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How to Waterproof Leather Boots for Winter

How to Waterproof Leather Boots for Winter

Keeping your feet dry in winter weather is one of the most important things to staying warm! Learn how to waterproof leather boots for winter to extend the longevity of your boots and enjoy your time outdoors. 

Winter weather can be tough on your footwear, especially if you live in an area prone to rain, snow, and slush. There’s nothing that ruins a fun day outdoors than feeling your socks get wet in your boots and your toes starting to freeze!

To ensure that your leather boots survive the season and keep your feet warm and dry, it’s essential to properly waterproof them at the start of the season and maintain them throughout. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to waterproof your leather boots for winter, helping you extend their lifespan and maintain their appearance. 

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Why Waterproof Your Leather Boots? 

Leather boots are naturally porous, which makes them susceptible to moisture. Even boots that come pretreated are likely going to need to be retreated at least once a season to maintain the waterproofing. 

Winter conditions, including snow and slush, can lead to water damage, stains, and even the eventual breakdown of the leather. Waterproofing your boots provides several benefits: 

  • Protection from Moisture: Waterproofing creates a barrier that repels water, preventing it from penetrating the leather. 
  • Extended Lifespan: By shielding your boots from moisture, you can prolong their life and maintain their integrity. 
  • Improved Comfort: Dry feet are warm feet. Waterproof boots keep your feet dry, making winter outings more comfortable. 
  • Enhanced Appearance: Regularly waterproofing your boots helps prevent stains, salt marks, and scuffs, ensuring they look good season after season. 

Materials You’ll Need to Waterproof Leather Boots 

Before you start the waterproofing process, gather these materials: 

Shoe Cleaning Brush: To prepare your boots for waterproofing, you’ll want to brush off any visible dirt and grime. You can get a shoe cleaning brush separately, but they often come in a shoe cleaning kit too (I like this one).

Leather Cleaner: For a deeper clean, apply a leather cleaning gel to get any dirt that has worked it’s way into the leather. 

Leather Conditioner: This helps restore the leather’s natural oils, making it more resistant to water. 

Waterproofing Product: Choose your waterproofing product, such as a wax, cream, or spray specifically designed for leather of your boots. Note that even waterproofing products without dyes often darken the color of the leather as the product is moisturizing. Often times I’ll find that they’ll make the leather darker and richer. It’s best to test a product in an inconspicuous spot first. 

Waterproofing wax is ideal for full-grain leather.  

  • Otter Wax: For an all-natural product, Otter Wax is made with beeswax and lanolin, and adds a layer to your boots that both protects and nourishes the leather Waxes are ideal for full-grain leather.  
  • Nikwax Waterproofing Wax: Nikwax is one of the top name brand products for all footwear cleaning and waterproofing products, and so far I’ve had a great experience with them. They’re easy to apply and effective. 

Waterproofing Spray is best for smooth, soft leather. A spray like this can also be used on fabric. 

Waterproofing Spray for Nubuck and Suede 

  • Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Spray: Note that there are different sprays for smooth leather and full-grain leather vs nubuck and suede. They are not interchangeable. Suede and nubuck are textured leather. It’s important to use the right waterproofing product that will preserve this texture while adding water repellency. 

Soft Cloth or Brush: Use a soft cloth or brush to apply the waterproofing product evenly. 

Hairdryer (optional): This can be used to help the product penetrate the leather and dry faster. 

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Waterproof Leather Boots for Winter

If these seem like a lot of products and way more steps than you were expected, then just think about the fact that leather is skin. It needs to be cleaned and moisturized to stay supple and look its best.

  • Clean Your Boots: Start by cleaning your boots. First brush off all the visible dirt, then use a leather cleaner and a soft brush to remove deeper dirt and grime. Pay attention to seams and creases where dirt tends to accumulate. 
  • Let Them Dry: After cleaning, allow your boots to air dry completely. Do not use a direct heat source like a heater or radiator, as it can damage the leather. 
  • Condition the Leather: Apply a leather conditioner to the boots. This will help replenish the natural oils in the leather, making it more supple and resistant to water. Follow the product’s instructions for application. 
  • Choose the Right Waterproofing Product: Select a waterproofing product from the list above that is made for your boots’ type of leather.
  • Apply the Waterproofing Product: Use a soft cloth or brush to apply the waterproofing product evenly. Ensure you cover every part of the boot, including seams and stitching. Don’t forget the tongue and the top edge of the boot. For better penetration, you can use a hairdryer on low heat after application. 
  • Allow for Drying Time: Give the boots ample time to dry. This may take a few hours, or even overnight, depending on the product and environmental conditions. Make sure they are completely dry before wearing them. 
  • Test Them Out: To ensure your boots are adequately waterproofed, test them by splashing a small amount of water on the surface. If the water beads up and rolls off, your boots are effectively waterproofed. 
  • Maintain Regularly: Reapply the waterproofing product as needed throughout the winter season, especially after heavy use or exposure to particularly wet conditions. 

By following these steps, you can keep your leather boots in excellent condition and protect them from the harsh winter elements. Properly waterproofed boots will not only keep your feet warm and dry but also look stylish and last for many winters to come. Don’t let the weather get the best of your favorite boots; take the time to care for them, and they’ll serve you well during the winter season and beyond. 

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