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.
Life is short: care for your boots!