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Boot Care Instructions
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Dirt and moisture have little effect on LOWA boots if they are properly cared for...
Leather is a natural material, and it needs to be cared for properly. Real leather is like a second skin – to maintain its exceptional qualities, proper care is vital. Smooth or waxed leathers are easier to care for than nubuck or suede and are more resistant to water and dirt. However, all boots can be susceptible to dirt on particularly muddy treks.
This photograph shows LOWA footwear after hard use in open country. The boots are wet, and the leather is covered in dirt.
How to Care for Walking Boots
Remove Boot Insoles and Laces
Walking boots should be allowed to dry thoroughly after every use. It is good to remove the insoles and laces to open the boot fully to allow it to dry more effectively. The insole, in particular, absorbs a lot of moisture, which will dissipate and dry much quicker outside of the boot. This technique can also speed up the drying of boots during multi-day trips. If you are looking to care for your footwear correctly, leather boots should be dried out for 24 hours after a trek before they are worn again.
How to Remove Dirt from Leather Boots
Once the insoles and laces have been taken out, we can begin removing the dirt from the leather. For heavily-soiled boots, a specialist shoe-cleaning product that will remove the toughest dirt is advised. For normal levels of dirt, however, brushing it off under lukewarm running water will often suffice.
Removing Dirt from Boots with Lukewarm Water
Before using water, brush the boots thoroughly. Brushing the boots will revive its natural properties, allowing the leather to breathe again. This preparation will make a deeper clean much easier.
You will see while cleaning your boots how the leather instantly absorbs the water. A deep clean will leave the leather in an unprotected state which, if not cared for, will reduce the boot’s lifespan.
Waterproofing Leather Boots
The cleaned walking boots are still very open-pored and will soak up water even more due to the application of cleaning products. To close the leather again, an impregnating waterproof spray should be used while they are damp. Impregnating the leather prevents water absorption. However, crucially the leather still keeps its breathing properties.
Maintaining and Protecting Leather Walking Boots
Water, together with dirt, can wash away some of the leather’s natural properties. If these substances are not replaced, the leather will dry out and eventually break up. The leather boot would then be irreparably damaged, often earlier in its life than it needed to be.
Once your boots have been waterproofed, they should also have a caring product rubbed or polished into them with a brush, especially after a deep clean. Products like LOWA Active Creme will help maintain the leather’s suppleness for long-term use.
Real leather needs the use of these care products, as it only keeps its shape and stays flexible and strong when these are used.
Once the product has been absorbed into the leather, the boots should be treated with another coat of waterproofing agent. The waterproofing agent will often only take full effect 24 hours after it has been applied. After 2-3 weeks, the waterproofing also loses some of its strength.
Ideally, you should treat your boots again one day before you use them. Impregnating the leather maintains its breathing properties. When managed effectively, the leather will not soak up water and will also be less prone to dirt sticking to it in the future. The layer of wax can also prevent sharp stones or rock faces from damaging the leather. Dry leather, on the other hand, is more easily scuffed and damaged.
The Correct Care Products for Nubuck and Suede Boots
Boots made of nubuck and suede leathers which have had ample use also need to be treated with water so they do not dry out. For these kinds of leather, we recommend using a silicone-based liquid or spray. These products are less likely to clog up the unique leathers than creams with a high wax content, helping them to maintain their natural strength.
Please also take into consideration that the surface of nubuck and suede leathers becomes smoother and shinier when the cream is used. Use a soft brush to impregnate the wax cream thoroughly into the leather. Brushing also generates warmth, which further helps with the absorption of the cream.
Using Fats and Oils to Protect Boots
Fat, and especially oil, have often been used as an alternative to leather care products. That is usually because they can make the leather very supple to touch and virtually waterproof. However, using fats and oils can compromise the boot’s support structure. Oils will cause the leather pores to close up, meaning it is no longer breathable (known as the gumboot effect).
Maintaining the Look of Nubuck and Suede Walking Boots
When you have used a cream on the surface of nubuck and suede leather, it will become smoother and darker. A wire suede brush can be used to lift the pile, but with these leathers, it will never have the exact same look as when it was new.
Gentle brushing with a wire brush can freshen up the appearance of nubuck and suede that has been clogged by a cream application. The picture clearly shows the difference between the brushed area and the un-brushed area.
Testing the Protection of Leather Walking Boots
If your boots have been properly waxed and treated, water will form droplets as shown in the photograph. This result means that the leather is perfectly protected.
If your boots are successful in this test, then you can congratulate yourself on looking after the leather properly. The right kind of care can significantly lengthen the lifespan of your boots.
How to Correctly Store Natural Leather Boots
The best place to store leather boots is inside a shoe bag or box in a dry, well-aired location. A wooden boot tree can also help to keep their shape and prevent creases in the leather.
Never place damp leather boots in extreme temperatures, such as on a radiator or in a car windscreen. Wet leather “burns” very easily, and high temperatures can make it become brittle and shrink. This shrinking often results in irreparable rips in the leather along where it creases when walking. Hooks and rivets can also get pulled to bad effect.
Never store wet boots in damp rooms or a car, as they will quickly get mouldy. If your shoes are taking a while to dry, we recommend stuffing newspaper into the toe box. The paper will absorb the moisture and also help keep the boot’s shape. The newspaper should then be changed every day until the shoes have dried out, to prevent the moisture building up inside the shoe.
If you regularly care for your leather boots in this way, then they should give you many years of joy. Of course, the longevity of your footwear relies on the quality materials used. Here at LOWA, we use the finest cuts to create all our footwear, including our lightweight hiking boots. You can learn more about these in our upper lining materials blog.
We wish you all the very best in your outdoor pursuits!