3 Essential Leather Care Supplies You Should Always Have
If you're going to invest in a pair of quality leather work boots or casual ones, you should also invest in the care and maintenance of your boots. That will help them last longer, and wear better.
It's like buying a car. You can buy a beater with a heater, drive it into the ground and junk it when it finally explodes. Or you can invest in a good car or truck and take care of it, and get years of driving, reliable operation and thousands and thousands of miles out of it.
And just like investing in a vehicle that you'll have for the long run, you develop a relationship with a good pair of boots. Like any relationship, putting in a bit of work to keep it working can pay dividends.
What are the basics that you should invest in for boot care? Here are some things you need to get.
The Tools For Boot Care
Boot care requires only a couple of tools, and the good news is that they're in most major department stores and aren't terrifically expensive.
You want to have a horsehair brush for cleaning and buffing your boots once you've applied boot care products and certainly if you're polishing your leather boots or shoes.
It's a good idea to grab a cheap toothbrush or perhaps use an old one that you aren't using anymore for scrubbing the top of the outsole and the stitching.
For applying cleaning and preservative products, some soft lint-free cloths are a great idea, such as cut up bits of t-shirt. There are a few brands of cleaning rags that are made of t-shirt material; having a few in a shoe cleaning kit isn't a bad idea.
Or, if you wanted to get a little bit fancier, chamois cloths. You'll want a couple of them, so try to get a three-pack or something along those lines.
It's up to you whether you want to get shoe or boot trees or not. They're a good thing to invest in, but aren't the most critical thing in the world. It's up to you whether or not you want to get them, but it would be a good thing to do.
That's basically all the tools you need. A few things to clean with, a few things to put on care products. Maybe toss in some shoe trees for when you're not wearing them to preserve the shape and keep the leather from folding. Now for care products.
First Among Boot Care Products: Saddle Soap
One of the most essential boot care products is saddle soap. Saddle soap is a cleaner and conditioner all in one; you don't have to rinse your boots off after applying it.
Saddle soap comes in a puck, typically in a tin much like polish and similar products. You work up a lather with a damp cloth or sponge, and wash away the dirt, mud, dust and grime on your work boots or fashion boots.
After you're done, you just wipe your boots clean. That's it.
Saddle soap uses a blend of natural ingredients, so it's actually good for the leather. Besides some detergent compound, most saddle soaps also include lanolin and beeswax, which hydrate and help seal the surface of the leather.
Shampoo and conditioner, all in one. If you only had one boot care product - which would be foolish, but one digresses - this would be the one to acquire.
You Should Also Have Boot Oil
Another essential is boot oil, a preservative and conditioning product for leather boots. Boot oil lubricates and coats your boot, penetrating the surface to hydrate and recondition and creating more or less a layer of fat that seals the outside.
Boot oil is usually a blend of natural ingredients - sensing a theme yet? - including beeswax, propolis and other compounds that hydrate and nourish the leather as well as preserve and protect it.
What regular applications of boot oil does is keep the leather supple, as leather will dry out and crack over time if not cared for. Leather is, after all, skin. Ever hear that you should moisturize? That's what boot oil does for leather shoes and boots.
For casual wear and light work, boot oil is almost all you'll ever need if you aren't going to polish your work boots. If your boots are rough-out leather instead of the grain side, boot oil may be all you ever need unless your work is a lot harder on the leather.
For Heavy Duty Protection, Get Boot Grease
However, some people's work is downright dirty and darn hard on boots, and for that the leather care product you'll want is boot grease.
Boot grease is the heavy-duty version of boot oil, as it's far thicker (it's a grease, not an oil) though it contains many of the same ingredients. Boot grease dials up the beeswax and propolis, or other compounds, to create a thicker seal on the outside.
Boot grease has the same nourishing and preservative effects, but also seals the leather far more effectively against the elements, especially against moisture.
If your boots frequently get wet from construction materials or doing hard work out in nature, then boot grease is the preservative you'll want to have.
Like applying boot oil, you slather on a coat of boot grease and wipe away the excess. You want a uniform layer of protection so your boots stay impervious to whatever they come in contact with.
For most work boots, a few tools plus saddle soap and oil or grease are the boot care products you want to invest in to keep your leather boots in working order. A bit of care from you will pay dividends in a long working life and a great pair of handmade boots.