How to Care for Leather Boots Ruined by Snow

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Stylish leather boots are not the best choice for trudging through snow.

Leather boots are the perfect footwear in a lot of scenarios. A stylish pair can be the finishing touch on a great outfit, while a pair of leather hiking boots can protect your feet from a rough trail. However, leather boots aren't ideal footwear in slushy and snowy conditions. If the shoes haven't been properly pre-treated, wearing leather boots in snow can leave salt stains and water marks on the material. While they may never look as good as new again, some of the damage may be reversible.


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Things You'll Need

  • Multiple clean cloths

  • Newspaper

  • White vinegar

  • Salt stain remover product (optional)

  • Leather conditioner

  • Leather waterproofing treatment

Caring for Leather Boots Ruined by Snow

Step 1: Thoroughly Dry the Boots

Fixing any damage done by wearing leather boots in snow can't happen until the boots are dry inside and out. Start by wiping the boots with a soft cloth to remove any lingering snow or water droplets. Next, remove any laces or insoles.


Set the boots in a well-ventilated room indoors where they can air dry. Don't attempt to speed up the drying process using heat sources like a hair dryer or by setting boots near a heating vent or fireplace. Too much heat can cause leather to dry out and warp.

If they're tall boots that need support to keep their shape as they dry, stuff them loosely with newspaper. Stuffing the boots with newspaper is also advisable if they've gotten completely drenched. The newspaper will absorb water that has soaked into the interior of the shoe. Replace it with dry newspaper every few hours. Once the insides of the boots are no longer damp, take the paper out so they can dry completely in the open air.


Step 2: Treat Salt Stains

Whitish or grayish stains on leather boots are an unsightly result of walking on salted sidewalks and roads. Salt stains can generally be removed from leather using white vinegar. Once the boots are dry, mix equal parts vinegar and water in a small bowl. Dip a clean rag in the solution and use it to wipe down any salt-crusted areas of your boots. Follow this with a dry cloth and repeat the process if some salt remains.


If vinegar doesn't work on stubborn salt stains, try a commercial salt stain remover product.

Step 3: Condition the Leather Boots

Leather is animal skin, and just as our skin becomes dry and cracked in the winter, the same thing can happen to your boots after they've been exposed to snow and slush. Restoring some moisture to the leather should help it look and feel more supple. Wipe down dry boots with a cloth to remove any dirt or debris still clinging to the material and then put a quarter-size dollop of leather conditioner on a clean rag and massage the conditioner all over the outside of the boot.


Step 4: Get Professional Help

If your boots still have water marks, have lost their shape or look dull or damaged from being in the snow, trying further repairs at home may not help and may only make things worse. Take the boots to a local leather repair or shoe repair shop to consult an expert about what can be done.


Preventing Damage to Leather Boots in Snow

Sure, the best way to protect leather boots from snow is to not wear leather boots in snow, but you don't always know what the day's forecast will bring when you're leaving the house. Regularly treating leather boots with a waterproofing treatment is the best DIY defense against future damage from rain, snow or slush.


Waterproofing products for leather come in both spray and wax forms. Start by using a brush to remove any dried dirt or debris from the boots and clean them with leather cleaner. Then, follow the package directions to apply the waterproofing treatment. Spot test the product on a small section of the boot first to make sure it doesn't alter the color of your boots. Reapply after every few wearings.