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Walking

How to Waterproof Leather and Fabric Boots

Did you know that you can easily waterproof any pair of boots from your own home? All you need are a handful of simple tools and materials to help you transform your shoes into a fortified water-repelling version of their old selves. The great news is that it costs very little and is completely doable by everyone – no special training needed.

There’s nothing like a good pair of shiny new waterproof boots, but with wear, they can quickly become tattered and unsightly, and lose all their great features. Cleaning your boots regularly and reproofing them with care will cost you next to nothing, but the returns will be enormous as the lifespan of your footwear will be lengthened significantly.

When you reproof your boots depends on the frequency of wear and intensity of use. It’s usually not necessary to reproof after every single use but we recommend reproofing every couple of wears to prevent any damage or serious wear-and-tear from deteriorating their condition. It’s better to carry out reproofing more than required than let your boots go downhill and beyond repair. This will save you money and ultimately, the hassle of replacing a pair you were initially happy with.

Full Grain Leather Boots

Leather is a naturally water-repellent material but it doesn’t mean you can’t boost this property with a bit of artificial help. There’s a range of dubbing waxes available on the market. These waxes are specially formulated to restore waterproofness and condition the leather. Since leather is made from animal rawhide and skin, over time it can lose its natural oils and moisture and start to crack and dry. Leather cream is the best solution for this; it restores the shine of any leather shoe and nourishes and protects it from future scuffing, acting as a conditioner.

Check out our advice page on How to use Dubbin on Boots and Shoes.

Follow these steps for successfully reproofing your leather boots:

  1. Clean the boots thoroughly and effectively. Remove any loose dirt first, and use a cloth soaked in warm water to wipe the rest of the boots clean. If heavily soiled, rinse it with lukewarm water but never submerge the boot itself in it, as this could cause irreversible damage.
  2. Let the boots dry before any application of treatment gels, creams or waxes. Natural drying is key; if you try to dry the boots quickly using a hairdryer, for example, there’s a higher risk of the boots forming cracks.
  3. Apply a small amount of dubbing wax to a dry cloth and rub all over the leather. Don’t use too much wax as this causes the boots to harden. Start by rubbing in a very modest amount and use more for secondary coverage if needed. If the wax is too solid to be rubbed, gently melt it using a hairdryer.
  4. Leave the boots to dry naturally for at least 30-60 minutes. Resist the temptation to use a heat source, as this will result in premature cracking.
  5. Buff the wax off with a dry cloth.

Conditioning

Conditioning leather boots tends to work best when they’re damp, as the moisture in the pores pulls in the conditioning substance as it evaporates, leading to higher absorption. Don’t go overboard with the conditioner, though. Too much of it and the boots will end up flimsy and soft, instead of firm and supportive. Conditioning should be limited to when it’s absolutely necessary, not every time you use the footwear.

Follow these steps for successfully conditioning your leather boots:

  1. Use a tiny amount of conditioner either on your fingers or on a clean cloth and work it into the boot in massage-like movements. You should aim for a thin, even coating including the seams and welts.
  2. Let the boots sit at room temperature for a couple of minutes.
  3. Remove any excess conditioner with a clean, dry cloth and allow to dry naturally without using a heat source.

Nubuck Leather and Suede Boots

Nubuck leather and suede boots require a different treatment from regular, full-grain leather boots. This usually comes in the form of a waterproofing spray designed to restore waterproofness to nubuck and suede leather. Never use dubbing wax on these materials as it’s solely intended for use on smooth leather and will ruin the ‘fuzzy’ feel of nubuck and suede, not to mention stain the material.

Follow these steps for successfully reproofing your nubuck leather and suede boots:

  1. Clean the boots as instructed above.
  2. Select an appropriate waterproofing spray that is certified as suitable for use on nubuck and suede.
  3. Spray the aerosol at a distance of around 5 centimetres, ensuring that the boots are evenly coated.
  4. Let boots dry naturally without the help of an artificial heat source such as a hairdryer, as this will damage them.
  5. A suede brush is ideal for restoring the boots’ original finish and perk up the tiny hairs in the material.

Fabric Boots

It’s generally more challenging to clean a pair of fabric boots rather than leather ones, due to the nature of the material. Therefore, it’s even more important to avoid soiling them in the first place and take good care of them to reduce the need for complicated cleaning. Fabric is less durable and more delicate than leather. Prone to decay due to the dirt particles that easily lodge themselves within the fabric, these boots have a shorter lifespan and do benefit greatly from reproofing.

Follow these steps for successfully reproofing your fabric boots:

  1. Clean the boots in the same manner detailed above.
  2. Choose a waterproofing spray or aerosol reproofer specifically designed for fabric boots. The advantage of aerosol reproofers is that they are more concentrated than sprays and easier to locate as a coating on the boots, so you have more control over reproofing.
  3. You can reproof the boots while they’re either wet or dry. We recommend cleaning and drying out your boots, applying the reproofer and leaving them to dry overnight again before you wear them out. This process is slightly longer but it will allow you to see where you’ve already sprayed the boots much better than if they’re wet. On the other hand, reproofing on wet boots will probably lead to the waterproofing substance sealing in better and lasting longer.
  4. Regardless of the boots’ moisture level after application, you should allow them to dry until the boots are completely moisture-free before you next wear them.

When you’re finished, your boots will look healthier and younger and your feet will enjoy watertight conditions for at least several weeks of hard use once more. When the boots start to look tired and scuffed again, simply follow the above steps again to restore their vitality.

We stock multi-purpose waterproof sprays as an additional solution for boots that do not fit any particular one of these categories, or if you’d like a product that caters for any proofing needs that might arise.

While you’re reproofing your boots,
why not re waterproof your jacket at the same time?