How to Ensure that Your Leather Boots are Waterproof

By Dimi | Tips

You got a new pair of wonderful leather boots, but are not sure whether they will withstand being worn in the rain or in wet conditions? So, are your leather boots waterproof or not?


Ask the right questions

Make sure to ask the shoe sales staff or to read the instructions given by the shoe manufacturer in order to find out if the boots you are buying or have already purchased are waterproof. This is essential in order to provide proper care for your footwear, as well as to know whether you can safely wear them in wet work or other conditions.

Regular care and maintenance

The truth is that good quality leather is a very durable natural material which should last long, given that proper care is taken to keep it clean, conditioned and impregnated. Leather boots in general can be considered to be waterproof, since they will endure much harsher conditions than most other boots made of faux leather, canvas or other similar materials. However, a lot of hard working men and women are wearing them while patrolling or while assisting with medical emergencies (EMS/EMT professionals).

Clean them thoroughly every time

Even so, leather boots do need to be taken care of on a regular basis in order to keep the leather nice, soft and waterproof.

You can do that by taking the time to brush of or clean off all the dirt, mud and other residues from your boots every time you take them off. You can use lukewarm water and mild dish washing detergent and a soft cloth to clean them. After you are done, you should always leave your boots to dry out completely before putting them on again.

No direct sunlight

Don’t be tempted to place them directly under the bright sunlight or in close proximity to a heat source because the leather will dry out and could start flaking, cracking and breaking. Instead, leave them in an area with good air circulation and let them dry by themselves. If they are too wet, stuff them with newspapers or towels so that most of the water or moisture is absorbed faster. After your boots are dry, use leather conditioner or beeswax to condition the leather and restore its flexibility. Let the conditioner get absorbed by the pores of the natural material and wipe the excess moisturizer of with a soft cloth. Keep in mind that some of the conditioning products can change the hue of the color of your leather boots.

Use different approaches for different leather types

Of course different types of leather require different cleaning and maintenance approaches. Unfinished leather absorbs the leather cleaner while finished leather doesn’t. Chrome tanned and oil-tanned leather may require different cleaning products and methods too. Oil tanned leather should be treated with oil-based coating applied with a soft cloth and gently rubbed into the material. Chrome-tanned leather boots should never be treated with oil-based products, because they will cause the clogging of the pores of the leather. Instead, you should use silicon spray or shoe wax to condition them.

Make water tests regularly

Periodically perform a water test on your boots by spraying water on them with a spray bottle. If the water rolls off of the boots – they are water repellant. If the water stays on the leather uppers and starts getting absorbed by the material it is time to treat them with leather impregnator once again.

Other things to keep in mind

Remember that even though leather is a very sturdy material and will keep your feet protected from dampness, it is still porous and hydrophilic, so if you are in a very wet environment, the water will leak through its pores and will actually be pumped in as you are stepping and moving forward. This not only will cause your feet to get wet and uncomfortable, but letting your leather boots get soaked in water can cause the leather to shrink, become brittle, crack and flake once it dries. So, always make sure that your leather boots are impregnated and waterproofed, and that if they get wet, you take all the necessary precautions to keep them safe by drying them meticulously, conditioning them and waterproofing them once more.

Steps to ensure that your new leather boots are properly waterproofed:

  1. Break them in first. Walk around your house and yard with your boots, and do some short walks around the neighborhood with them before you proceed wearing them to work, for a hike or anywhere else.
  2. Before you waterproof them, clean the boots properly. Use a brush or cloth to remove any mud and dirt. If necessary dip the cloth in some lukewarm water and a few drops of dish washing detergent and wipe the boots. Follow up the washing by rinsing them with a cloth dipped in clean lukewarm water.
  3. Let them dry. Always leave your leather boots in an area with good air circulation, out of the direct sunlight and far away from heat source to dry completely.
  4. Do a seam seal first. Sealing the seams of your boots will increase the chances that your feet will remain dry even in wet weather conditions. Use urethane sealer by applying it with a syringe over the seams which hold the uppers to the soles of your leather boots. Let the sealant dry before the next step.
  5. Condition the leather. Remove the laces so that you can properly treat the entire uppers of your new boots. Oil treatment will help soften the leather which will make it easier to break them. For leather boots with a smooth finish, you should use wax instead. Silicone can be sued for the protection of both leather and synthetic boots, but silicone sprays are not as durable as the wax and oil based ones, so make sure you do this procedure more often. Apply several thin layers on the entire uppers and let them sit overnight. In the morning if there is still any excess oil, wax or moisture, use a soft lint-free cloth to wipe it off.
  6. Use a specialized leather waterproofing compound (impregnator) to spray the uppers and to ensure that maximum protection against the absorption of water is applied. Make sure you cover the entire uppers so that a water resistant barrier is created with no cracks and leaks in between. Do this on a regular basis, in order to keep your leather boots as waterproof as possible, and to protect the beautiful leather as well as your feet.

    always test any compound or conditioner you will be using on your leather boots on a small and inconspicuous spot on the leather to see if the color or the material has a negative reaction to the product. This is especially crucial for boots which are not black!

  7. Let the boots dry naturally. The leather should be soft but not sticky once they are dry.

In general, good quality leather boots can be expensive, so taking the proper steps to keep them clean, conditioned and protected from water is essential if you want your investment to be a long-term one, and so that you can enjoy wearing your boots for a longer time.