How To – Waterproof Leather Boots

It’s getting that time of year when you need to give those long abused leather boots a make over.

1 – Clean ’em – Water works, though you can get some proprietary boot cleaners that work out a little expensive in the long term. Use a brush to clean out all the dirt from the seams. You should ideally remove the laces and wash them, but the aglets on ours had vanished and if we removed them then we’d probably not be able to get them back on (and we don’t have spares to hand). It’s worth checking for wear and tear on the laces too, as this is an ideal chance to replace them. If you’re not 100% certain they’re good enough, you can always replace them and use the old laces as emergency replacements to keep in your pack.


2 – Fix any loose rubber. Rather than wait for it to get worse you can patch loose bits before they become a real problem. You can add loads more use to a pair of boots this way.You may need to read our Shoe Goo review?

3 – Wax em! You can use the Nikwax Waterproofing wax for leather on wet or dry boots but you can’t beat the stinky proper waxy Nikwax for repellancy. We used the aqueous wax on these boots for 1200km on these boots, but this time we wanted to use the proper wax on these. To our horror, we found that Nikwax have discontinued this product! We’ll compare the new with the old in a review soon enough…

3a – This time it turned out we needed to add leather conditioner to keep them supple, this waterproofs in the same way as the regular waterproofing wax. You only need to do this occasionally to keep the leather supple as over conditioning can damage the boots. I tend to do this once a year or so. Ensure you get whichever wax you use into all the seams and all the nooks and crannies.

5 – Warning – 80’s Film Reference… Wax on – Wax off. Your boots will look a right mess once the wax is on, but leave them a few minutes (or whatever it says on the tin) before rinsing them under the tap and buffing up with a cloth. making sure you get rid of all the excess.

6 – Dry them out.  It makes no harm to give the insides a quick spray with a shoe deodouriser before stuffing the insides of the boots with some old newspaper. If the insides of the boots are particularly wet,  you’ll need to replace this a few times.


7 – Did it work? Finally – you can soak em in the sink overnight to see if they’re leaking! You can see if the waterproofing has worked just by splashing the boot with some water. If you do find that they leak after going through all this then it’s possible that you may not have got the wax into all the seams, or that your boots are leaking elsewhere. In which case, no amount of wax will help and you need to get them repaired or replaced.

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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4 thoughts on “How To – Waterproof Leather Boots”

  1. nice article, i pamper my boots a lot some say to much but my feet don’t get wet, the more you polish and proof they the more waterproof they become , even the grandson dose his when he gets back now , a lot of people forget how important it is to have happy feet, 100.0000 of steps body weight x steps = a lot lb,see how in-portent boot care is now happy boots = happy feet..

    1. Definately! With a bit of care where you step and plenty of TLC to keep your boots proofed, you should keep your feet dry in most conditions. I think the only time my feet have become seriously wet in my best boots was when I couldn’t even do my first choice walk as the roads were flooded. The one we did involved paddling through country lanes and then across a swollen river towards the end of the day.

  2. yes it’s a pity more folk do not take care of them, i see a lot of boots that have never seen polish or proofer, they be-cum obsessed with the gor-tex liner saving there feet, i don’t think a lot of them no that they need washing often to get rid of the sweat and talk dust and durt , maybe they just have to much money .lol

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