Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Doug Morneau
Most workers that spend hundreds of dollars on waterproof work boots expect them to last for, at least, a few years.
However, most of them don’t know that they must take good care of their work boots by properly cleaning and maintaining them.
Talking with some colleagues, I realized that most people don’t really know how to do it, which is why I made the following article that will show you a step by step guide on how to clean waterproof work boots.
How to Clean Waterproof Work Boots
Nobody ever asks me how to clean and maintain them, so I decided to teach you in the following step-by-step guide:
Here’s a quick summary of all the steps involved in this work boot cleaning process:
- Prep your work boots
- Dust the work boots off with a brush
- Clean the exterior
- Clean the interior
- Let the work boots dry
- Apply leather conditioner
- Apply waterproofing wax/spray
- Remove excess materials and buff the work boots
1. Prep Time
To do this, remove the laces and footbeds and thoroughly clean them separately.
You should also ensure that you have all of the materials necessary to clean and maintain your work boots.
Here’s the list:
- Clean clothes (three or more)
- A small bucket with warm water
- Saddle soap to remove dirt and nourish the leather
- Soft bristled brush and a toothbrush
- Waterproofing spray/wax
2. Dust Off the Work Boots With a Brush
Dust are tiny particles of dirt and debris that your work boots pick up when you wear them, which make them look dirty.
They can be difficult to remove once they have settled, which is why brushing them off with a soft bristled brush is recommended.
The bristles of the brush are strong and flexible enough to loosen dirt and carry it out of the uppers of the work boots.
Just be careful not to scuff your leather work boots when brushing them. Take your time.
3. Clean the Exterior of the Work Boots
Now you need to clean the exterior of the boots.
Take a clean cloth and soak it in warm water mixed with saddle soap (soapy water).
Now, in a circular motion, clean the leather uppers of the work boots. Do this across all the surface of the work boots.
Once you’ve identified the stubborn stains, use the toothbrush to gently scrub the stains away (again, in circular motion).
Rinse the work boots with water once all of the dirt and stains have been removed. If there is still dirt, do not be afraid to repeat this step as many times as necessary.
4. Clean the Interior of the Work Boots
Although you’re in the middle of the cleaning process, it won’t take long to finish it, so don’t quit on me!
Cleaning the interior is essential for removing odors and making the work boots comfortable again.
To clean the interior of the work boots, soak a new clean cloth in soapy water and rub all over the interior, removing all dirt and stains.
After that, rinse the interior with water and pat it dry with a small towel to remove as much water as possible.
5. Let the Boots Dry
After cleaning both the exterior and interior of the boots, it’s time to let them rest and dry.
Allow the work boots to dry for 2 to 5 hours in a dry and warm environment.
This will not only dry the boots, but it will also help to wick moisture and remove any odors from the interior of the work boots.
Make certain that the boots are not exposed to direct sunlight. Otherwise, the heat may cause the leather to crack.
6. Apply Leather Conditioner
Congratulations, your work boots are now clean and dry!
You must now re-nourish the leather uppers to ensure they look as good as new.
To accomplish this, apply a thin layer of the best leather conditioner you can find, which will hopefully nourish the leather.
This is necessary to return the leather fibers to their original state, which will not only make the work boots look brand new, but will also increase durability.
7. Apply Waterproof Wax/Spray
The waterproof membrane of your work boots, like the leather, can be nourished with a waterproof spray or wax. We actually made an article about this, I’ll link it below.
In short, waterproof waxes and sprays allow work boots to regain their waterproofing capabilities, ensuring that no liquids enter your work boots.
Make sure there is no soap or leather conditioner left on the surface of the work boots before applying a leather wax.
- If you’re using a waterproofing spray, lightly spray the work boots once or twice from a safe distance to avoid material buildup.
- If you’re using a waterproof wax, lightly dip a clean cloth corner in the wax. Then, in circular motion, apply the wax to the leather uppers of the work boots.
Once the wax or spray is applied, let the chemicals work their magic so you can enjoy your waterproof work boots again.
8. Remove Excess and Buff
The final step is to use a humid clean cloth to remove any remaining leather conditioner, waxes, or sprays.
Take care not to destroy all of your previous work.
Allow the work boots to rest for about an hour and then clean all excess material with a dry clean cloth.
Finally, lightly buff the work boots with a soft bristled brush, and you’ll be amazed at how good they look and feel.
Frequently Asked Questions
While writing this article, I’ve come up with some very interesting questions that I though would be nice to answer as they could help the reader.
Can you put waterproof boots in the washing machine?
In short, no, you can’t put your work boots in the washing machine.
The highly abrasive materials in clothing detergents, as well as the abrasive motion of a washing machine, can severely damage your expensive waterproof work boots.
If you don’t want to be kicking yourself for months, just follow the previous guide, take your time, and properly clean and maintain your work boots.
Otherwise, you may come to regret it.
Does putting work boots in the washing machine damage it?
Yes, washing machine damage work boots.
Work boots are damaged by washing machines for three main reasons:
- Highly abrasive detergents: Laundry detergents are designed to be mixed with clothes rather than leather. Leather is a soft material that, while extremely durable, can be completely destroyed if exposed to abrasive detergents.
- Warm water: To remove dirt and stains from clothes, most washing machines use hot water. Hot water, in large amounts, can severely damage the leather uppers of your work boots because it directly damages the leather fibers.
- Abrasive movement: We’re all aware that inside the washing machine, your clothes are thrown around with great force in order to remove as much dirt as possible using soapy water. If you put your work boots through this much strain, you risk scuffing or, worse, completely ruining them.