Now you own a really nice quality pair of boots or shoe it is time to take care of your investment. You want them to last as long as possible and cleaning and reproofing them is the key to this, plus a well proofed boot is so much nicer to wear than a dirty, soon to be soggy boot if it is wet out there.
Mud is generally of an acidic nature in the UK and as such it does a good job of drying out leather, and weakening stitching. If a leather has dried sufficiently it becomes almost rock hard and splits and cracks easily. It also puts undue pressure on that stitching that has also been affected by the mud. It will also have a similar effect on fabric, nubuck and suede. So, leaving your boots dirty for long periods of time will mostly lead them to leak and fall apart a lot quicker.
Cleaning your footwear is easy and as simple as running them under a tap or hose and rinsing the mud off. If it is still wet it comes off pretty easily. If it has dried then a soft to medium stiff bristle brush and a bit of warm water normally does the trick. If they still don’t look good then try these 2 products, Grangers Footwear and gear cleaner or Nikwax Footwear cleaning gel
Once your footwear is clean it is time to reproof it. This helps to stop ingress of water into the leather or fabric and makes the boots much nicer to wear. It also retains their breathability and makes the boot lighter to wear in prolonged wet conditions.
Let’s run through the different materials used in footwear and the best way to reproof them
Full Grain Leather - After cleaning, leave to dry in a warm well-ventilated place. Once they are dry use a shoe brush or soft cloth to apply wax evenly over all outer features of the boot, taking care to properly cover rivets and stitching where the leather overlaps. A neutral colour cream or wax is convenient as it can be used across all of your leather boots and shoes, but a colour matched wax is good for covering any scuffs or scratches. Allow a few minutes for the product to be absorbed into the leather.
Now buff firmly with the brush or cloth to work the residue into the leather, be sure to buff all parts of the boot, you should be able to see a great difference in the surface of the leather, it should look smoother, darker and healthier.
If you’re often using the boots in wet environments such as marshes, bogs and wet grass, it never hurts to repeat this process working in more wax for optimal water resistance.
Nubuck - If you’re looking to retain the improved breathability that a nubuck finish gives you, and also keep the aesthetics of the boot the same, then using a water based proofing spray while the boot is still wet from cleaning will do a great job. Simply spray on to the wet boot and leave to dry in a warm well-ventilated area.
If you really want to optimise water resistance, you can wax nubuck in the same way that you would a boot made up of whole grain leather, however this will alter the Nubuck into a finish resembling a whole grain leather. One note of caution, once you have waxed your Nubuck boots, it is not possible to return them to the Nubuck finish, so consider it carefully.
Fabric and Suede – Many different types of footwear use a mixture of fabric and suede, or a synthetic version of suede in some cases. This is generally to improve breathability in the fabric areas and add abrasion resistance in the suede areas. Due to the complex pattern of panels, it is often not possible to reproof them individually. This is not a problem as both Grangers and Nikwax have formulated proofer to do the job on both at the same time. Simply use a water based proofing spray while the boot is still wet from cleaning and allow to dry naturally.