In terms of durability, work boots can last anywhere from months to years. One thing that they all have in common, however, is that the better you treat them, the longer they will last.
Don’t get me wrong. Work boots are built to be tough. That’s kind of the whole point. But a little bit of gentle care on your part i.e. a few minutes per month, will keep them that way for much, much, longer.
Hopefully, this article has all the maintenance information that you will need to do just that.
Break In Slowly
First off, if your boots are new, have patience when it comes to breaking them in. Some boots are good to go the day you get them. Others will require at least a week of light use before they’re fit for a long shift.
Rushing the process will obviously lead to painful feet. Most people are surprised to learn, however, that doing so can also lead to lasting damage to the boots themselves.
It is worth noting that the break in period can be safely reduced through the use of conditioner which will naturally soften the boots.
Water Based Water Proofing
If your boots are leather (not suede leather!), the next step is waterproofing. This is a cheap and easy process but it’s also one that’s surprisingly easy to get wrong.
Limit yourself to water proofing products that are themselves, water based. There are multiple reasons for this:
- Water based products allow your boots to breath. This means that while repelling water on the outside, they will still allow sweat to evaporate on the inside.
- They’re safer. They don’t contain petroleum which can stretch leather. They don’t require heat to apply which can warp leather.
- They’re generally more effective.
- They never attract dirt.
Whatever product you use, maximum results are typically achieved after three coats. The first should be applied when you first get them. The second 2 weeks later. And the third, 2 weeks after that.
Some people recommend repeating this process every couple of months but personally I haven’t found it to be necessary.
Needless to say, even the most durable boots won’t last very long if you never bother to clean them. I’m not talking about daily cleaning either. Who has the patience for that after a long shift?
But a quick scrub at the weekend takes five minutes and will greatly extend the lifetime of your boots, not to mention keep them looking their best.
For all leathers except suede, water based cleaning agents are a must. And a nylon brush is generally the most effective scrubber. For suede, use a pencil eraser.
If you want to clean the inside of your boots, shampoo is fine provided it’s of the low PH variety.
Personally, I apply conditioner every couple of months or whenever I notice my boots starting to stiffen.
The importance of conditioner is based on the fact that leather has a nasty habit of becoming dehydrated. And when dehydration creeps in, cracks tend to follow. The leather also becomes a lot more prone to scratches etc.
Again, watch out for suede. Use conditioner with the word suede literally on the box.
How to Remove Scratches
Speaking of scratches, no amount of conditioner will make leather scratch proof. If your boots get scratched and you don’t find it stylish, here’s how to minimize the damage. Keep in mind that complete removal may be impossible.
- Clean and condition as described above.
- Smooth over the scratch with additional conditioner i.e. try to point the compress the part that’s been lifted up by the scratch.
- Dab the scratch with white vinegar, again trying to compress the part that’s been lifted up. White vinegar naturally causes leather to close up.
- Apply shoe polish.
- Clean as described above.
- Buff the scratch using shoe polish.
- Cover the entire boot in a liquid silicone finish. This looks almost identical to the lacquer that patent leather is first coated with by the manufacturer. It will help hide the scratch, hide the shoe polish and make your entire boot look new again.
- Remind yourself that suede leather is by far the most delicate.
- Clean using a pencil eraser.
- Raise the grain around the scratch by gently buffing it with a toothbrush.
- Condition the scratch using conditioner as described above.
Leather Boot Polish?
Shoe polish will have absolutely no effect on how long your new boots last. But I’ve decided to include it anyway as it may well affect how long you personally decide to keep them.
Needless to say, again, these tips are not applicable to anything suede.
- Clean the boots as described above and let them dry.
- Apply the polish slowly, in small circles, with pretty much anything soft.
- Use a shoe brush to remove any excess left over.
Three steps, a five dollar can of shoe polish, and now your boots look like new.
Buy a high quality pair of work boots, wear them forty hours a week over tough surfaces, and nine times out of ten the first thing to go will be the soles. This isn’t a design defect. It’s the natural consequence of anything being stepped on repeatedly.
If/when this occurs, consider replacing the sole before you replace the boot. This can be done for a fraction of the price (and a fraction of the shopping time) by way of insoles.
It’s also worth noting that insoles may be worth purchasing even before the sole gives out if the soles are naturally thin.
Wear as Intended
This should be obvious. But I strongly doubt that I’m the only person to ruin a boot by wearing it where I shouldn’t be.
If you chose the perfect pair of boots for the work week, don’t wear them in opposite conditions during the weekend. If your boots are made of suede, avoid water like the plague etc