Footwear Facts: How to Weather- and Waterproof Your Boots

Autumn’s here, which means it’s time to peep some splendid foliage, traipse through an apple orchard or two, and weather and waterproof your favorite boots. While this last action point may lack the charm of other fall-ier activities, it’s a crucial one that could spell the difference between an okay autumn and an unbeleafable one (pun fully intended).

Fall is a disastrous time for footwear. Freezing rain, sleet, snow, hail, and all other forms of autumnal precipitation can wreak havoc on even the toughest shoes if you don’t take the proper precautions.

But worry not! We’ve assembled everything you need to know about prepping your boots for icky weather below.

Leather

wolverine 1000 Mile Boot
Wolverine Boots & Apparel/Facebook

Leather boots are a fantastic option for winter and fall. They’re sleek, warm, fashion-forward, sturdy, timeless, and as perfect for a dressy occasion as they are for a mid-October hike through the woods. Unfortunately, they’re also incredibly susceptible to the perils of moisture, which can warp and discolor the leather. To prevent this from happening, take the following steps:

1. Scrub Your Boot

To get started, take a stiff brush to the exterior of your boot. Make sure to wipe away any dirt, mud, or residue to ensure you’re working with a clean surface.

2. Apply a Wax or Spray

Once you’ve thoroughly inspected your boot for imperfections, apply either a wax or spray to the leather. Either treatment is fine, but the general rule of thumb is that a wax or cream is going to last much longer than a spray, which you’ll have to reapply often.

Wax: Use a clean cloth to apply a small amount of wax to the exterior of the boot. Smooth it on in even circles, paying extra close attention to any nooks and crannies, as well as the seams. After working it in for a few minutes, wipe off the excess and allow the boots to dry overnight. We’ve found this wax from Kenetrek usually does the trick.

Spray: For a fine-grained leather boot (smooth, glossy finish), use a silicone or oil-based spray to weatherproof. Hold the can a few inches away from the exterior and spray in an even layer, getting into all the small divots and bends. Instead of trying to do one thick layer, attempt a few thinner coats, which will ultimately make for a tougher hold. Allow to sit until dry.

3. Seal the Seams

An additional last step is to seal your seams. If you don’t spend too much time outdoors, you can skip this step, but if you regularly wear your leather boots in less than favorable conditions and have noticed splitting along the seams, we’d recommend adding this step into your regimen.

Suede

how to waterproof boots sude shoes waterproofing weatherproofing

Suede is a type of leather that’s had the flesh side rubbed to produce a velvety nap that’s soft to the touch. It makes a great material for bags, coats, and, of course, boots. However, suede is notoriously difficult to clean once it’s been mucked, so it’s vital that you prep it for bad weather.

1. Scrub Your Boot

As with leather boots, make sure to give your suede kicks a thorough inspection before beginning the weather-proofing process. We suggest using a special suede-cleaning brush or eraser to tackle any stains or residue along the exterior. Once you’ve done this, take a clean towel and wipe it down completely.

2. Stuff with Newspaper

Since suede boots aren’t as sturdy as leather ones, it’s important to stuff them with newspaper or some other material before moving onto the next step. This will prevent the sides from folding in and will allow you to treat the entire surface area.

3. Spray Away

You won’t want to use a wax to waterproof your suede boots. That would end badly. Very badly. Instead, utilize a protective adhesive. Keep the nozzle a few inches away from the exterior and spray thoroughly along the surface. For some cost-effective options, check out brands like Toms or Kiwi.

4. Air Dry

Once you’ve applied the treatment, leave to air dry for a few hours. Then you’re ready to go.

Fabric

how to waterproof boots fabric weatherproofing winterproofing waterproofing

And lastly, let’s talk about how to weatherproof fabric boots. These bad boys are particularly hard to clean as dirt and moisture have a tendency to get stuck in the microscopic spaces between the fabric fibers. This is why it’s important to do a lot of preventative care now so you won’t have to deal with too much up-keep throughout the season.

1. Scrub Your Boot

Follow the same procedure for fabric boots as you did for your leather and suede ones. Take a stiff brush and really get into the nooks and crannies, working to root out any pesky imperfections.

2. Rinse The Exterior

Since fabric boots have a porous exterior, we’d suggest doing a quick rinse before moving onto the weatherproofing. You can utilize whatever homemade concoction you prefer, but we like to lightly apply a solution of dishwashing soap (½ teaspoon) and warm water (1 cup) to the surface using a clean towel. This will help to get rid of any excess dirt your brush may have missed.

3. Spray Away

While you’ll want to use a spray to protect your boots, make sure it’s one specifically made to treat fabric as a leather spray may warp the flexibility and color of your fabric shoes. Hold the nozzle a few inches away from the boot and spray a thin layer along the entire surface.

4. Dry

After spraying the boots, allow them to air out in a dry space for a few hours. Feel free to apply additional layers of protective adhesive as you see fit.

And there you have it. Now you’ll never complain about having mucked up, dry, ripped, or cracked boots ever again.

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