Simple guide to cleaning boots before polishing

July 28, 2015

Many boots come with a protective coating that keeps them shiny and bright until they take that first step outdoors. But in most cases the coating will wear off, so that dirt and grime can work their way in, clogging the pores that allow the boot to breathe and dry, and breaking down seams as well as the leather or fabric itself.

Simple guide to cleaning boots before polishing

1. To dislodge dirt

  • First bang your boots together.
  • Then wipe off surface grime and dust with a damp cloth, paying special attention to creases and wrinkles.
  • Dive into those stubborn stitched areas with a dry, stiff nylon brush or an old toothbrush.

2. To clean a boot

  • Close the zipper on the boot (if it has one).
  • Wet the nylon brush and rub it on one side of a bar of soap.
  • Then scrub down the zipper channel.
  • Wipe it dry with a soft, clean cloth.
  • Then undo the zipper and, using a dry corner of the soap bar, rub down each side of the zipper teeth to lubricate them for an easy slide.
  • Wipe off the excess with a soft, dry cloth. If the zipper has a tendency to stick, you can lubricate it with a dry, non-oily lubricant instead of soap.
  • For a smooth finish, get rid of the old wax or factory coating. Using either saddle-soap or a gentle fabric cleaner and a dry cloth, rub the entire outside in small circles until stains disappear. Stuff the boots with crumpled newspaper and let them dry at room temperature. Then they're ready for polish.

3. To remove white water stains

  • These are probably mineral salt deposits left after the boots have been wet. Get rid of them fast — salt breaks down leather and fibre.
  • Try rubbing the stained areas with vinegar or methylated spirits, then polish as usual.
  • You can also rub the leather with milk (or a solution of 1 part methylated spirits and 2 parts milk), then rub in saddle-soap to restore the leather.

4. Scuffs aren't so tough

  • Scuff marks often come right off with a few swipes of a pencil rubber.
  • For more stubborn scuffs, mix 30 ml (2 tbsp) of ammonia with 250 ml (1 cup) of water and250 ml (1 cup)of methylated spirits.
  • Use a soft cloth to gently rub the solution into the scuff mark until it disappears.
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