Boot Care

Chipharness99I own and wear many pairs of cowboy boots and motorcycle boots. From time to time, I receive emails asking for information on how I care for them. I have been asked, for example, “how often do you shine your boots?”

A loyal follower of this blog recently wrote to me and said that he searched this blog for information on boot care and could not find such info. I will fix that with this post.

How does BHD recommend caring for boots?

Well, “it depends.” Here is what I do, depending on what the boots are made of and how I wear them.

1. Traditional all-leather cowboy boots

rp_Lucblackgoat05.jpgShine: occasionally (once a year or so), I shine them with a thin coat of color-matched or neutral paste wax and buff them to a shine.

Maintenance: wipe when I take them off at the end of the day with “Armor All” or Lexol leather wipes. These are pre-treated paper cloths made for treating car seat leather, but they work well to maintain boots, too. Just wipe down the boots to remove surface dirt, grime, oil, and whatever else the boots may pick up during daily use. Wipe all surfaces, including the heels and soles.

2. Exotic skin boots (ostrich, python, caiman, etc.)

Blackjackpython01Shine: these boots generally are not to be shined. Do not apply paste wax to them. Some skins, like python, have a natural shine to the scales. Keep that shine by keeping the scales clean. Use a soft lintless brush to remove dust and dirt that works its way into the crevices between the scales. It is dirt that makes the scales appear more dull over time. Just keep the scales clean.

Care: When I first get ostrich boots, in particular, I clean them with a light application of saddle soap, then condition them. (More details on this process are here.)

Conditioning: I take an extra step and apply exotic leather conditioner, such as Bick 4, to all of my exotic skin boots. Follow label directions.

Maintenance: wipe down with a leather wipe each time they are taken off after wear.

3. Plastic top-coated “high-shine” boots

Chipfire201Chippewa “hi-shine” engineer boots, Chippewa Firefighter boots, All American Patrol boots, and the like have a thin plastic top coat that makes those boots shine with a gleaming brilliance.

Shine: yes, even these boots require an occasional polishing with a very (VERY!) thin coat of paste wax. I choose Kiwi parade gloss. I apply the wax and buff the boots using the method explained by “Bootdog” here. He knows his boot shine techniques, and they work very well.

Maintenance: wipe down with a leather wipe each time they are taken off after wear.

4. Stock Dehner Boots (combo leather/synthetic)

DressdehnewStock Dehner patrol boots are made with a leather foot and synthetic shaft.

Shine: shine the foot (vamp) with traditional Kiwi parade gloss wax polish and buff them to a shine. Shine the shaft at first and after exposure to rain or lots of road dirt with a thin coat of wax polish buffed to a shine.

Maintenance: wipe the foot (vamp) with a leather wipe each time they are taken off after wear. A light spray of furniture polish on the shaft and wiping with a lintless cloth maintains the shaft shine for daily wear. I do this every single time I take off a pair of Dehner boots.

5. Black leather motorcycle boots

rp_Harness2.jpgShine: If NOT made of “oil-tanned” (dull) leather, then the boots can be shined if you want. Use a thin coat of traditional paste wax and buff them. (See Bootdog’s instructions above.)

Occasionally, I use an old toothbrush to clean out the dirt along the place where the sole meets the vamp (called the welt.) That brings the stitching back to its original color and prevents deterioration where it happens most on motorcycle boots. This is a frequently overlooked step in motorcycle boot care.

Maintenance: wipe down with a leather wipe each time they are taken off after wear.

6. Oil-tanned motorcycle boots

Wescobrown27Shine: these boots are not made to be shined. Skip the wax polish. Waste of time and effort, and closes the pores, anyway.

Treatment: use neatsfoot oil to condition the boots. Using that product carefully will actually produce a mild shine, as well. You can find this product on the internet or at western saddlery stores.

Bad-boy treatment: mud. Sometimes boots are just made to look used and abused. Mud ’em up, then hose ’em off, let dry in open air (not full sun). ‘nuf said.

How often?

When I say “occasional,” I really mean it. Once a year for waxing — but then again, remember, I have over 200 pairs of boots and wear them regularly and change boots often. But if you have fewer pairs, such as less than a dozen, but you wear them (as you SHOULD) daily, then you may need to apply a wax shine more often than I do. Just use your own judgment. If the boots appear dull, were exposed to water, rain, or mud — then clean them off and shine ’em up “as needed.”

LexolThe most important thing to do, though, is to wipe down your boots every time you take them off. You would be amazed how much crud gets onto boots from daily wear, even if you do not ride a motorcycle. Leather wipes are a terrific invention and save me tons of time to maintain my boots. Use of a leather wipe is a daily (often more than once-a-day) ritual I do every time I take off a pair of boots. (Muddy work boots the only exception.)

Life is short: care for your boots, and wear them every day!