“Boots always seem to be more polished than shoes.” We have discussed this a million times. And there are plenty of reasons for this. They’re more wear-resistant, made from heavier materials, and designed to last rather than be advertised enough. Sneakers are insufficient during the most difficult seasons. Nice for summer but inferior to boots by the time winter arrives (for those of us who face it every year).
As such, however, the boots are invited to tackle more difficult terrain – and surface with deeper scars. From the remnants of wet, slippery snow (or better yet the salt we use to melt it) to mud stains and dust and grime, everything, it seems, leaves a mark. Check out our guide to cleaning boots of all kinds for some hands-on play and plenty of must-have purchases. You will be glad you found it. Just be sure to study it before you dive into your project.
How to clean leather boots
Tools: Soft bristle brush, leather cleaner or leather soap (or a solution of two parts white vinegar and one part water), two soft cotton towels, leather wax and polish, and a buffing brush
First, take off your shoelaces (if there are any). Then take a soft bristle brush over your dirty boot. Break up crusted clumps and remove visible debris. Any remaining sediment can scratch the leather when rubbed too firmly. This step prevents you from accidentally damaging your boots.
Second, apply your leather cleaner or leather soap (they make bars) on your damp towel. Don’t make it too wet. Clean the boot in a circular motion so that the solution foams. A note for the frugal: vinegar and water won’t.
Wipe off the boot with a new towel. Always allow your boots to air dry completely before touching them again.
Use a towel to apply leather conditioner. Follow the directions provided on the package before applying it. Then add wax or polish, if you prefer either look. The wax is barely visible, but it acts as a weather resistant coating between the leather and, well, rain or snow. The polish gives the boots a great shine. To apply, buff your boot with a quick back-and-forth motion of your shiny brush.
Wood block cleaning brush
Leather conditioner cream
Waxing your boots is one way to protect them during harsh winters. Click the button to learn how to do it.
How to clean suede boots
Tools: pancake gum, shoe cleaner (or your soap mixture), towel, waterproof protector, suede brush
First, clean your outsoles. You can follow pretty much the same steps as above. Apply soap to a damp towel and wash the leather or rubber parts. BUT … suede boots can’t – well, shouldn’t – get wet at any point in the process. Stick your tops on, put a towel between your cleaning tools and the rods, I don’t care. Do not get them wet.
Brush off any visible dirt or debris with your suede brush. Suede is soft. It’s delicate. Do not use just any brush. Those designed specifically for the material reduce the risk of damaging it. For stuck-on stuff or deep stains, use a pancake eraser. These solve even the most stubborn imperfections.
Finally, apply a waterproof protector to your suede boots. There are many different types, just make sure the one you choose is both designed for suede and well rated. As expected, we will have a recommendation below.
Suede cleaning kit (suede brush + crepe eraser)
Gard-More Water repellent and stain resistant
How to clean cowboy boots
Tools: soft bristle brush, saddle soap, two soft cotton towels, leather wax and polish, and a buffing brush
Most cowboy boots are made of leather. Honestly, I would say all of them are – or at least should be. So follow the same rules for leather boots as you would for a cowboy. They are one. However, cowboy boots often come with intricate detailing, new nooks and crannies, and other adornments. But these are cowboy boots – and meant to be worn! So don’t worry too much about damaging yours during the cleaning process.
Apply your conditioner and wax, and buff if you like, but check that your favorite formulas work for exotic leather, if yours is made from one.
How to clean rain or duck boots
Tools: cotton towel, sponge, shoe cleaner, tire cleaner, and scrub brush
Rain boots are easy. Duck boots too, but some come with leather uppers, so be careful. Mainly because they are usually made of rubber, but also because they are designed to withstand exposure to water. To clean them, take a shoe cleaner (others have used dish soap) and apply it to a towel or sponge and apply it in circular motions to the outside of the boot. Do it on stains or scuffs.
For flowering, a white film that forms on high quality rubber over time, apply a tiny bit of olive oil to a napkin. Work it into the outside of the boot with a towel, moisturizing it and removing the film. Using a tire cleaner and a towel and the same process is found to be just as effective.
Rinse and dry them or allow them to air dry. Easy!
Mirror Glaze Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner
How to clean Timberland boots
Tools: suede brush, pancake eraser and baby wipes (or specialized kit from Timberland)
Timberland’s most popular boot is made from waterproof leather. People panic about cleaning them up, however. The best way to avoid unwanted discoloration or stains? Use a dry cleaning kit. Treat leather like suede. Brush it with a suede brush, scrub it with an eraser, and wipe the outer soles with baby wipes.
Dry cleaning kit-Timberland
How to clean Ugg boots
Tools: suede brush, Ugg’s specialty cleaning kit, baking soda
Uggs were all the rage ten years ago. But the business is certainly not suffering. Uggs are still very popular and as such millions of people die every year from salt, snow, sleet, water and even mud. To clean them, treat them like suede. Use a brush to separate encrusted dirt and a pancake eraser (be gentle) to remove stubborn stains. These boots don’t have a ton of structure, so be sure to reinforce them from the inside when you scrub with your other hand or a wad of newspaper.
If you do get them wet, wet the entire area to avoid uneven spots. To clean the inside of your Ugg boots, i.e. remove unwanted odors, pour two tablespoons of baking soda inside. Let it sit overnight and vacuum before wearing it.
The best boots for men
This guide to the best boots for men covers almost every category, including work boots, chelseas, chukkas and more.
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