(Insert movie record scratch here!)… WHAT!!??
Your biggest fear is about to take place; dirt on your new boots.
Or worse, if you actually wear them around livestock!
But, there is no need to fear. With a little knowledge and help from a few products they can look like new (or near new) again.
The 4 most common leather types used for Cowboy Boots are…
• Smooth leather (Shiny, has a nice polished look)
• Distressed or Oil Tan (Not shiny, slight scuffs rub out with your finger)
• Rough Out (Also called “suede” boots by some)
• Exotic Leather (Made from critters you mostly do not want to meet while they are alive)
Cleaning each one is pretty simple but the technique and products are different. It is wise to go over it with the boot shop sales person when buying your boots. Most shops have the proper products for your style of leather. In this post, we are going to concentrate on the smooth surface type of leather that is polished.
“The Mud the Blood, and the Beer”
Borrowing from a Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue.” Hopefully, not all of this gets on your boots at once! Mud, can be cleaned off, beer is not the end of the world, but blood will stain most leathers. I was told by an old boot maker that it “burns” the leather. I think it is more of a chemical reaction stain that just will not go away.
This pair of boots is 15 years old and have been resoled and heeled a couple times. They reside in the tack room and rarely get cleaned/polished. They were a perfect candidate for the demonstration because they were pretty “funky” but still serviceable. I may polish them again in 5 more years!!
Step 1: Remove Dirt/Mud
A damp sponge if it is very light dust. For mud, use a plastic spoon to scrape the large chunks. This will get most mud off and the spoon will break if you use too much pressure. A little patience is needed here, don’t worry if not all of it comes off, a wet, damp sponge will help remove most of the remnants left behind.
Step 2: Saddle Soap surface and wipe dry.
Get a sponge wet and rub it in/on your saddle soap creating foam. Start rubbing the lather all over the boot at first getting it wet and sudsy all at once and even. Once it is evenly lathered up go back and concentrate on very dirty areas. Keep a good level of moisture and suds working on this step. When it looks like the dirt is gone use a dry, soft cloth to remove saddle soap suds. There is no need to “rinse” the soap off because it has oils and waxes in it to nourish the leather. (But do remove the dirt and suds) Then let the surface dry naturally.
Step 3: Adding color (polish) to the surface to remove marks/scuffs
Smooth leather: Shoe polish of the same/similar color. I like Meltonian Shoe Cream or Lincoln Paste Wax. Meltonian is a creamy paste that has some conditioners in it while helping to hide scuff marks; it polishes nice and does not leave a buildup of wax. If you want them “Super Shiny” or really glossy, the Lincoln Paste Wax is a good choice. A couple applications with some “elbow grease” rubbing in-between will get a very high gloss particularly in dark colors and black.
Bonus Step!! Sole and Heel Edge Dressing
This is where you can really shine! (pun intended). Using Edge Dressing is a Shoe Shine Professional’s trick. This step really makes your cleaning and polish work stand out! And if your soles and heels are made from leather this step will highlight your hard work.
Edge Dressing applied to the sides really makes the job look finished. Available in most retail Shoe Stores or Boot Repair Shops and is available in Dark Brown or Black. I use Dark Brown the most unless it is a black pair of boots.
Give this step a try and see how much better you’re old (or newly cleaned new boots) will look!
Jorgenson Leather is located in Phoenix AZ. Saddles and Holsters are the main business but Rick also enjoys teaching leather art and holster building to students on a one on one mentor/mentee basis and on occasion will teach a class at a local Tandy Leather store.
Learn more about Rick at www.jorgensonleather.com.