How to Clean Leather Boots

Follow these steps on how to clean leather boots to achieve shoes that look and feel good. You can also expect handy tips on how to remove different stains. Read on below!

I do not know about you, but I get lazy when it comes to cleaning my leather boots. Sometimes, I also get stressed with the thought of cleaning them. Hence, I might be tempted to throw them away for good. 

However, I realized that I would be saving a lot of money if I simply cleaned the dirty leather boots instead of discarding them. That is why I made it a point to research how to clean leather boots easily.

In this article, I will walk you through the proper way to clean leather boots. I will also share some tips on how to remove different types of stains, including water, oil, scuff marks, and even tar. 

I will also briefly touch on the importance of cleaning your boots as well as how to clean the insoles and insides. 

So, let us get on with the article!

Why Should You Keep Your Leather Boots Clean?

How to Clean Leather Boots featured photo

Before I walk you through the steps on how to clean leather boots, I would first like to explain why it is important to do so.

The first reason why you need to clean leather footwear is to safeguard your health. If you wear dirty shoes, you do not know exactly where that debris has been or what it is carrying. You are ultimately risking your health because the bacteria can potentially make you sick.

Another benefit of keeping your leather boots clean is to protect your investment. You have to be aware that dirt can cause the leather material to crack and dry. Once damaged, it is difficult to keep the leather pliant and healthy. And considering that leather boots can be expensive, it is essential to maintain them regularly.

Finally, you can be more confident wearing leather boots if they are clean and supple. You can instantly improve your style and overall fashion expression with new-looking shoes.

How to Clean Leather Boots?

Leather boots are relatively easy to clean. Follow these steps below if you want to achieve leather shoes that feel and look new again.

Remove the Laces

First things first, take off the shoelaces from the boots. Shake off as much excess dirt from them as possible.

Then, you can throw them in your washing machine for squeaky clean laces. You can also wash them by hand if you prefer that. 

Besides cleaning them, you might also want to assess if it is time to replace the boot laces or not. For instance, you need to buy new laces if they were originally waxed but no longer are. It is also a must to invest in new ones if you notice any fraying on the body. But if they are simply dirty, try running them through the washing machine first. If the laces remain stained after cleaning, feel free to replace them.

Clean Off Dirt and Debris

Once you have separated the laces from the leather boots, you can proceed with cleaning them.

Try knocking your boots together to shake off any loose dirt and debris. Then, you can wipe off any excess grime using a dry rag. Rub the leather surface to get as much dirt off as possible.

However, make sure to use gentle pressure because wet dirt can seep into the leather and lead to drying. You also risk scratching the uppers when you are cleaning small sand grains.

As for grime that may be stuck to the leather boots, you can use a soft cloth or a brush to remove them. You can also clean the tongue and soles with these tools.

Apply the Soap Solution

If you still notice any stubborn dirt stuck on the leather boots, you can consider washing them with a soap solution. You can use typical laundry detergent or a product called saddle soap. The latter can restore leather boots to make them look good as new. There are various brands on the market that produce saddle soap. But if I can only recommend one, it would be the Kiwi brand.

To create the leather cleaner, prepare a small bowl of hot water. Get a clean, lint-free cloth and dampen it on the water. Then, lather up a generous amount of saddle soap.

Apply the leather cleaner to one boot at a time by using a soft cloth. Rub it in small circles and lather the leather shoes. Repeat these steps until you have covered all of their surfaces.

Wipe Off Soap

Have you covered the whole boot surface with the leather soap solution? If so, you can now wipe off the solution with a clean wet cloth.

Then, get another cloth. But this time, make sure it is clean and dry. You can rub this dry cloth on the exterior of the boots.

If you notice any part of the boots that look wetter than others, do not worry. The whole cleaning process is too gentle to damage the leather. 

Repeat steps two and three if you still encounter visible dirt and grime on the leather boots.

Condition the Leather

After cleaning and wiping off the leather boots, it is time to apply leather conditioner. Doing so can restore the natural oils of the leather, which are often lost after a few months of daily wear. 

You can either shop for a commercial leather conditioner or make your own. If you decide to go the do-it-yourself method, prepare one part of vinegar and two parts of linseed oil. Then, mix these two ingredients together.

Apply leather conditioner to your boots. Wait and leave the shoes for several minutes to allow the leather conditioner to set in.

Finally, do not forget to buff the leather boots with a soft cloth until you achieve your desired shine.

Dry the Boots

Once you have finished soaping, rinsing, and buffing, the only thing left to do is to dry your boots. Set them aside in a cool and well-ventilated area. Do note that this might take up to a day before they are dry completely.

Fortunately, there are various drying methods to consider that can instantly remove moisture from your boots. These include using a table fan, shoe inserts, and even a boot dryer. You can even invest in specialized boot dryers with high-speed settings that can dry boots in under two hours.

It is essential to avoid direct exposure to the sun and heat from blowers or heaters. That is because they may cause the leather to fade and even crack.

When your leather boots are already dry, you can proceed to wear them.

How to Remove Stains from Leather Boots?

If you often use your leather boots for long periods, it is likely that you have already exposed them to various conditions. So, no matter how careful you are, stains can eventually happen. 

Fortunately, they are relatively easy to clean. Thus, there is no need to throw away your favorite pair of boots. Simply follow the tips below on how to remove stains from leather boots.

Water Stains

You might be surprised to know that water can cause stains on your boots. If you want to remove them, use a white cloth to blot the wet stain on the leather.

But if that method does not work, you can consider using a slightly damp cloth. Then, wipe the exterior of the leather boots gently. It is best to start from the center of the stain and move outward to disperse the possible discoloration.

Grease or Oil Stains

Grease or oil stains can be hard to remove on leather boots. If you see any of these stains on your shoes, you must clean them right away.

Get a baking soda or cornstarch. Then, you can sprinkle these basic kitchen ingredients all over the greasy surface of the boots. Rub them in gently to avoid damaging the boots further.

After, leave the boots overnight or at least eight hours. Doing so will allow the baking soda or cornstarch to absorb the grease stuck on the surface of the boots.

Once done, you can now wipe off the boots with a damp or slightly wet cloth. Remove all of the powder residues to avoid bacteria and odor from forming. 

Lastly, do not forget to dry the boots in cool air or with a dryer.

Ink Stains

As for removing ink stains from leather boots, prepare a nail polish remover or a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Pour a small amount of any of these liquid solutions on the exterior of the boots. If you want accuracy, you can also use a cotton swab instead of applying it directly to the shoes.

Then, wait for a few seconds up to a minute to let the boots absorb the liquid. Avoid rubbing them right away because they can do more harm than good. That simply means the ink can spread throughout the other parts of the boots.

After waiting until the liquid solution is dry, you can grab a dry cloth or rag to remove the ink stains.

Finally, let the boots dry overnight.

Scuff Marks

Scuff marks occur because of the normal wear and tear of boots. They can be quite stubborn, but they are relatively easy to clean.

In most instances, all you need is toothpaste and a soft cloth. Squirt a small amount of the toothpaste on the part of the boots filled with scruffs. Then, grab the clean cloth and rub it gently over the leather boot exterior. After, get a new towel to wipe the toothpaste away.

But if you encounter stubborn scuff marks, it is best to create your own cleaning solution. Mix baking soda with warm water. Then, use this abrasive paste to remove scuff marks on leather boots. 


Tar on leather boots tends to be very harsh and difficult to remove. It is essential to use a gentle hand when cleaning this type of stain on your leather boots.

Scrape the visible tar off the exterior and sole of the leather boots with a knife. As for the hidden tars, you can use an oil conditioner or olive oil using a brush. These ingredients can help soften stubborn tars from leather boots.

You can also try applying WD-40 to eliminate these stubborn stains.

How To Clean the Inside of My Leather Shoes?

Besides the exterior of the boots, you also have to think about the inside of your leather boots.

Take them out from your shoes. Then, throw them into the laundry or wash them with your hand. You can use a mild detergent, dish soap, or saddle soap to remove stubborn stains from the boots. After, rinse the boots to get rid of the soapy residue. 

Finally, dry the insoles of the boots using a dryer or fan. If you forget this step, you risk bacteria and odors forming inside the shoes. 


Leather boots are among your top investments. They protect your feet against outdoor environments and improve your overall fashion style. Hence, it is essential to clean them regularly, so they can last you for a long time. Hopefully, this guide informed you on how to clean leather boots properly.