Leather is a natural material, with unique qualities and traits that are specific to each animal that the hide is from. Changes in the color of the leather and signs of wear are normal; irregularities in the consistency and depth of color in each pair of boots ranges with each cow hide. Over time, each pair will have a look that is unique to it's wearer, with certain markings or scratches telling a story. With a little preventative maintenance, your HELM boots can easily last 15 to 20 years or even longer, so read on to find out which products or upkeep your boots need to stand the test of time.
BREAKING IN YOUR LEATHER BOOTS
While using a full grain leather will ensure durability, it also means that some people will require a small break in period to soften and shape the boot to the foot. Because we invest in only the best leathers we often get complimented on the minimal break in that are required with our products, but below are some tips on how to help break in even the toughest leather boot.
- Take it slow – these are going to be your day to day go to, so don’t rush the process. Start with wearing them around the house, and even change them out mid-day once your feet begin to swell.
- Thicker Socks – you don't have to sacrifice fashion by throwing on hiking socks, but investing in some thicker socks with extra heel padding is always a good solution. Try to avoid loose or wooly socks that will cause your foot to slip.
- Leather treatment – Treating your leather shoe or boot with a product like Huberd's Shoe Grease will help soften and break in the leather much quicker.
The frequency at which you need to clean and dress your boots depends on how often you wear them and the conditions that you are wearing them in. If you're starting to notice that the leather is getting dry or even cracked, it is probably time for moisturizing and conditioning. This is a regular occurrence that happens over time, usually more frequently if you live in climates with extreme heat or cold.
- To prep the boots for application, remove dirt from the boot by cleaning thoroughly with a stiff bristle brush.
- To clean, scrub gently with a Saddle Soap (we recommend the one by Otter Wax which is all natural and will not change the color of the leather), then wipe off the cleaner and dirt with a little warm water and a clean cloth. Let it dry thoroughly.
- To moisturize, apply a product like Otter Wax Leather Salve, Otter Wax Leather Oil or Huberd's Shoe Oil as directed. Leather Salve goes on clear whereas oils will darken the leather slightly, so be careful not to overly saturate if using an oil product. Take care to not get oil on denim or canvas panels.
- Buff to a shine with a horsehair brush or clean cloth.
Sometimes all you want is a little shine and luster restored to your leather. With normal wear, you shouldn't have to shine your boots more than 2-3 times a year, but products like Blackrock Leather N' Rich are gentle enough to use once a week if needed.
- Use a product like Blackrock Leather N' Rich, Venetian Shoe Cream or Otter Wax Leather Salve (once a month application recommended for the latter two).
- Wipe off your boots with a dry, clean cloth.
- Working in sections, use a small amount of product and rub into the leather until no longer visible.
- Using a dry section of cloth or a horsehair brush, buff to a shine. Blackrock and Otter Wax products go on clear and should not darken the leather. Darkening may occur with Venetian but should return to original tone after a few days.
- Take care not to get product on denim or canvas panels.
Depending on where you live or what season it is, you may need some extra waterproofing protection. A lot of weather-proofers will change the color of a boot and inorganic ingredients will prevent the leather from breathing. You need a product that will act as a one-way barrier, blocking the moisture that is trying to come in while expelling anything that the leather naturally absorbed. Depending on the waterproofer, how often you wear your boots and the climate you live in will determine how often you need to reapply, but a good rule of thumb is to administer again once the water no longer beads on the surface of the leather. (Usually only needed once or twice a year).
- We suggest using a product like Otter Wax Boot Wax which is made from all-natural ingredients and goes on clear.
- Wipe off your boots with a dry, clean cloth.
- Use a clean rag to apply product to entire surface, including around seams or at eyelets where water can get in.
- Buff leather afterwards with horsehair brush or soft rag and allow to dry.
- With Otter Wax Boot Wax you may notice a temporary darkening that will subside within a few days and after fully drying.
Water is not a friend to leather rough-out and suede, but if treated and weatherproofed, these materials can be as much of a fashion staple as leather. While applying a layer of waterproofing wax can alter the look of a style as the nap is flattened or treated, it will ensure that your boots will last much longer and you won't have to avoid wearing them at the sight of cloudy weather. To ensure you will like the end result, you can apply a small amount of product to an inside area that is made of the same fabric or a less visible area of the boot. You can also use sprays made using natural ingredients, like beeswax, for a more subtle change in appearance.
- We suggest using a product like Otter Wax Fabric Wax or Bee Natural Suede Protector.
- Clean or remove dust or dirt with a horsehair brush.
- If using a bar, rub back and forth on surface to warm up wax.
- Coat surface evenly, then smooth with fingers to create an even seal.
- With wax bars, the nap will appear darker as it is now flattened and sealed. This is more prominent with suede than with rough-out.
Wet or damp HELM boots should be wiped dry with a clean cloth, then opened as wide as possible and air dried at room temperature. It may take awhile. Be patient and never use a dryer, sunlight or other heat source to dry as it will overly dry the leather, making it stiff and brittle.
- Spot-clean dirt on your HELM boots with a damp cloth.
- Avoid exposure to salt water and extended periods of direct sunlight.
- Leather is a natural material, much like your skin, and will absorb sweat during wear. Extend the life of your HELM boots by alternating days of wear to allow them to fully dry.