Cowboy boots, if cared for properly, can last the full lifetime of the owner. A well-crafted pair of cowboy boots is an investment that will pay for itself over time. In order to make sure that you get the most use of your boots, proper cleaning, conditioning, and protecting are essential. The exact ritual for caring for your cowboy boots will depend on what kind of skin the boots are made from, as each different type of leather has a different requirement. For this post though, we’ll focus on cowhide, the most commonly used material in the production of cowboy boots. These 4 easy steps will extend the life of your boots and will help make the most of your money.
If you do one thing to care for your boots…. WIPE OFF THE DUST!
Dust is the enemy of cowboy boots. It has an abrasive and aging effect on leather, causing microscopic cuts in the hide. Dust will cause the finish to wear off, making the boots appear dull. It will also cause the leather to split, usually around the stitching. Make it part of your boot care routine to dust your boots off with a soft, damp cloth before putting them away after each wear. If you have mud or debris in the crevices or around the stitching, a q-tip or soft baby toothbrush will help gently and efficiently remove the caked dirt.
Dusting alone will add life to your boots, but don’t stop there! Just like your own skin, boot leather (which is still technically skin) needs moisture. After you’ve made sure your boots are dust-free, it’s time to clean and condition. Apply the cleaner/conditioner onto the boot with your hand and rub it in like lotion. Be sure not to glob it on, since the leather won’t be able to absorb the conditioner properly. Thin layers of conditioner are best. Be sure that you are not using a household cleaner or solvents such as alcohol or turpentine to clean your boots, which will cause the leather to dry out and crack.
If you feel that the color of your leather could use a little pick-me-up, you can apply a cream based polish. Use a soft cloth to apply a polish that matches the color of the leather, and then buff the polish to a shine. Avoid wax polishes. Wax based polish will give you a great looking shine, but will seal the leather and keep it from breathing. In the long run, wax polish will cut short the life of your boots. As with the conditioner, thin layers of polish are better than thick messy layers.
After the polish has fully dried, it’s time to treat the leather with a water protector. Choose a protector that doesn’t contain silicone or petroleum products, as these cheap fillers will clog the leather’s pores. Spray the water protector in a thin coat and let it dry for a few minutes. Repeat with another layer if necessary.
In between wears, try to keep your boots in a dry, cool place. Mold from wet boots and heat from furnaces can destroy a pair of cowboy boots. Try to use shoe forms and boot trees to help your boots retain their shape.