The first step in ensuring that your work footwear will perform well over time is selecting a comfortable, quality product. After purchase, preparing your boots before wearing and taking a few minutes each month to care for them will help extend the life and the performance of your work footwear.
Take Simple Steps. Different types of footwear require different types of care. A simple four-step process will keep leather boots in excellent shape:
- Clean – use a leather cleaner and cloth to gently swipe away dirt.
- Condition – after boots have dried, condition them using mink oil. Apply with a soft cloth rubbing the oil in well at the seams and allow to the boots to dry. Wipe off excess mink oil with a clean soft rag.
- Polish – you can polish the leather by using the same soft cloth you wiped the excess mink oil off with. Finish by buffing in long circular strokes.
- Weatherproof – protect your boots from wet conditions with a waterproofing product.
Know Your Materials. The process of cleaning nubuck and suede boots differs slightly from cleaning standard leather work footwear.
- Clean nubuck and suede – use a plastic or rubber-tipped brush to remove surface dirt before it sets in. Seal with a spray boot protector specifically made for nubuck and suede.
- Condition – use a nubuck-specific conditioner
- Weatherproof – spray on boot protector that is designed for a nubuck or suede leather.
A suede boot cannot be polished. Should a stain appear on a suede boot, use a solvent-based cleaner to immediately remove it. Another option is to use a very low grade of sandpaper on a stubborn stain by lightly rubbing in a circular motion. Be very careful not to rub too hard.
Some footwear manufacturers have created premium materials that perform even better than your standard leathers and suedes. Wolverine, a leading work boot manufacturer, offers many styles of waterproof work footwear, some of which are made with Wolverine “Performance Leather.” This leather is lightweight, flexible, breathable, scuff-resistant and repels water better than full-grain cowhide. You can take care of the performance leather the same way you do regular leather but it will require much less maintenance.
Beat the Elements.
Whether you work indoors or out, waterproofing your leather work boots is critical for maximum comfort, performance and longevity. From beeswax and mink oils to protective sprays, a variety of waterproofing agents exist in the marketplace. Beeswax and mink oil products provide the most protection against the elements, but can also alter the coloring of the shoe. You can use a protective spray to maintain the appearance of the boot and still protect against water.
Waterproofing your boots needs to become a regular habit. To test if boots are still repellent, spray them monthly with a bit of water. When the water no longer beads up, treat the boot again. To re-treat with beeswax products, strip the waterproof coat off once a year using leather soap and a slightly damp cloth. Then reapply a thick coat of wax, paying attention to the toes and heels. Allow the boot to sit overnight to let the beeswax to absorb into the leather and remove any excess wax with a cloth in the morning.
Many boots in today’s market feature water-repellent leather but because the boots are merely treated with a water-resistant coating, it is a temporary solution. Periodically waterproofing the leather of your boots, even if they have been pre-treated, is still an important step to improving the longevity of your footwear. Some boots also feature waterproof liners made of materials like GORE-TEX™. Waterproof liners protect the foot from moisture and help keep the boot ventilated; however, it does not stop the leather from becoming waterlogged in soggy conditions. The combination of treated leather and waterproof liners will doubly ensure footwear that stands up to the elements. For extra protection you can spray inside the boot. Remove the insole and spray it with a waterproofing spray and allow it to dry thoroughly before putting it back in the boot. Spray on and around the lace area and allow to dry before wearing in wet conditions.
Care While You Sleep.
Storing your work boots properly at the end of the workday can benefit them in a number of ways. Placing boots on a cedar shoetree enhances the comfort, appearance and overall condition of your boots. Cedar’s unique wicking action absorbs moisture, acid and salt, smoothes out linings and insoles, and maintains the shape of boots. Another recommendation if you own several pairs of boots is to rotate wearing them daily, allowing each pair to dry thoroughly.
The purchase of a good pair of work boots is an investment worth protecting. By following these simple steps your boots can provide years of value, safety and comfort.
For product information or to check out Wolverine’s complete line of footwear and apparel please visit www.wolverine.com.