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Cowboy Boot Maintenance

Cowboy Boot Maintenance

Apr 13th 2020

How to Care for Leather Cowboy Boots

There is a special sense of pride in owning and wearing a pair of cowboy boots. Whether you are the proud new owner of Western boots made from exotic skins or you have relied on your leather roper boots for many years, knowing how to clean and maintain your boots is essential to responsible cowboy boot ownership. In this guide, we share our tips and tricks for proper boot care.

How to Care for Cowboy Boots

Boot care is essential to the longevity and long-term quality of cowboy boots. In the course of any given day, cowboy boots can get burned, scratched, scuffed, or soaked. Knowing how to properly care for the leather can make a significant difference in the way your boots feel, look, and perform. You can keep any pair of cowboy boots looking like new—or only lightly used—for years to come. Let’s start with some general cowboy boot maintenance tips.

  1. Keep your boots away from any sources of heat. One of the biggest mistakes any cowboy or cowgirl can make is drying soggy boots near a warm fireplace or some other source of warmth. Heat will only dry out the leather, forcing your boots to harden and eventually crack at the points they flex the most. Leather boots are strong and durable, so simply let them dry slowly rather than trying to expedite the process with heat. Pay attention to exposure to the sun, as well: Even with prolonged exposure, cowboy boots may not show any signs of damage for a day or two. In the long run, however, heat and sun exposure can cause irreparable damage to your beloved boots.
  2. Store your boots in a well-ventilated area. The best place to store cowboy boots is in a dry, temperature-controlled space like a closet or on a boot rack—away from heat, sunlight, and moisture which can damage the leather. Always make sure your boots are dry before putting them away. Mold and mildew may become a problem if your boots are too moist.
  3. Clean, condition, polish, and stain protect your boots regularly. Dirt and dust can be a boot’s worst enemy—so always ensure adequate care and cleaning. To properly maintain your boots, always brush away dirt and debris after every wear, and create a routine for deeper cleaning, conditioning, and polishing to prevent debris from damaging or drying out the leather.

Leather Care Products for Boots

While a soft boot brush may be all you need for daily upkeep, you need a handful of boot cleaning products to keep the leather in top shape. The best products for proper boot maintenance include:

  • Soaps: Tough messes call for tough boot cleaners. There are a variety of soaps available that will safely remove dirt and other particles from your boots. You should only use saddle soap when working with thick, hard-working leather. Use a slightly damp cloth and soft brush to clean away any dirt before using boot soap—a toothbrush is perfect the perfect cleaning tool to get around the sole and welt of each boot. Suede cowboy boots require their own specific cleaning supplies—use a suede brush or stone to restore and get the stains out and choose a suede-specific boot cleaner.
  • Conditioners: Boot conditioning products are designed to soak into leather to keep it strong and supple. Extra-dry cowboy boots may absorb the conditioner quickly, meaning more may need to be applied. Our go-to conditioner is the Stages West Premium Leather Lotion, which is suitable for almost any kind of leather. Keep in mind that suede cowboy boots call for a non-silicone water repellent instead of a lotion.
  • Polishes: Conditioners don’t offer much in the way of leather protection, but polishes do. For oil-based leathers, boot cream helps restore the color and oil in the leather. For Western work boots, you may want to consider a mink or neatsfoot oil since the boots typically take more abuse from daily wear and tend to dry out faster.

Please be advised: Not all leathers are meant to be polished and tooled or heavily embroidered Western boots may not take polish well.

  • Water and Stain Protectors: There are several kinds of water-repellent and stain-protection products, but the goal is the same: Pre-treat your boots to prevent water spotting and staining and keep your boots looking new, longer.

How to Clean Your Cowboy Boots

Properly cleaning and conditioning your boots is an important step: Water draws out moisture and leaves leather vulnerable to cracking over time. Use a conditioning product made for the boots’ specific leather type, and follow these basic steps for proper boot maintenance.

  1. Give your cowboy boots a quick rub-down with a dry cloth or rag to remove any particles that may cling to the surface. To remove mud stains and stubborn spots, use a soft leather brush or toothbrush to clean the seams, the welt, and other hard-to-reach areas.
  2. Once you have cleaned and dried your cowboy boots, it’s time to condition them. There is no exact measurement for how much conditioner your boots will need, but it is safe to say you can stop when the conditioner stops soaking in, vanishing, and dampening the leather surface. Let the boots rest until the conditioner is fully absorbed.
  3. Polishing is not a necessary piece of the boot-cleaning process, but it can help your cowboy boots shine. You can also repair scratches and scuffs by applying polish that matches the boot’s hue and texture. Start applying polish in thin layers and buff between each layer until the boots display the exact finish you want.
  4. Spraying your boots with a water-repellent and stain-protectant is the best way to keep your boots free of stains and water spots—especially light color leathers or boots with heavy embellishments that are harder to clean.

Now that you know more about cowboy boot maintenance, it will be easy to address cracking or discoloration in your cowboy boots. We encourage you to talk about boot care when purchasing a new pair of boots to ensure you have the correct cleaning and conditioning products for your boots—and know how to use them. Explore our blog for more cowboy boot tips and Western wear advice.