Caring for Your Leather Boots

Caring for Your Leather Boots

Posted by Green Mountain Horse and Tack on 7th Feb 2022

So, you’ve thrown down some of your hard-earned money on a pair of cowboy boots. Well done, wrangler. But if you don’t take care of them, you just won’t be able to enjoy them for as long as you could if you had cleaned and conditioned them regularly. And if you live where the snow flies, it’s even more important to clean and feed that leather. Let’s get down to it so you can wear these boots till the cows come home.

There are many, many products available to take care of leather. Saddle soap, mink oil, harsh cleaners, soft cleaners, conditioners, and oils – the choices are out there, and everyone has their favorites, including us here at Green Mountain. This article will give you the basics of cleaning, conditioning, and polishing your boots. And you don’t have to buy a bunch of products to do this, at least to begin with. But a few tools in the toolkit are fundamental to keeping your boots in top shape.


First, let’s identify some common items we’ll be referring to in this article.

Saddle Soap

Used to clean, condition, and protect leather, saddle soap has been around forever. The basic ingredient in saddle soap is lanolin and beeswax. Because of its unique composition of lanolin alcohols, acids and hydrocarbons, lanolin is particularly effective at cleaning and conditioning leather. Lanolin also provides very effective moisturizing properties, which is why it’s found in moisturizing creams and lotions as well as lip balm. We view saddle soap as an aggressive cleaner to be used only when the job requires it, such as removing salt or water stains. It can also be used on “hard use” leathers, such as saddles and horse tack.

Chamberlain’s Formula No. 2 Straight Cleaner

We are big fans of Chamberlain’s leather products because they are gentle and work amazingly well. The No. 2 Straight Cleaner is also an aggressive cleaner, but it’s not too aggressive. Formula No. 2 is a recipe of water, alcohol, select oils and waxes and other non-alkaline ingredients designed to deeply penetrate the leather pores and suck out harmful contaminants. We view this formula to be on par with saddle soap in its effectiveness, but much gentler on the leather.

chamberlains straight cleaner

Mink Oil

Mink oil has also been around for a very long time and is used in medical, hair treatments, and cosmetic products as well as a very effective leather conditioner. It is obtained by the rendering of mink fat. It is quite effective in replacing leather’s natural oils and will also help to make leather more water resistant.

Chamberlain’s Formula No. 6 Boot & Shoe Cream

Like we said earlier, we are big fans of Chamberlain’s products, and their No. 6 Conditioner is, we believe, the finest leather conditioning product on the market today. It is a gentle, water-based recipe of oils, nutrients and is environmentally friendly. It is a terrific product that we think stands apart from the multitude of leather conditioners on the market today – and we’ve tried them all. You can use it on virtually any leather except suede or rough out leathers.

chamberlains boot and shoe cream

Boot Brush

This is a stiff bristle brush used to get the dirt and crusty mud off the boot and out of the seams and welt of the boot (the welt is the stitching around the top of the sole and fastens the sole to the foot of the boot).

Polishing Brush

This is a softer brush for buffing leather into a shine after conditioning.

Applicators

Use a sponge or an old white t-shirt (no dyes) or a white terrycloth to apply these products.

Cleaning Your Dirty Boots

The first thing you want to do is get the excess dirt and mud off your boot. If you just have surface dust, use a dry or slightly moistened white cloth to remove it. If you’ve been out playing in the mud, get the brush out to remove the dirt from all the seams and the welt. If the boot is slightly wet after this operation, set it aside to dry before proceeding to the application of your cleaner.
If you’re using saddle soap, use a moistened cloth or sponge to apply the soap until a rich lather is developed. Continue rubbing the soap lather into the leather to get into the pores of the leather. Wipe off excess lather with a clean damp sponge or cloth. If the boot is still dirty, repeat this process. When the boot is clean, rub the leather with a clean dry cloth. Let the leather dry completely before conditioning.
If you’re using Chamberlain’s Formula No. 2 to clean your boots, apply the product onto the applicator that came with the bottle and apply it generously to the leather, rubbing the product into the leather – again your goal is to get the cleanser into the pores of the leather. As you let the product soak into the pores and massage the leather with the applicator, you’ll see the pristine white applicator collect the dirt right out of the leather. When you’re satisfied with the results, let the boot dry before applying the conditioner.

Conditioning Your Boots


Now that you’ve gotten the dirt out of the leather, you will condition the leather to replace the natural oils that are removed over time. Cleaning your boots will also remove oils in the leather and will dry it out, so it’s vital to condition your boots after cleaning them to lengthen the life of your boots. 


Apply mink oil, conditioner, or Chamberlain’s No. 6 after your boots are cleaned well. To apply any of these conditioners, do so in small quantities. Less is more when conditioning leather. If you apply too much, you’ll clog the leather pores, and the boots will just be an oily mess. Apply in thin coats – you can always apply a 2nd or 3rd coat, but if you apply too much, you’ll have to clean your boots again to get the oil out of the pours of the leather.
With mink oil, apply a light coat with a clean cloth. Let the oil absorb into the boot by leaving it alone for 5-10 minutes or, even better, overnight. Then use a clean rag or a shoe shine brush to buff off any remaining oil. The advantage to mink oil is that it not only restores the oils in the leather, but it also has terrific water repelling benefits.
With Chamberlain’s No. 6 or No. 1 Conditioner, place a dime or quarter size spot of the product onto the applicator that came with the conditioner and apply in thin coats. Add more as needed as you cover the leather. Let it sit and then buff out the boots. If your boots still look dried out, apply a 2nd or 3rd coat – keep the coats thin and apply more thin coats as needed. 


The nice thing about Chamberlain’s No. 6 formula is that there are also some gentle cleansing elements in the formula so if you’re boots only have surface dirt on them, you can clean and condition them with one formula. If you purchase one product for your boots, we’d recommend Chamberlain’s No. 6 Boot and Shoe Creame Conditioner.

Waterproofing

Chamberlain’s also makes a wonderful waterproofing formula, No. 3 Water Protectant and Deep Conditioner. If you need the water repelling qualities of mink oil, but like the conditioning results of Chamberlain’s No. 1, then we recommend Formula No. 3. It’s a blend of heavier, natural oils and conditioners as well as a blend of natural waxes. It will darken your leather, but not permanently. The darkening is rarely objectionable, and the darker color will lighten in time. With Chamberlains No. 3, finished leathers will become more waterproof, while natural leathers will become more water-resistant. Apply in a similar fashion as No. 1. You can use No. 3 in place of No. 1 in the wintertime, when you need the water protection, and then move to No. 1 in the summertime, when the weather is dryer. 


We recommend cleaning and conditioning your boots every 60-90 days if you’re wearing them often. Exotics are particularly in need of regular conditioning, particularly thinner exotics such as lizard. Even if you’re not wearing your boots much though, they will dry out just by sitting in your closet and will need occasional conditioning to keep them in good shape. By taking care of your boots in the manner described here, you’ll be making sure your investment will last many, many years.