Daily Boot Wear and Care

As readers of this blog and visitors to my website know, I have a large and extensive collection of boots, ranging from cowboy boots, motorcycle boots, dress boots, and work boots. I only wear boots as footwear — never sneakers, sandals, dorky dress shoes, or the worst of the worst: flip-flops or crocs.

Someone wrote several comments on a recent blog post asking about daily boot wear and care. I thought I would summarize what I know from experience about wearing, caring for, and storing boots. Read on…
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Organizing Boots for the New Year

My spouse is the good kind of neatnick. He detests clutter, and has helped me mend my former ways of “file by pile” as well as “boot storage = where you took them off last.” (giggle.)

After all, I developed my website because my best half was complaining of tripping over boots and that I did not know how many I had, or whether I liked them or not.

For about a half-day yesterday, the boot storage issue in our house…
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Boots On My Partner’s Mind

That’s a switch, isn’t it?  My partner is not the Bootman in our family — far from it.  He will wear them for me on special occasions, but I digress….

My partner truly is “Mr. Neat-Nick.”  Everything has a place, and everything should be in its place, or it goes.  His “Rule #1” for our home is, “volume in = volume out.”  If I come home with something, then I have to pick something else equally as large and dispose of it … somewhere, somehow.  That includes boots… well, at least, the boxes that they come in.

Over the last couple of years since we last configured my boot display and storage options, my boot collection has grown a little (um… define “a little,” he asks…LOL!)  While I have sold or disposed of five pairs of boots, another 20 pairs have shown up at my door and have managed to get onto my feet.

Last week, in the period between Christmas and New Year’s, my partner was off work.  I was working, but working from home.  Every few hours, I would hear my partner rummaging around, then huffing and puffing.  Finally, last Thursday night, he said, “we have to do something about all those boots!” (emphasis added.)

But rather than argue, he said, “look, you’ve built a boot room in the basement, and I have my model train set up in there.  Let’s take down the train and put it away for now, and build some more shelves.”

Of course, that plan sounded more simple than it really was.  In order to make room to store his model train setup in the utility room, we had to remove a bunch of junk that wound up in there.  Mostly — boot boxes.  But there was some other stuff, too, including an old chair that we had always intended to have reupholstered, but was lumpy and uncomfortable.  Out it went, along with all that other junk … to fill the back of my truck and take it to the dump (which here in snoburbia, we call it a transfer station) … but I digress!

We went to a local home supplies store on Saturday to buy the supplies that I needed to build more shelving.  It has wood sides, but wire shelves.  The wire allows air to circulate and keep down any potential problem with mold that loves to grow in dark places on collagen (fiber) products (i.e., leather soles of boots).

We built the shelves, then arranged my boots, from tallest on the bottom to shortest on the top.  Now, 30 more pairs of boots have an official “home.”  My partner is happy to clean up the place, get rid of junk, and get my boots off the floor of the bedroom closet (and other places where they found themselves to be).  I am happy to use my boot storage room for the reason it was designed.

While the shelves are adjustable, it is unlikely that I will change the distance between them.  I have one row at 14″ for additional cowboy and mid-size motorcycle boots; two shelves at 12″ for shorter work, combat and skydiving boots; one shelf at 20″ for patrol and equestrian boots; and one shelf at 22″ (bottom) for my real tall motorcycle boots (mostly custom Wescos.)  I had a small shelf “left over” on which I store miscellaneous boot supplies, such as boot hooks, boot jacks, shoe/boot polish, furniture polish (for plastic-coated boots like stock Dehners), rags, leather conditioner, lug-sole scrub-brush, and the like.

I also have a laundry sink in that room which makes it easy to clean the lug soles of my boots when they get dirty — gotta keep those dirt clots out of the soles so I don’t drop them everywhere else in the house when I walk around.

Life is short: put everything in its place!

Storing Tall Boots

I received an email the other day from Stephanie who wrote:

Recently I purchased my first pair of good leather boots and am interested in how best to care for them, particularly when they are not on my feet. It seems there are three choices: hanging, standing, or in a box (with many choices in how to do each). What do you do with yours?

Good question… here are my thoughts based on my own experience on storing tall boots.

1.  Short-term storage

If the boots are worn fairly often — about once a week or more — then don’t plan to store them. Instead, all you want to do is retain shape. Stuffing the boots with wads of kraft paper will do that. Then you can hang them, as I do, which will help keep the shape in the ankles by not having the weight of the shafts continue to press down on the ankles and cause more sagging. Hanging in a well-ventilated area that has good light (but not direct sunlight) is really the best way to go, but if space is limited, you can just store them stuffed with kraft paper and they’ll be okay. Ventilation and light (part of the day) is important to keep down the chances of mold growth. Mold loves “dark and damp” on fibrous products (leather is a fibrous product) — so avoid both.

2.  Long-term storage

For example, you may want to store a pair of equestrian boots that are worn only during the riding season. Now that it is winter in the U.S., the boots will not be worn again until Spring. If this is the case, do this: a) clean off any residual dirt and grime with a damp cloth. If the boots have been worn in areas where mold is prevalent (such as in an arena, grassy area, etc.), then get Lysol (or similar) disinfectant wipes and wipe the boots with the disinfectant wipe as the final cleaning. Do not spray boots with Lysol, as the alcohol in the Lysol will dry out the leather. But you want to remove any mold spores that may remain on the boots. Pay special attention to the area where the sole is sewn to the foot, and places such as under straps, harness rings, and boot pulls.

When the boots are clean, give them a good polishing using a good shoe polish such as Kiwi brand, Bick 4, or the like. After polishing, let the boots stand in a well-ventilated area for about a day so the residual vapors from volatile chemicals in the polish can dissipate.

Then get some brown kraft paper (like is used for wrapping boxes to ship in the mail.) Wad up the kraft paper and place them inside the boots. Don’t put too much paper in or pack tightly. Air needs to circulate. But put enough in to keep the shape of the boots. Wrap the boots in tissue paper, and put them in a box. Do not seal the box with tape (as sealing a box can trap humidity inside the box, making an environment suitable for mold growth. Also, do not put the boots in plastic bags — again, plastic traps water vapor and makes a great environment for mold to grow. I also recommend kraft paper and tissue paper, as these materials are not made from an acid process, and are less likely to damage your boots than newspaper, which is very acidic.

These are my recommendations on storing tall boots.  For more information on boot storage suggestions, see this blog post and the tutorial that I wrote on Hotboots.com.

Life is short:  care for your boots!

Boot Hooks and Hanging Boots

I was sent an email recently asking for my opinion about what type of hooks to buy to use to hang boots from a rod.  That is how I store a number of my boots.  Hanging them by their bootstraps (or boot pulls) keeps the boots in shape, and gets them up off the floor and out of the way.

My opinion is that you do not need to purchase expensive hooks from a specialty store or even a retail home supplies store.  Do what I have done:  cut apart wire coat hangars.  Those hangars are easy to find, and often are provided by a cleaner when having shirts laundered or dry cleaned.

All you need to do is cut the wire with a strong pair of wire cutters (or the cutter blade found on some good-quality pliers) and bend them to form hooks.  You can make them as long or short as you want, customized to the length that may be required for a pair of boots that may have deeper boot pulls than others (such as sewn inside a boot shaft vs. leather pulls sewn over the top of the shaft).

No need to waste money on expensive products when making your own will do just fine, and is easy, simple, quick, and cheap.

Life is short:  be practical and save money!