The first signs of winter and everyone’s thinking, ‘time to bring out the leather boots’. Okay perhaps not everyone, and possibly not just in winter. Yet a good number of people who understand the value and importance of having a good pair of clean leather boots, know the feeling.

A pair that can be shown off as well as serve a more functional purpose of warmth and comfort. So the question remains, “Just how to clean leather boots?”

While all this may sound all too good to the ears as well as the feet, what many of us try to sneak out of, is the cleaning and maintaining of those boots we all have a soft spot for.

Truth be told, it happens to the best of us, and what’s more is that there is often some confusion attached to the ritual of cleaning leather boots. Conditioning leather boots? Polishing leather boots and waterproofing to name a few.

If this sounds more or less like something you find yourself caught up in, or maybe just a little confused with where to begin, then this post is just for you.

Cleaning leather boots need not be a daunting task as it is actually really simple once you know where to begin and how to achieve lasting results through little to no real effort at all.

In this post we’ll be covering:

  1. How to Clean Muddy Leather Boots Using Household Items
  2. Cleaning Leather Boots with Vinegar
  3. Conditioning Leather Boots
  4. Polishing Leather Boots
  5. Waterproofing Leather Boots
  6. How to Remove Oil and Grease Stains
  7. How to Remove Ink Stains
  8. How to Remove Scuff
  9. Some Storage Solutions
  10. FAQs

1. How to Clean Muddy Leather Boots Using Household Items

Cleaning leather boots

Before getting started, remove the laces so they don’t get ruined or discolored during this cleaning process. If they are dirty, run them through the washing machine or replace them.

Start by cleaning loose dirt and debris, by using a soft cloth or even a brush (horsehair) to remove any grime that is stuck to the shoe. Don’t forget to check the soles or surrounding areas, at this point.

Now is when you bring in the soap (any mild soap) that you may have at home. After making a solution of warm water and soap, dip the soft cleaning cloth and start wiping the exterior surface of the leather boots.

Once this is complete, wipe off the soap with a clean, damp cloth or possibly even use a towel if it isn’t too rough or thick. Remember, a warm soapy solution is also good for removing water stains or scuffs so check for these and see that they are eliminated.

Once this is done, you can move ahead and start conditioning your leather boots (if not repeat the stage above if stains or debris is still visible).

Begin the conditioning by using a leather conditioner to protect your leather boots from stains in the future. This also helps to give your leather boots some shine and subtle sparkle. You can even make your own leather conditioner by mixing 1 part vinegar to 2 parts linseed oil.

You can apply this to your leather boots, for home-based conditioning, for roughly 15 minutes and buff with a soft cloth till you see your leather boots shine.

Once this is complete, don’t forget to thoroughly dry your clean leather boots in open air. NEVER put them in the sun or near a heater in attempts to drying it quick as this would cause the leather to fade or even crack. They should be allowed to dry naturally.

2. Cleaning Leather Boots with Vinegar

After making a solution of equal parts of water and vinegar or a mild moisturizing soap instead of vinegar, take a rag and soak in this cleanser. Dab the stained parts of your leather boots and wipe with a damp cloth, once you are done. Now wipe the leather boots dry with a towel and allow them to dry naturally.

NEVER try to speed-up the drying process by placing leather boots near heated area or they will become brittle and easily prone to cracks and damage. Once they are dry, it’s time to buff your leather boots with a soft cloth.

3. Conditioning Leather Boots

leather conditioning

By now, we’ve learned to clean our leather boots and polishing them as well. What is an important part of this ‘how to clean leather boots’ routine that often gets missed is conditioning leather boots.

To start, you would need some specialty boot cream, leather oil, some mink oil (be careful, this can over-soften leather so choose to use this sparingly for delicate or expensive leather) and leather conditioner.

Likewise, your leather conditioner should have instructions on the product demonstrating how it is to be used and what types of leather it should be used for. Read the instructions carefully and also match your leather boots to the list of leather types mentioned before use.

As far as quantity goes, it’s always best to start with a small amount first and then apply a bit more later on, should you need to. As you do with polishing, apply one by one the products mentioned above and polish with a soft bristle brush and buff with a soft, dry cloth.

4. Polishing Leather Boots

As with all leather footwear, polishing leather boots begins with a quick dust, freeing them from any debris or dust. You then apply a thin coat of polish which you then spread around using a horsehair brush.
Keep polishing until you achieve the result you desire and then start buffing, using a soft, clean cloth. Buffing should continue until you begin to see your leather boots shining. Don’t shy away from using different techniques and positions to get that awesome shine.
There are many other options such as sprays and liquid polish that may work well for some people but most would find that the good old-fashioned way, using just a brush, some polish and a cloth, is better and more effective.

5. Waterproofing Leather Boots

Waterproofing Leather boots

Though good quality leather boots tend to already be water-resistant, you really want to give your leather boots some extra care and protection. The only way to do that is to go for easy waterproofing that will enable your leather boots to withstand the elements outside.

After conditioning your leather boots, use a wax-based polish and apply a waterproof spray over the leather surface. Make sure that it is the last product you apply to your leather boots to ensure good results.

It would be good to remember that regardless of how wet your leather boots may get, never dry them near the fire, or any heated outlet, as this can cause the leather to easily dry out or crack, sometimes even both. The best drying solution would be to allow them to air dry or to dry at room temperature.

6. How to Remove Oil and Grease Stains?

Did you know that you can remove oil and grease stains from your leather boots by sprinkling baking soda or cornstarch on the affected area? Next, you rub it in gently with a damp cloth and let it sit for a few hours or even overnight. The starch or soda will absorb the oil, allowing you to wipe off the powder with a soft cloth.

7. How to Remove Ink Stains?

By dipping a cotton swab in nail-polish remover and applying it to the surface, or rubbing alcohol over the area can remove ink stains. Don’t rub too extensively or aggressively as this may make the ink stain spread further.

Always go for blotting the stains as it will help speed up the process. Lastly, you can wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth and dry with a towel.

8. How to Remove Scuff?

Scuffed leather boots shouldn’t be scrubbed too much or vigorously, simply to avoid further damage. Instead, dip a soft cloth in water and then dip it in baking soda. Rub this cloth gently over the scuff marks made on your leather boots.

Using another clean and damp cloth, wipe the area clean and buff them dry with a soft dry cloth and set aside to dry naturally.

Did you know: You can also use toothpaste to clean scuff off leather boots. All you have to do is squirt a small amount of non-gel toothpaste over the scuffed area. Rub clean with a soft cloth.

9. Some Storage Solutions

When your leather boots dry naturally, you will notice they have less chances of being brittle and prone to damage as opposed to when you expose them to heated conditions. For storage, never store leather boots or any leather products for that matter, in plastic bags, this prevents the leather from breathing.

Remember! Leather is a skin or hide which means it requires some degree of air to breathe. If you do decide to go with a box then let the lid of the box loose so some air may enter the box.

Time Saving Tips

As a rule of thumb, always give your leather boots a good protective coating at the start and end of each season as well as in between to post cleanings. It’s always a good idea to spray clean, dry leather boots with a waterproofing spray to prevent salt stains.

A great idea would be to line up all your leather boots and conduct a cleaning process in one sitting. This will save you time and hassle later on.

Did you Know?

Petroleum jelly to clean leather boots

Did you know that petroleum jelly can work wonders for your leather boots? All you have to do is dip a soft, dry cloth into a jar of petroleum jelly and apply to your boots only after they have been cleaned.

Use this jelly especially on scratches and scuffs by rubbing the cloth over the area in circular motion. NEVER use petroleum jelly on suede boots.

For salt stains, you can use diluted vinegar, using a soft cloth apply this over the salted, stained area and watch the magic unfold. You can also use corn-starch to remove grease stains from leather. What’s even more interesting, is that you can do this on suede as well.

On completely dry leather boots, use a healthy amount of corn-starch and let it sit on the grease stains for a half hour or over-night to allow the corn-starch to absorb the grease. Using a damp cloth remove the corn-starch residue using a bit of dish soap and the grease stains will vanish.

Signing off…

It goes without saying, many of us were either apprehensive or confused about how to clean leather boots and now not so much. Simply because we’ve learned that cleaning leather boots isn’t the rocket science that many of us thought it was initially.

Leather boots can totally be cleaned and maintained at home, using household items and without spending too much time.

All you have to remember is the dusting and clearing of debris, cleaning then polishing and conditioning the leather boots, waterproofing and careful storage for long lasting and well maintained, clean leather boots.


What household items can I use to clean leather boots?

Household items such as soap, vinegar, water, cleanser, toothpaste, cotton swabs, alcohol, nail-polish remover, baking soda and cornstarch are just a few, commonly used to clean leather boots with success.

How do you treat leather boots?

Cleaning is just one aspect of the treatment and care of leather boots. Other phases include un-scuffing, polishing, buffing, conditioning, waterproofing, drying and storing.

How do you clean dirty leather boots?

You can clean leather boots by simply using a mild soap and warm water. Once you’re done, use a soft cloth for wiping clean.

How do you deodorize leather boots?

You can deodorize leather boots by using two or three orange peels in each boot and allowing them to sit overnight, orange peel can be replaced with a bit of vanilla as well, applied on some paper and then placed in each boot. Baking soda is another alternative to deodorize leather boots.

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