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Caring for Leather Work Boots

Leather work boots are a staple for many tradespeople, providing the durability and protection needed on the job. However, it's not enough to simply wear the boots. Proper care is essential to prolong the life of leather work boots and ensure they provide the necessary protection for years to come. Here, we’ll show you how to care for leather work boots properly.

The Importance of Proper Care and Maintenance

Dirty leather boots on hike

Proper care and maintenance of your leather boots are essential for ensuring their longevity and keeping them in good condition. Neglecting proper care and maintenance can lead to premature wear and tear, reduced comfort, loss of water repellency, and decreased protection.

Here's why proper leather boot care and maintenance are so important:

  • Prolongs the life of the boots: Regular cleaning, conditioning, and protecting the leather can help prevent cracking, fading, premature wear, and other signs of aging.
  • Maintaining comfort: Properly storing and tying your work boots and regularly cleaning and conditioning the leather can help maintain the boots' comfort and prevent blisters or sore spots.
  • Protects your feet: Proper care and maintenance of your work boots can help ensure they provide the necessary protection for your feet and keep them safe from potential hazards.

Breaking In Your New Boots

Leather work boots are a significant investment, and breaking them in properly is essential for preventing discomfort and blisters. Start with short wearing periods and gradually increase the length of time you wear the boots.

Flex and move your feet and ankles inside the boots to help break them in and mold them to the shape of your feet. Use boot trees to help maintain the shape of the boots when not in use.

Avoid exposing the boots to excessive heat or moisture, as this can damage the leather. Additionally, avoid walking or working in difficult terrain or conditions during the break-in period.

Choosing a Cleaner and Conditioner

Look for a mild soap or leather cleaner specifically designed for use on leather. Avoid using harsh chemicals, such as bleach or ammonia, as these can damage the leather. Check the manufacturer's recommendations for the best cleaner for your specific type of leather.

Before applying a cleaner, conditioner, or oil on your entire leather boots, test out the specialty product on a small, discreet area to see any significant color changes.

When choosing a conditioner, avoid using products containing mineral oil or petroleum, as these are drying and can damage the leather over time. Choose a conditioner or boot oil that contains natural ingredients, such as beeswax or mink oil, to help maintain the leather’s natural oils.

Cleaning the Boots

Person cleaning dirty leather boots

Regular cleaning is crucial for maintaining the appearance and longevity of leather footwear. Excess dirt, grime, mud, and other debris can cause damage to the leather and affect its water-resistant properties. Here's how to clean your work boots:

Materials needed:

  • Mild soap
  • Water
  • Clean cloth


  1. Remove any dirt or debris from the boots using a soft brush or cloth.
  2. Mix a small amount of mild soap with water in a bowl.
  3. Dip the cloth into the soap solution and gently rub it onto the boots.
  4. Rinse the cloth and repeat until all soap residue is removed.
  5. Allow the boots to air dry completely before wearing or storing them.

Tips for removing tough stains or scuffs:

  • For tough stains, try using a leather cleaner specifically designed for work boots.
  • For scuffs, gently rub the area with a damp cloth and mild soap.

It's not just the outside of your leather work boots that need care and attention. The inside is equally important. Remove any dirt, rocks, or debris from the inside. Use a soft brush, such as an old toothbrush, to gently scrub the insole and inside of the boot.

Spot clean with soap or a low-pH shampoo and water for any tough stains or scuffs. Let the boots air out for a few hours to ensure they are completely dry before wearing them again.

While full-grain leather is the most durable and natural type of leather, it's not the only type used in work boots. Other specialty types of leather, such as suede and nubuck leather, require different cleaning methods and products.

Suede is a soft and delicate type of leather that should only be cleaned with a specialized suede cleaner or brush. Avoid using water or other liquids on suede, as this can cause staining and damage.

Nubuck is similar to suede but has a slightly coarser texture. It can be cleaned with a soft brush or cloth and a specialized nubuck cleaner. Avoid using water or liquids, and be gentle when brushing to avoid damaging the leather.

Conditioning the Leather

Worn leather boots on table

Leather conditioning is an essential step in caring for leather work boots. Conditioning helps to restore the natural oils in the leather, preventing cracking and keeping the boots soft and supple.

How often you need to condition your work boots depends on how often you wear them and the work environment. Prolonged exposure to rain, heat, mud or other environmental factors requires more frequent cleaning and conditioning. We recommend conditioning every month or so.

Here's how to condition your leather work boots:

Materials needed:

  • Leather conditioner
  • Soft cloth


  1. Clean the boots thoroughly and allow them to air dry.
  2. Apply the leather conditioner to the soft cloth.
  3. Gently rub the cloth into the leather, covering the entire surface of the boots.
  4. Allow the leather to absorb the conditioner for a few minutes.
  5. Wipe away any excess conditioner with a clean cloth.

Tips for maintaining the leather’s natural oils:

  • Condition the leather regularly, especially after exposure to water and dirt.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or products that can strip the leather’s natural oils.
  • Excessive oiling can damage leather and attract dirt and other debris.

Protecting the Boots

Protecting your leather work boots from elements such as water, dirt, mud, and the sun is crucial in maintaining their longevity and functionality. Here's how to protect your leather work boots:

Materials needed:

  • Waterproofing agent (spray or wax)
  • Clean cloth


  1. Clean the boots thoroughly and allow them to air dry.
  2. Apply the waterproofing spray or wax to the clean rag.
  3. Gently rub the cloth into the leather’s entire surface.
  4. Let the boots dry completely before wearing or storing them.

Drew’s Recommendation: Apply the 2-in-1 Oregon Trail Boot Wax, made from all-natural vegetable oils and beeswax, to condition and waterproof your work or hiking boots.

Storing the Boots

Proper storage is crucial for maintaining the appearance and longevity of leather work boots. Consider using a boot tree to help maintain the shape of the boots while they are in storage and prevent the leather from collapsing or losing their shape.

Avoid storing the boots in direct sunlight as this can cause fading and drying of the leather. Keep them away from damp or humid areas, since it can cause mold or mildew to form. Don’t stack heavy objects on top of the boots, or else they can lose their shape.

Tying the Boot Laces

Close up of leather boots and laces

Tying your leather work boots properly is an important step in maintaining their overall health and longevity. Properly tied boots can help ensure a comfortable fit, prevent blisters and sore spots, and protect the leather from excessive wear and tear.

Loosen the laces before putting on your shoes. Insert your foot into the boot and make sure it’s centered. Tighten the laces starting from the bottom and working your way up. Make sure the laces are snug but not too tight, as this can cause discomfort. Tie the laces in a secure knot, such as a double knot or bow.

Avoid over-tightening the laces, as this can cause discomfort and restrict blood flow. Consider using laces specifically designed for work boots, as these can provide additional support and durability. Check the laces regularly and replace them if they become frayed or worn.

Keep Your Leather Work Boots for Longer with Drew’s Boots

If you're in the market for a new pair of work boots, check out Drew's Boots. Drew's Boots offers a wide selection of high-quality leather work boots, designed with the needs of hardworking individuals in mind. Whether you're a construction worker, a farmer, or simply someone who needs durable and reliable footwear, Drew's Boots has you covered.