We recommend wearing your boots hard, just like you would your raw denim. Over time, they will mold to your feet and gain a patina reflecting the adventures they’ve shared with you. To make sure they stay in tip-top condition for many more adventures, it’s important to give your boots some TLC every now and then. The leather on your boots is like our skin – it can dry out and get brittle over time unless we take the time to clean and condition it.
Please note that this is a general guide to cleaning and conditioning smooth leathers only. See the note at the very bottom for suede and roughout leathers.
How to care for your leather boots:
- Remove the laces, and thoroughly brush your boots with a horsehair brush. This will get rid of any dust and dirt that could get trapped beneath the conditioner we will be applying in a later step.
- Wipe down your boots with a damp paper towel or rag. Water alone should be able to remove most of what you need from the leather, including mud and salt stains. Don’t forget about the welt and other hard-to-reach places! Use something small like a Q-tip for those tight spots. If your boots are particularly dirty, feel free to use a leather cleaner at this point, but remember to use it sparingly! A little bit goes a long way and too much can dry out the leather and even strip off color and/or finish. Follow the instructions listed on the specific leather cleaner you are using.
- Let the boots fully air dry. This should take about 30 minutes but use your judgment and feel free to let them sit for longer. Do not add any external heat to speed up the process.
- Apply a conditioner. Red Wing's All Natural Leather Conditioner is a great option for most leathers and offers a bit of water resistance for when you need to brave the elements. If you have a lighter colored boot, Red Wing's Leather Cream moisturizes without darkening leather. No matter what you use, a little bit goes a long way; you don’t want to over-condition the leather. Put a small amount on your finger or a cloth and massage it into the leather. Apply to the all parts of the upper as well as to the welt and midsole edge if they’re looking dry. Avoid squirting conditioner directly onto the leather straight from the bottle. Depending on the leather, this can leave darker spots where the conditioner initially lands. If you’ve never tried out your specific conditioner before, apply a small amount to the heel of your boot and let it sit for a few hours. This is a good way to test the product before applying it to the whole boot.
- Let the boots fully air-dry once more without any external heat sources.
- Brush the boots down one last time with a horsehair brush. Re-lace and you're done!
We recommend running through the steps above whenever the leather on your boots feels dry. Obviously, this is somewhat subjective, and it’s something you will get better at deducing the longer you have your boots. If you’re very hard on your boots and wear them most days of the week, you may need to clean and condition them once every 1 – 2 months. If you wear your boots more casually through relatively mild conditions, you might only have to do this once every 4 – 6 months. There’s no strict rule – do what works for you! Whatever your situation, the steps above will help keep your boots happy and healthy for years to come.
Note: We do not recommend rubbing conditioner into suede or roughout leathers. This will mat down the nap of the leather and completely change the look of the boot. For general cleaning and maintenance, we recommend purchasing a suede-specific cleaning kit that contains a suede brush, eraser, and shampoo. If your boot uses a roughout leather where the smooth side of the leather is on the inside of the boot, you can apply some conditioner to the inside of the boot. You can also do this for lined suede boots (apply the conditioner to the liner on the inside of the boot).