Learning how to repair cracked leather boots is a useful skill that you can use over and over to extend the life of your boots. Although leather is one of the most popular materials used to make clothing and shoes from, it can also be very temperamental and if neglected, can crack.
Because it is treated animal skin, leather, like skin has a natural tendency to crack as it starts to age and lose its moisture.
Despite this fact, whether you’re restoring a pair of vintage boots or your own boots have developed cracks, knowing how to repair them can bring the luster and beauty back to a pair of boots you thought were ruined.
Even when your leather boots are cracked, it doesn’t mean that they need to be discarded. With a bit of care and some simple tools, you can learn how to fix cracks in leather shoes like a pro.
Owners of leather boots often have the following questions:
- If my leather boots have cracked, is there any way to restore them?
- I found a pair of great vintage boots, but they have cracks in them. Can I bring them back to life?
- Are there leather cracks that are too far gone and I won’t be able to repair?
There are certainly varying degrees to which cracks can be repaired, but this tutorial will help you to answer these questions and repair leather cracks on your own.
Things You’ll Need:
Many leather cracks can be repaired, restoring your boots to their former glory with some time and the simple set of tools listed here.
- Shoe Dauber
- Saddle Soap
- Mink Oil
- Metal Spoon
- Palette Knife (optional)
- Leather Cream
- Dry Brush
- 2 Clean Rags
Shoe stores often sell leather repair kits with most of the listed materials in one kit, so you don’t have to purchase all of them separately.
Checking Your Boots for Mold and Mildew
Often boots that are old enough to have developed cracks will have other problems that must be dealt with as well. A common problem you’ll find with leather boots is that mold and mildew have formed on the surface.
Before you begin your attempt to repair the cracks in your leather boots, you should make sure that they are free from all mold and mildew. Are there green spots? Do your boots look like old cheese?
If so, you may have mold and mildew, but don’t despair. They can be removed.
Mold and mildew are formed by spores which live in the air. Humidity, poor ventilation, and moisture are the conditions which can cause mold and mildew to form on leather, making your boots not only unsightly but unhealthy and even dangerous for you to wear.
If you do find mold and mildew on your boots, be sure to take them outside before beginning to work on them.
Once you’ve taken the boots outside, go ahead and brush away the mold or mildew with either a soft bristled brush or a dry clean cloth. After you’ve done this, be sure to dispose of that cloth or brush, as it may be carrying mold or mildew spores on it, which can spread easily.
If you have found mold or mildew on your boots, you should also make sure to vacuum and clean the storage area where they were being kept. It’s also a good idea to wipe the area down with a diluted bleach solution to make sure the mildew spores don’t spread.
Remember that any time you vacuum mold or mildew you should quickly dispose of the vacuum bag so that the spores don’t spread from there either.
Once you’ve made sure you’re clear of mold and mildew, it’s time get to work on those cracks in the leather.
Cleaning the Leather
The first step before you attempt to fix the cracks is to clean the leather thoroughly using saddle soap.
Saddle soap is a soap blend developed for cleaning leather, especially with “horse tack,” or items associated with riding horses. It includes soap, but also lanolin, which softens the leather, and beeswax, which preserves it.
With that said, saddle soap can also be very harsh on leather, so before you use it, make sure you’re not using a saddle soap that has too much lye in it.
To start the process, use the shoe dauber to apply the saddle soap evenly until the leather starts to become flexible.
You don’t want to get the leather too wet, as that may weaken it or even cause it to warp.
So, when applying the saddle soap, be careful not to use too much. If the soap starts to lather or form bubbles, you should add some water to dilute it.
Once you’ve applied saddle soap to both boots, you need to wait until it has dried before starting to treat the cracks themselves. You can also dry the boots yourself by wiping the soap off with a clean, dry cloth.
Once you’ve cleaned the top layer of leather with saddle soap, you can get deeper into the texture of the leather where the problems lie.
Smoothing Over the Cracks In The Leather
Once the saddle soap has dried, its time to attack those cracks. For this, you’ll be using the mink oil and your metal spoon.
Although mink oil can be a great moisturizer, it also tends to darken leather. Before you start to apply the mink oil to the cracks, you should test it on a small portion of the boot to see whether it changes the color too drastically for your taste.
To keep the leather firm while repairing the cracks in your boots, be sure to stuff newspaper or cloth rags into the boots so that they will maintain their shape as you are working with them.
As the name suggests, mink oil is made from the fat of mink and is well-known to be a great moisturizer for leather.
Once you’ve identified the cracks you’re going to fix, use the back of your metal spoon to smooth some mink oil into the cracks in the leather.
The cracks won’t disappear immediately, but the mink oil should reduce their depth and severity as it begins to rehydrate the leather.
Repairing The Leather Cracks
Now that you’ve cleaned and moisturized the leather, it’s time to attack those more serious cracks.
In the case of deeper cracks in the leather, a leather filler may be needed. There are different types of leather fillers, but most are water-based acrylic pastes that fill in cracks that have developed.
Leather filler works best when applied with a sponge. Once the filler has sat in the cracks for five minutes and dried, go ahead and buff it to a finish with fine sandpaper.
For the most serious, larger cracks, you may need to apply the leather filler with a palette knife. If this is the case, the filler will need more time to dry, usually about thirty minutes.
After the filler has dried, buff it to a finish with fine sandpaper.
Treat The Leather
Now that you’ve treated the cracks and the surface is looking smooth again, it’s time to treat the leather boots as a whole. Especially if the color has been slightly modified by the mink oil, you may need to blend the color of the boots to match evenly.
This is where the shoe cream comes in.
You can use shoe cream not only to treat the cracks and smooth the surface but to treat the leather surface as a whole.
Shoe cream comes in a variety of colors, so make sure the cream you’re using matches the color of your boots.
Buff The Two Boots Equally
Once you’ve treated the cracks themselves, the last step is to make sure that the colors of the boots match each other. The most reliable way to do this is to spend equal time buffing each of them.
3-4 minutes of buffing with a clean, dry cloth usually does the job.
Once you’ve repaired the cracks to the best of your ability, you’ll want to keep your boots in good shape. The most reliable way to do this is to treat them with leather conditioner once a week.
Conditioning your leather will keep it supple and prevent the dryness which caused the cracking in the first place.
We hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to repair cracked leather boots, and that you’ll use this knowledge to repair your boots to close to their original luster.
Please tell us what you thought of the tutorial and share your repair success story in the comments section below.
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Thanks for reading and enjoy your newly repaired boots!