Leather is a natural material, with distinctive qualities and traits specific to each animal and individual hide. Changes in color, patina, and signs of wear are normal in high quality leather. Irregularities in the consistency and depth of color in each pair of boots ranges with every hide. Over time, your pair of HELM will acquire a look that is unique to you. Good boots tell a story all their own. With maintenance, your HELM leather uppers will last 15 to 20 years and beyond.
A new pair of HELM boots requires zero maintenance. We often recommend leaving the leather uppers of your new boots untreated for the first three months of wear, depending on your individual environment, lifestyle and climate. HELM leather uppers are hot stuffed with wax and oil as a part of the tanning process. There are a number of leather boot care products and leather conditioner options on the market: from mink oil and boot cream to saddle soap and stain protector. We personally wear test and vet each leather boot care product sold on our site and in store at our Austin shop.
Keep reading to find out which leather boot care products will keep your HELM boots and shoes in top form for years to come!
BREAKING IN YOUR LEATHER BOOTS
Durable, full grain leather requires a small break in period to soften and contour your boot to the shape of your foot. At HELM, we invest in only the best leathers. We often get complimented on the minimal break in required with our products; however treating leather with a conditioning product like Blackrock will soften the hide faster. Apply a light coat to the interior once a week or as desired to help leather uppers contour.
If your feet are prone to swelling, try changing your boots out mid-day to avoid blisters. Investing in socks with extra heel padding is optimal for new boot break-ins. Avoid loose socks that may cause your foot to slip or create excess friction in the inside of a new boot.
How often you need to condition or treat your boots depends on your wear pattern. If the leather uppers appear dry or cracked, it’s time for a conditioning treatment! Climates with extreme heat or cold, heavy rain, or snow may call for more regular maintenance.
Saddle Soap is an easy to use leather cleaner that will lift loose dirt, sweat, or excess oil out of your leather uppers. To prep leather boots for cleaning, first remove loose dirt by brushing thoroughly with a stiff bristle brush. We recommend Otter Wax for the all-natural ingredient list that will not significantly alter color. The tin is also optimal for travel and easy to use repeatedly. To clean, lather Saddle Soap in tin using a soft brush and small amount of warm water. Apply saddle soap lather to leather uppers with a soft brush or clean shop rag and work into hide. Wipe clean with a damp, clean cloth. Allow leather boots to dry thoroughly overnight before applying leather conditioner, mink oil or boot cream.
To moisturize, apply a product like Otter Wax Leather Salve, Otter Wax Leather Oil or Huberd's Shoe Oil as directed. Oils tend to darken leather uppers. Leather balm and boot cream tends to go on more clear. Be careful not to overly saturate leather uppers when using a leather oil product. Apply an even, thin coat and buff to a shine with a horsehair brush or clean cloth.
Shining boots two to three times a year is average for normal wear. Products like Blackrock Leather N' Rich are gentle enough to use once a week or as often as desired. Blackrock and Otter Wax products double as both leather balm and leather polish. Both products go on clear and should not significantly darken leather shoes or boots. Patina may change with Venetian Leather Balm, but leather boots typically return to their original tone after a few days.
To remove scuffs and scratches, buff scuff marks with boot wax or conditioner. Otter Wax Leather Salve or Blackrock contain a combination of leather conditioner and weatherproofing wax. Always use leather conditioner prior to applying leather wax for best results.
Use Blackrock Leather N' Rich, Venetian Shoe Cream or Otter Wax Leather Salve monthly to polish leather. Wipe off loose dirt with a dry, clean cloth. Working in sections, apply a thin coat of product to leather uppers and work in until no longer visible. Using a dry section of cloth or horsehair brush, buff to a shine.
Many weather-proofing products will alter the color of leather boots or dress shoes by preventing the hide itself from breathing. Products that act as a one-way barrier, blocking excess moisture while expelling anything your leather boot naturally absorbs are an optimal choice.
Use and climate will determine how often you need to condition or treat your boots with weatherproofing products. A good rule of thumb is once water no longer beads on the surface of a leather boot, it’s time to treat with either leather conditioner or wax! Once or twice a year is a typical cadence for most urban environments. If your leather boots or leather shoes are exposed to chemically salted roads or heavy snow, regular waxing is recommended.
To weatherproof leather uppers, we suggest using a clear product made from all-natural ingredients such as Otter Wax Boot Wax. Wipe off your boots with a dry, clean cloth. Use a soft cloth to apply product to the entire surface, including around seams or eyelets. Buff leather afterwards with horsehair brush or soft rag and allow to dry.
Mink Oil or Huberd’s Shoe Oil will also offer weatherproofing benefits to leather boots. If exposure or water damage is a concern, we always recommend conditioning your leather boots with a boot oil or boot cream, allowing to dry fully, and following up with boot wax. Boot wax will seal the leather conditioner into the hide for extra protection. Otter Wax Boot Wax and mink oil may cause a temporary darkening of your leather uppers that will subside after a few days.
Suede boots and nubuck boots become versatile staple pieces when treated with stain protector, weatherproof spray or waterproofing wax. A light weatherproof suede spray should not alter the look of a suede or nubuck shoe. However, the nap of suede and nubuck leather can appear flattened when treated with waterproofing wax. Both wax and weatherproof protector spray ensure your new suede boots and shoes will last longer in the elements.
Always spot test a weatherproofing treatment prior to use by applying a small amount of product to the inside heel of the boot of the shoe. Remove dust from nubuck or suede with a Tampico brush. If using a wax bar, rub back and forth on the surface of suede leather to warm up wax. Coat surface evenly, then smooth with fingers to create an even seal. The newly waxed nap will appear darker after it is flattened and sealed.
HOW TO DRY WET BOOTS
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. Drying may take several hours. Cedar plank shoe trees are optimal for pulling excess moisture away from the hide. Be patient and never use a hairdryer, sunlight or other heat source to dry as it will overly dry the leather, making it stiff and brittle.
Leather is a natural material, much like your skin, and will absorb sweat during wear. Avoid exposure to salt water and extended periods of direct sunlight. Extend the life of your HELM boots by alternating days of wear and conditioning at least once a year.