There’s nothing worse than having wet feet at work. Once the water starts to seep in, your feet begin to feel uncomfortable, and if the temperature is low, they will quickly get cold too – and once your feet are wet, there’s usually not much you can do about it.
If you have leather boots, the answer is to make sure you waterproof them before you wear them anywhere they might get wet – and for anyone who’s not sure how to do it, in this post we give you all the info you need on how to waterproof leather work boots.
Before we look at how to waterproof your boots, let’s think about why you need to do it at all.
As we just mentioned, having wet feet when you’re working can be an unpleasant experience, and if your feet are soggy for long periods, you can pick up some nasty conditions – for example, skin irritation, rashes, and even trench foot.
Second, if your boots get wet, it can damage them or cause them to lose their shape. Wet leather boots aren’t likely to last as long as protected ones, so taking the time to waterproof them will ensure you get more use out of them.
Finally, looking after your boots by preventing water from penetrating them will keep them looking good for longer. You might not care too much about being the best-dressed worker on the site, but there’s no reason to go to work wearing boots that look 100 years old!
Choosing the right product
Waterproofing your boots is a relatively simple job, but before you start, you need to decide which kind of product you want to use to do it.
For leather boots, you have two main options – you can use a wax that’s specially designed for waterproofing boots or you can use a spray version, either silicone- or oil-based.
The advantage of using wax is that it will last longer and will provide a better level of waterproofing. However, it takes longer to apply and will require a bit more work than if you use a spray.
Boots waterproofed properly with wax may last a whole season without you needing to reapply a new coat.
So, generally speaking, wax is the best option – although bear in mind it is not suitable for new boots since they will change shape as you wear them in, making the waterproof seal less effective.
Spray, on the other hand, is much faster – essentially, you just spray onto the boots and you’re done. However, the waterproof coat it provides won’t last as long, and you’ll probably have to respray the boots every week. The spray can be used on new boots as well as on old ones.
There are also a few other more makeshift methods you can use if you need to waterproof your boots at short notice, and we’ll say a few words about these solutions at the end.
How to waterproof boots – a step-by-step guide
Whether you choose a wax, spray, or a DIY method to waterproof your boots, the steps are more or less the same – so let’s have a look at how to do it now.
1. Clean your boots and remove the laces
If your boots are dirty when you waterproof them, the seal will be compromised when pieces of dirt fall off. This means before you start applying the waterproofing product, you need to give them a good clean.
Start by banging them together to remove any larger pieces of mud that are stuck to the boots. Once this is done, you should clean them with a boot-cleaning gel and a sponge. If you don’t have any gel, you can substitute a white vinegar and water mixture in a ratio of 1:1.
Make sure the boots are thoroughly cleaned and that no bits of dirt are left in any of the seams – otherwise the waterproofing process will be less effective.
When they are properly cleaned, you should rinse your boots and then leave them to dry. At this point, you can also remove the laces since they will get in the way and prevent you from waterproofing the tongues.
2. Consider using conditioning oil
Before you apply your waterproofing product, you should consider applying a conditioning oil. This will ensure your boots are in optimum condition before waterproofing, and this will then be “locked in” by the waterproof coat you add later.
However, avoid using lanolin on leather work boots since it will leave them too soft and vulnerable to damage.
3. Warm the boots with a hairdryer before applying the product
Before you start applying the waterproof coat, you should warm the boots gently with a hairdryer. This will make the leather more receptive to the product you apply and will give you a better waterproof seal.
4. Apply the waterproofing product
If you are using wax to waterproof your boots, take a cloth and use it to apply the wax to the whole surface of each boot, taking care not to miss the seams. Work the wax into your boots with a circular motion, giving them an even coat all over.
If the wax is too hard to spread, you may also find it helps to warm it slightly with a hairdryer before applying it.
If you are using a spray, you simply need to apply it to your boots as explained in the instructions on the bottle. Make sure you read it carefully and follow the directions given.
5. Leave the boots to dry
Once you have applied the spray or the wax, you then need to leave the boots to dry. If you want to expedite the process, you can use a fan – however, you shouldn’t use a hairdryer to dry them as this may cause the leather to crack.
6. Buff off any surplus wax
If you used wax, once the boots are dry, you should buff off any excess wax you can see to ensure a smooth seal all around the whole boot.
7. Repeat the process
If you want to give your boots maximum waterproof protection, you may also decide to apply a second and even third coat, especially if you are using wax. If you decide to do this, simply follow the same steps again, allowing the boots to dry completely in between each application.
How do you know if you need to reapply a waterproof product?
If you are using a waterproof spray, you can only expect it to last around a week at most – and perhaps less if you wear the boots every day. This means you will need to reapply the spray every week if you want them to remain waterproof.
Wax will last much longer, but you will also eventually need to reapply it – perhaps only once a season, but perhaps more often if the boots see lots of use.
Whether you use spray or wax, you should look out for patches of the boots that change color when wet – this means the waterproof product has worn off and water is seeping into the leather again.
When this happens, dry the boots thoroughly and reapply another coat of your waterproofing product.
Other possibilities for waterproofing boots
If you need to waterproof your boots at short notice and don’t have access to wax or spray waterproofing products, there are some other DIY options.
One possibility is to use transmission oil, which can be applied in much the same as wax. However, you should avoid this method if you don’t want to alter the appearance of your boots since it can permanently change the color.
Another option is Vaseline, which can be applied by simply rubbing it in with your fingers, making sure to apply plenty along the seams. Vaseline shouldn’t damage your boots, but it will only provide waterproofing for a day or two before you need to apply more.
Finally, you can also use candle wax or beeswax. To do it, just rub it all over your boots to coat them in wax and then use a hairdryer to melt it.
This will cause the leather to absorb the wax, giving you a reasonably good waterproof seal. This is probably the best option if you don’t have access to proper waterproofing wax or spray.
A simple job that will protect your feet and keep your boots in good condition
As you can see, waterproofing boots is a relatively simple operation, and you have several options for how to do it.
The key is to reapply a new layer whenever necessary, and doing so will enable you to keep your feet dry and your boots in optimum condition for as long as pos