two pair of brown leather cowboy boots near brown log

19 Polished Tips for How to Clean Leather Work Boots to Look as Good as New

Nobody wants to have dirty work boots, but learning how to clean leather work boots might seem to be more trouble than it's worth for some. After all, those boots are just going to get dirty again, right? What's the point? In our quest to teach you how to clean leather work boots, we will go over why you should clean your boots, the best ways to do so, and a few tricks to make your boots look like new.

Why Should You Clean Leather Work Boots?

shiny leather shoes

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Trust us, learning how to clean leather work boots is just as important as knowing how to change a tire. Think of the boot as the tire of your body; if your tires aren't in great shape, then neither is the rest of your car. Your work boots are an essential part of your day. You should know how to take care of them. There are a myriad of benefits to keeping your leather work boots clean.

Preventing Smells and Stains

Leather work boots are great, but they are also porous. That means that they can be sponges that soak up strange scents and stains from your job. Nobody wants to track their work through their home, but leather work boots sometimes make that impossible to avoid.

Stomping around through muck all day or getting grease on your boots means bringing those smells and stains home with you. Regular cleaning at least cuts down on how much of your work is coming home on your boots.

Extend the Life of the Boots

Let's face it: leather is expensive. You probably shelled out a nice chunk of change for your leather work boots. It would be a shame to throw those boots away just because of some scuffs, dirt, or lingering smells and stains.

Unlike other kinds of shoes, leather work boots lend themselves to easy DIY mending that can give your leather work boots years of life. This is because leather, being animal hide, requires occasional conditioning to keep from becoming overly dry (which leads to cracks and peeling, among other issues).

a pair of leather work boots

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Cleaning your boots regularly and conditioning the leather protects the boots from fully absorbing dirt, grease, and other unmentionables. Plus, the more you clean your work boots, the longer they will last. Regular cleaning of your work boots means shelling out less cash in the long run. The long and short of it? Learning how to clean leather work boots means you'll probably have to buy them less often.

Repurpose the Boots for Different Work

Maybe your leather work boots aren't cut out for your intense day job anymore because of a tear or a weak tread: that's okay. But don't be so quick to throw those boots out! Even if your work boots aren't fit for work anymore, they can be repurposed for other things after a thorough cleaning.

Depending on the boots and the damage, you can give your leather work boots a second life as shoes you use for yard work, house repairs, or car maintenance. Worn out leather work boots might not be advisable for your daily work, but these boots are still perfectly functional for weekend chores.

Picking the Right Cleaner

Before you can actually clean your boots, you have to choose a cleanser. Not sure what kind of cleaner is best for your work boot? Check out the quality of the leather.

Smoother, shiny leather does better with a specific kind of leather soap called saddle soap, which is made for leather products. Rougher leather or leather that is more like suede will do fine with dish soap, but you can also use saddle soap on this kind of shoe.

adventure boots in woods

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How to Clean Leather Work Boots

Learning how to clean leather work boots is much easier than you might think. Most leather boots can be cleaned with leather soaps and cleaners, or you can use a dry-brush method to get rid of dust and dirt. You can do a lot of cleaning with household items, like dish soap and toothbrushes, so there is no need to break the bank on supplies to clean your work boots unless the boots themselves call for a specific type of cleaner.

This first method is probably what you'll end up using most often, but don't be intimidated if it seems a little... involved. The effort it takes to learn how to clean leather work boots is worth it!

Step 1

Remove the laces from the boots. You can either wash the laces separately in the sink or replace the laces entirely once you are done cleaning the boots. Removing the laces is important to clean the tongue of the boot.

Step 2

Brush off dirt and debris. Use a soft toothbrush, a shoe brush, or a dry cloth to gently brush the surface of the boot to clean off big pieces of debris. Pay special attention to the soles. Make sure that the brush you use is soft-bristled and that you are not rough when brushing off the dirt, as being too firm will scratch the leather and undermine the entire process.

Step 3

Clean the boot with soap. Using a mixture that is equal parts water and soap (dish soap, saddle soap, or baking soda), clean the outside of your boot. Use a soft cloth that has been dipped in the soap solution to go over the entire outside of the boot.

Step 4

Wipe off the soap. Use a different cloth to wipe the soap off of the boot. The cloth should be wet, with water only, to rinse the soap out of the leather.

Step 5

Dry the boots. After you are certain all the soap is off the boot and out of the leather, dry the boots with a soft towel or cloth to remove excess moisture. Allowing moisture to linger in leather is a huge no-no, as it can cause cracks in the material. Make sure the boot is as dry as possible.

Step 6

Condition the boots. Use a leather conditioner to rehydrate the leather work boots and help protect them from future dirt or stains. You should apply the conditioner, allow it to sit for 15 minutes, and then buff the boot with a dry cloth. This is particularly important; think of it like your skin. It can go for a while without issue, but the instant it starts to get dry, the only thing that can save it from cracking is lotion (or, in leather's case, conditioner!).

Step 7

Dry the boots. Allow the boots to fully dry in open air. Be sure to keep the boots away from damp areas or hot heaters.

How to Remove Grease And Oil Spots

If your boots have a stubborn grease or oil stain, then you are in for a little spot-cleaning after finishing cleaning the boot regularly.

Step 1

Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with a little bit of water--just enough to create a paste.

Step 2

Rub the paste onto the stain with a cloth and allow to sit for a few hours.

Step 3

Use a wet cloth to remove paste, followed by a dry cloth to completely dry the area.

Step 4

Condition and dry boots as usual.

How to Clean Leather Boots That Smell

Now that you know the basics of how to clean leather work boots, it's time to learn how to clean the inside of the boot. Otherwise, even if the outside of the boot is clean, you won't have dealt with the inside's smell.

Before you get started, you need to determine what kind of material is on the inside of your boots. Leather lining can be cleaned the same way as the outside of the boot. Other kinds of lining, such as those made of cotton fabric, have other kinds of requirements.

Step 1

Put soap on a damp cloth and rub the inside of the boot until a foam forms.

Step 2

Use a different damp cloth to rinse the soap out of the inside of the boot. (Note that you shouldn't be putting the boot under running water.)

Step 3

Use a cloth dampened with vinegar on the inside of the boot.

Step 4

Vigorously rub the inside of the boot with a dry cloth, and then allow the boot to air dry completely.

Step 5

Once the boot is completely dry, you can help prevent odor from returning by using a knotted sock filled with baking soda in the boot every night to absorb odors.

Tips for Making Work Boots Look Like New

Knowing how to clean leather work boots is one thing, but knowing how to maintain them is another. While learning how to clean leather work boots is certainly a hurdle, it is equally important to know how to take care of your boots every day so that they will last longer. When people talk about wearing the same pair of boots for decades, they almost always are the kinds of folk who will put in the time to ensure their boots are in good condition.

Preserving the leather of the boot is essential to keep them from prematurely wearing out. Leather boots kept in a good condition can last several years.

  • Store boots in a cool, dry location. Leather doesn't respond well to extreme temperatures or excessive dampness, so try to store your boots away from central air and heating. Also, try to keep the boots away from dogs!
  • Use leather conditioner. Any simple conditioner will do, but make sure that you use the conditioner regularly. A leather conditioner will keep the leather from drying out and cracking, which means your boots will last longer.
  • Use water-repellent wax. If your work boots see muddy or wet conditions on the job, then you can make your life easier by using a water-repellent wax after cleaning and conditioning your boots. There are wax products that you can buff onto your boots to help repel moisture, water, and even dirt, which makes your weekly cleaning easier.

Use water-repellent wax. If your work boots see muddy or wet conditions on the job, then you can make your life easier by using a water-repellent wax after cleaning and conditioning your boots. There are wax products that you can buff onto your boots to help repel moisture, water, and even dirt, which makes your weekly cleaning easier.

several winter boots

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Conclusion

Learning how to clean leather work boots is easy - and it's even easier to make the cleaning of your boots a regular task. By cleaning your work boots, you can extend their life, prevent smells and stains, and even give your boots a second purpose. Knowing how to clean leather work boots at home can save you a lot of money in the long haul. As long as you remember to keep the boots dry and conditioned, you can use your leather work boots for years to come.

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