Ever notice how your leather boots only last a few winters before drying out, losing their colour, and generally falling apart? This isn’t magic, or shoddy boot construction. It’s simply what happens when you don’t look after leather boots. Leather is a tough, rugged, natural material, but it’s not indestructible. Dirt and moisture are its greatest enemies. With proper care, a good pair of leather boots can easily last five to 10 years. If you ignore your leather boots, the vamp will probably separate from the welt, the leather will become dry and brittle, and they’ll eventually break.
If you’re going to invest in a good pair of leather boots (and we highly recommend you do) it’s worth taking care of them. Men’s boots are one of the most versatile things you can put on your feet. Chelsea boots, Chukka boots, Desert boots and Military boots can all benefit from proper boot maintenance.
Boot care basics
Boot care comes down to three basics: weatherproofing, cleaning and polishing (also sometimes called ‘conditioning’). You don’t want to overdo any of this – too much maintenance can sometimes be just as damaging as not enough – but a good cleaning regimen every two months or so should keep your boots looking good for years. Winter is obviously the time when your boots will see the most use. Unfortunately it’s also the wettest, dirtiest time of year, which is bad news for premium leather. A thorough clean and polish when you put your boots away in spring or summer is definitely recommended. Don’t let them sit on the rack with mud or dirt around the welt.
How to waterproof leather boots
First things first, you can’t ‘waterproof’ men’s boots. No amount of spray will turn your Chelsea boots into gumboots. But you can weatherproof your leather boots, and it should be the first thing you do when you get them home from the shop. Our Eco Shoe Spray is a good place to start. It’s a non-toxic protection spray, perfect for leather, suede, nubuck and even fabric products. All you have to do is spray an even layer all over your new boots from about 10cm away. Leave your boots to air dry outside, or near a window. You can repeat this process about once a year, after a cleaning, or whenever you notice your boots absorbing too much water.
How to clean leather boots
You should clean your leather boots about once every two months. Even more during winter, when boots are more likely to get wet and muddy. Cleaning your boots will lengthen their lifespan by literally years, and it doesn’t take long to do. First, remove the laces from your boots. Next, brush off any dirt or mud with a shoe brush (it’s worth keeping two shoe brushes in your collection; one for dirt and one for buffing). If there’s caked on mud or grime, use a damp (not wet) cloth with a bit of dish soap to wipe the boots clean. Aquila also has cleaning wipes, which are handy for on-the-go boot maintenance. Dry your boots with a clean towel. Now they’re ready for polishing.
How to polish leather boots
Shoe cream or leather polish not only protects the surface of your boots, creating a layer between the leather and the elements, it also nourishes the material. It’s what keeps your boots soft and supple. After you’ve cleaned your boots, simply dab some shoe cream on a microfiber cloth and work it in circular motions all over the leather. Judge with your eye how much you’ll need – there shouldn’t be huge amounts of buildup, but you want to make sure it’s covering the whole boot. Once you’ve worked that in, come in with a horse-hair shoe brush or microfiber cloth and buff out the cream. Finish with some eco spray, for added protection. Your boots are now clean, conditioned and read for anything!
Leather vs suede
Suede boots require a slightly different cleaning regimen. They’re still made of leather, but the difference with suede is that it’s made from the underside of the animal skin. This is what gives suede its soft, almost fuzzy texture. Unfortunately it also makes suede way more prone to water damage and staining. To protect your suede boots, start with some Aquila Eco Spray straight out of the box. After every couple of wears, brush off dirt and particles with a dedicated suede brush (try not to use horsehair brushes on suede, they can damage the nap). When it comes time to clean your boots, first sponge them with a damp cloth, then spray on some suede shampoo. Work this in gently with your suede brush, then wipe down and allow to dry. Finally, brush your boots in the direction of the grain – this will smooth out the nap. Suede boots do require a bit of extra effort, but with the right care, there’s no reason they can’t last for years.