layer of polish does not do the trick, feel free to add another. You can continue to add layers of polish and water until you restore their polish and life. Eventually they’ll look like a new pair!
How to Remove Stains From Your Leather Boots
Now that you’ve learned how to restore leather boots, it’s also important to keep them in top shape. One of the most common issues that you’ll run into is stains.
Here’s how to deal with some of the most typical nuisances.
How to Remove General Stains
Sometimes, life happens to your leather boots.
Maybe you step in something gross, drop some tomato sauce on your shoe, or a child draws on your work boots with a marker. The best way to treat stains like these is a bit different than treating grease stains.
You can find what you need to restore your pair of shoes to life for free in your own kitchen.
Make a simple paste with some lemon juice and cream of tartar in a 50:50 ratio. Pat it gently onto the leather on and around the stain.
Then let your shoes rest with the paste on for an hour before wiping them clean with a damp cloth and letting them air dry.
Wiping the paste off is extremely important. Lemon juice can cause discoloration if left on for too long, so make sure you remove it completely. This will restore your shoes while keeping them safe.
How to Remove Salt Stains
If you live in a place where it snows in the winter, you probably know the havoc that road salt can wreak on leather boots or shoes.
Salt is used on roads, sidewalks, and driveways to keep people from slipping on slick, icy surfaces. Although it works very effectively, it can also cover your leather boots in ugly white patches.
The good news is that it is easy to remove salt stains from your leather boots or shoes. You don’t even need any special materials — just a few things free from your pantry or fridge.
First, you will need a soft cloth — preferably made of cotton — and a mixture of one part white vinegar to two parts water.
Dip the cloth in the water and vinegar mixture and wipe it gently in circular motions across the leather.
Repeat it as many times as needed to remove all the salt stains. Once the salt is gone, repeat the method with plain water to remove the vinegar.
You can do this as often as necessary, as long as you thoroughly remove the vinegar afterward.
It is a good idea to do it as soon as spring arrives, to avoid letting the salt stains set and get ingrained in the leather, compromising the integrity of the fibers.
How to Remove Oil Stains
Walking through a parking lot or a work area can result in unpleasant grease stains on your leather boots. The good news is that removing them is as simple as looking in your pantry.
Grab some baking soda or cornstarch and apply it to the oil stain. Then rub the powder into the leather gently in small circular motions, using a damp — but not soaking wet — cloth.
Let the boots rest overnight. This will give the cornstarch or baking soda the chance to soak up the grease and free those stains.
The next day, remove the remaining baking soda or cornstarch with a wet rag and let the boots air dry. Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer on a low setting.
If the stain has not gone completely, feel free to repeat the process.
Taking care of your worn leather boots can be a long process. But it is easier than you might expect.
With a few basic tools and some patience, you can get your old boots back to life in no time. Even shoes with lots of wear will shine with the proper repair.
If you want to keep your leather shoes in prime condition, it is important to provide them with regular cleaning and proper care.
Keep a tool kit on hand so you can keep up the maintenance, so your boots shine for many years to come.