Does Water Ruin Leather Boots? It Can If You Don't Take Care Of Them!
Believe it or not, leather can be completely soaked and rather easily dried out and kept in good shape. When it comes to inclement weather, wet ground or trying to wade a stream, the issue is really more water remaining inside the boot rather than soaking the upper.
Partially, this is a problem for the person wearing them. Wet feet get cold and miserable pretty quickly...and in some cases can become frostbitten, depending on where you're at. When it becomes a problem for the boot is repeated exposure without maintenance.
So, how can water damage leather boots?
Does Water Ruin Leather Boots? Here's How
Does water ruin leather boots? Not right away.
Again, the problem when it comes to water and leather boots is really more with repeated exposure or complete soaking without taking steps to dry the inside or using leather conditioner the leather to keep it in good working order.
Leather is skin, after all. Is your skin ruined if your hands get soaked? No; you get dishpan hands for a bit and then maybe need to use a bit of moisturizer after they dry.
It's much the same idea with work boots. Even if they are not only wet but, in fact, flooded with water, you just have to take care of them a little bit and they're fine.
But what if you don't?
First, water leaches out the beneficial oils and nutrients in the leather. The interior of the boot, including the insole and the footbed between the midsole and the outsole will hold water, often absorbing it.
What happens to the upper is that any moisture left in the leather - which keeps it supple, but still strong - will also be leached away as it dries. This leaves the upper drier, eventually making it brittle...which can lead to cracking and tearing, and eventually, dry rot.
The footbed will start to mold, leading to odors as well as proliferating bacteria. Eventually, it results in rotting as the footbed crumbles away. That results in parts of the footbed collapsing.
Before the collapse, your boots will get a powerful smell, and water will leak out as well as in.
So yes, water does ruin leather boots IF you don't do anything to take care of them if or when they get wet.
How To Care For Wet Boots
If you invest in a good pair of leather boots, either work boots or casual boots for everyday wear, you want to take care of them. If they get wet, especially if they get completely soaked, there are some things you'll need to do to care for them.
Obviously, you can't take them off in the field, so you may have to wait for an appropriate time depending on what you're doing. Boot care is an essential part of owning boots, whether you're relying on them for daily work or recreational use.
What to do to dry completely wet boots?
Wipe off the outside with a clean rag or cloth. Try to get the surface as dry as possible.
For interiors, boot dryers are best as they gently heat and cycle air through the interior, drying the insoles and footbeds. However, if you don't have them, there are some other things you can do.
The best trick is to use old newspaper. Roll it up into balls and stuff the interior of the boot. Pack it as tight as you can, to preserve the shape of the boot, and leave it overnight. If the boot interior is still wet when you remove the paper, you may need to repeat the treatment.
You may also want to follow the newspaper treatment with cedar shoe trees, if you have them.
For the upper, you'll want to clean your boots with saddle soap and wipe them clean. Then condition with oil or, better yet, boot grease. This will rehydrate the leather, as well as make them a bit more water resistant.
Leather boots that are cared for will last a very long time. Those that are not, won't. Protect your feet by protecting your investment, and you'll get a long life from a great pair of boots.