Want to make your work boots last longer? There is no secret formula that will keep your leather boots shining all the time. However, you can periodically clean and condition your work boots.
This will not only make them look good but will also make them last longer. In this article, I’m going to show you how I clean my waterproof leather work boots and also tell you the importance of proper boot care.
If your work involves dirt, grease, hydraulic fluid, muds, sand, and all kinds of different elements, there is no doubt that your boots will get dirty very quickly.
In this post we'll cover:
Cleaning Leather Work Boots
Clean products give you better service. You may have the most comfortable steel toe work boots if you keep it dirty. but it will not serve you well if you do not clean I’m going to take you through the steps of how I clean and condition my work boots.
Step 1 – Removing The Laces
Step 1 is really simple. Always remove the laces so that we can get into the tongue and the rest of the boot. To clean, first, you will need a stiff brush. You can use any small soap brush.
Step 2 – Scrubbing
Remove any of the excess dirt, debris, and sand that you can with the brush. Try to pay as much attention as possible to the welt and any of the seams. You want to get as much of the dirt and debris off as you can.
Also, make sure to clean out around the tongue section. This is why you need to take all the laces out. If you have waterproof leather and if the leather is high-quality leather, then you won’t have to worry about damaging the boot when you are scrubbing it.
So, if you have got a waterproof boot or an oil tan leather, you can do the same thing. Also, brush underneath the boot.
Step 3 – Go To The Sink
Once you feel like you have taken out most of the dirt, the next step for us is to take the boot over to the sink. We are going to give this boot a good rinse and wash and make sure we get the rest of the dirt, grime buildup.
If you have oil stains on your boot, this is the step to get them out of your boots. You also need to prep your boot for conditioning. So, to start cleaning the boot in the sink, you will need a toothbrush, a small soap brush or a scrubber, and mild detergent.
Step 4 – Scrub It Again Using Water and Soap Brush
Let me clarify something first. I’m no expert in this. But I can tell you from my experiences what I’ve had success with. I also made sure to go talk to my local boot supply store and took his advice. And this is what he told me to do too.
As I said, this is what I’ve done in the past, and my boots have turned out just fine. Again, the boot for this demonstration has waterproof leather, so you don’t have to worry about getting them wet.
In this step, you only need to get the dust and dirt while keeping your boots under running water.
Step 5 – Use Soap (Mild Detergent Only)
Now, use a little bit of soap. Only use a mild detergent and don’t use anything fancy. I know there are going to be people reading this that will go nuts when they see this. I mean dish soap, really?
Yes. And you won’t have to worry about the leather. If it is a high quality one, you won’t have to worry about damaging the leather. This is going to get the oil stains off, and it is also going to pull out some of the oil on the boot.
You know, the natural oil that the boots come with. Anyway, we are going to condition it later on, so a little oil loss won’t matter that much. Rest assured; we are going to put stuff back in.
Even when you go to websites and look at some really high-end boots, even they recommend doing it. You can use saddle soap, that works too. But again, the goal here is to get off as much of the dirt and grime.
Step 6 – Getting Sands Off
The biggest culprit out there is sand and dirt. So, you got to really make sure that you get into all the seams because that is where the sand is going to get in between some of that thread.
Scrub them under running water, and the sands and dirt will come apart. Make sure they are super clean and ready to go – all right, so that was all for the cleaning part.
Final Step – Let The Boots Dry
Now all you have to do is wait. Let the boot dry. Don’t use a boot dryer or a hairdryer to quicken the process. Since you are cleaning a waterproof, the water is basically going to drip off. Once the boot gets completely dry, we are going to condition the leather.
How To Condition Leather Work Boots?
So far, we have cleaned the boots. We have let it air dry. What I usually do is let it dry overnight to make sure the boots are completely dry before I condition them. For this demonstration, I’m going to be using the Red Wing Naturseal Liquid 95144.
I don’t see a lot of reviews for this product, but this stuff is amazing. It is a little bit pricier. For this type of leather, specifically waterproof leather, this liquid is amazing.
It can condition the leather, and it is also able to penetrate the waterproof leather and really get in there and acts as a water barrier as well. This makes the boot more water-resistant.
Because of this feature, I’m willing to spend some extra money to prolong the lifespan of the boots. With that being said, let me show you the steps I follow to condition my leather work boots.
- Shake the conditioner and apply it all over the boot. Make sure you get the conditioner into all the seams because that is where it is liable to come undone.
- You want to make sure that the boot lasts, so apply generously. When you start applying the condition, you are going to see it starting to bubble up and get all over the leather. You will need to cover the entire boot with this.
- There is a lot of debate, and even when I was researching online, I couldn’t find a definitive answer because I don’t think there is a definitive answer. But I’m going to tell you what works well for me.
- From what I found out from the people that I talk to and the research I did between the difference between oils and creams. The liquid I’ve chosen is an oil, and we are applying it all over the shoe.
- Oil starts to dry up pretty fast, and it goes on pretty quickly. Oils are used for work and outdoor boots for more extreme conditions. Whereas creams are better for maintain the look and the appearance of the leather and not changing the color as much while making sure, the leather remains shiny.
- I’ve got nothing against cream but for my work boots, that won’t cut it. Instead, oils are very good at maintaining the performance of the leather, keeping it soft & keeping it apply able.
- With all the dust, specifically in the sand, it dries out the leather really quick. Now, back to conditioning. Make sure to go all the way up to the tongue making sure you can see the oil clearly.
- The other thing I like about oil as opposed to creams, in my opinion, is that they don’t attract dust and dirt as much as a mink oil would. So, in a nutshell, work outdoor boots use oil. And dress boots and casual boots use cream.
Once you have finished applying the oil, let the boot air dry. It doesn’t take too long for the boot to completely absorb the conditioner. You can wear it like it is. But it is better if you let the boots sit for a little bit before you put on the laces.
Make sure the conditioner gets down deep into the leather. This helps the boot condition better. You can use oil from any other brand, but this one works the best.
All right, so that concludes our article on how to clean work boots, there are other ways you can go about this, but this is the method that works for me the best. Make sure to buff it off, lace it up, and then we will be done.
Once you have let your boots air dry with the Naturseal on them, the last step is to just get a real horsehair brush and buff it out at the end. This does add some shine to it while getting any of the remaining bubbles and stuff from the conditioner off the boot.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.