How To Clean Leather Work Boots: The Complete Guide To Restoring The Shine

Leather work boots are often a bit of an investment, but also one that can last you a long time.

The amount of work you get out of them depends on how well you take care of them. If you know how to clean your leather work boots properly, they can last you for years!

Of course, we aren’t always thinking ahead about leather care, and might not have considered the prospect of needing to clean them when we purchased them.

Here are some questions you might have:

  • What if I didn’t water-proof my boots when I first got them?
  • What if my boots have salt, grease, or ink stains on them?
  • Is it possible to ruin my boots by cleaning them?

These are important questions, and we’re here to help, whether you’ve prepared them ahead of time or not.

The following post features cleaning tips that will help make your leather work boots last as long as they can. 

We’ll also take a look at cleaning the inside of leather boots, in order to remove and prevent odors.

Finally, we’ll talk about that popular cousin to the leather boot, the suede boot, and how to clean those.

By the time you’ve finished reading you’ll know how to clean leather work boots like a pro.

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Waterproofing Your Boots

If you’re reading this with a brand new pair of work boots, then congratulations! You’re ahead of the game.

But if you’re like most of us, you’re reading this once you’ve realized that you’ve already gotten your boots dirty.

If you do have new boots, before you wear them out into the dirty, wet, and salty world in the first place, it’s always a good idea to spray  them with a protective water-repellent spray.

If you’ve waterproofed your boots, water cannot penetrate the porous surface of the leather. It’s always easier to clean boots that you’ve sprayed and treated with a water-repellent spray.

You can read our step by step actionable guide to know all about waterproofing your leather boots


Dealing with Dirty Boots 

Each stain does different things to your boots, and so each must be dealt with differently.

But regardless of which stain you’re dealing with, there are certain steps you should take before cleaning your boots.

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Before you figure out what specific stains you’re trying to remove, go ahead and give the work boots an initial cleaning to get a better idea of what you’re dealing with.

Needed:

Now that you’ve got everything you need, we can dive into our step by step process.

  1. Remove the laces and wash these in your washing machine.
  2. Get rid of any loose or excess debris on the boot’s exterior with a brush.
  3. Apply soap to the leather of the boot.
  4. Wipe off the soap with a damp cloth.
  5. Condition the leather with leather conditioner.  
  6. Dry the leather with a dry, soft cloth.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of the excess dirt, you’re ready to deal with more serious stains.


 

Salt Stains

The winter can be especially rough on leather boots. All of the salt that gets used to melt snow can cause permanent damage to leather boots in the form of stains.

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cleaning salt stains in work boots

Here are the steps to removing salt stains using items you probably already have in your kitchen.  

Needed:

  • 2 Rags
  • Vinegar
  • Water

Now we’re ready to eliminate those pesky salt stains.

  1. Make a solution that is equal parts vinegar and water—dip a rag in this solution and wipe down the salt stains.
  2. Wipe your boots down with a wet cloth
  3. Wipe your boots dry with a dry cloth
  4. Let your boots dry naturally. Make sure you don’t try to speed up the process with heat.
  5. Once the boots have dried, buff them again with a dry cloth.

In the future, when you know that you’ve exposed your boots to salt, wipe them down with a wet cloth as soon as you can, and be sure to stuff them with newspaper so that they don’t lose their shape while they’re drying.  You can find more information here on getting salt stains out of your leather boots.

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Scuffed Boots

If you notice that your boots have scratches and scuffs on them, don’t worry. The solution to fixing these scuffs is located right in your household.

Needed:

  • 3 Rags
  • Water
  • Baking Soda

5 steps away from the end of your scuffs!

  1. Dip a soft cloth or chamois in clean water
  2. Dip the cloth in baking soda
  3. Gently rub the cloth over the scuff marks
  4. Wipe the boots with a clean, damp cloth
  5. Buff the boots dry with a soft cloth

If the scratches are awful and more prominent or if some of them have turned themselves into cracks, read our article here for a more robust solution.


Grease Stains

Whether from the car, the lawnmower, or even from cooking oil, grease stains on your leather boots can seem pretty tough to get out. Fortunately, with a few household items, you can beat tough grease stains as well. 

Needed:

Let’s get started.

  1. Blot the stain with a microfiber cloth, removing as much of the grease as you can.
  2. Cover the stain with talcum powder or any other absorbent powder.
  3. Leave the powder on the stain overnight. It will draw the grease out of the leather.
  4. Once you brush the powder off, the grease stain should be gone.


Ink Stains

Needed:

  • 2 Microfiber cloth rags
  • Dry towel
  • Rubbing Alcohol

Ink stains will come out quickly following these easy steps:

  1. Use a microfiber cloth to dip in rubbing alcohol.
  2. Rub the stain in a circular motion. The stain should start to lift.
  3. Dampen another microfiber cloth and dip in soap. This soap should help get rid of the excess alcohol.
  4. Dry the area with a dry towel.

Other Stains

Needed:

  • 2 clean rags
  • Water
  • Lemon Juice
  • Cream of Tartar

You can remove a variety of other stains including food and wine with a combination of lemon juice and cream of tartar. Mix the two in equal parts and apply to the stain. After the application, remove the excess solution with a damp, clean cloth.

 


Cleaning The Inside of Your Leather Boots

Once you have thoroughly cleaned the outside of your leather work boots, its time to take a look at the inside.

After all, you don’t want a clean pair of leather boots smelling like they were still old and filthy!

Needed:

  • 1/3 cup of vinegar
  • A spray bottle
  • Baking soda

Cleaning the inside is a fairly straightforward process.

  1. The first step (pre-treatment) is to spray the vinegar into both boots.
  2. Once you’ve sprayed the vinegar into the boots, let them dry.
  3. Deposit a healthy amount of baking soda into the boots and leave overnight.
  4. Remove the excess baking soda from the boots
  5. Voila! The odor has been eliminated.


Maintenance

Now that you’ve removed the odor from the inside of your boots, keep it away with regular maintenance. Whenever you take the boots off, go ahead and fill them with baking soda and leave them to sit overnight. Before you put them on the next day, dump the excess baking soda out into the garbage can.


Will These Methods Work for Suede?  

Although suede and leather come from the same source, the process of cleaning them can be very different. The main difference when cleaning suede is the use of a suede brush, which is not necessary with leather. As with leather boots, though, the first step is to remove all excess dirt from the outside of the boot, moving the brush in one direction along the nap of the suede.

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Brush the Suede with a Bath Towel

Once you have removed the excess dirt, brush the suede boots with a bath towel to remove layers of dust you may have missed. As with the brush, only wipe in the direction of the nap rather than moving back and forth.

Use A Suede Eraser

Once the dirt and dust have been removed, you may notice oil and grease stains. You can easily remove these with a suede eraser, which can be purchased cheaply online.

You can also use a regular pencil eraser if you don’t have a suede eraser.

For Tougher Stains, Use White Vinegar

As we mentioned with leather boots, white vinegar can be a helpful ally in the fight against tough stains. Whether it’s from salt, sauce, or wine, you can often coax a tough stain out with a white vinegar solution. Once you’ve wiped with vinegar solution, wipe with a wet cloth, and then a dry cloth, and watch the stains disappear. 


Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial on how to clean leather and suede work boots and that your cleaning was a success!

Remember, when they are properly cared for, leather and suede boots can last for years.

Make sure you leave us your thoughts and opinions about cleaning your boots in the comments section. Also, if you enjoyed this article, please share it with friends or on social media.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your newly cleaned boots!  


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