by Jessica Pigza
How to care for suede and leather boots, especially during the winter months, is one of our most frequently asked questions at GYPO. Where do I start? What products do I use? I began researching this topic and the results were overwhelming! The process can vary from site to site and the products are vast. Then, add in the homemade remedies and I’m pretty sure my eye began to twitch a little. That’s when I decided to stop Googling and go straight to the source – a professional! I am lucky enough to have such a person right in my hometown. Mancuso’s Shoe Repair has been a staple in the City of Greensburg and I had the amazing opportunity to chat with the owner, Ron Mancuso.
As an eighth generation cobbler who’s been doing this since he was 10, Ron had a lot of fantastic information about how to care for boots. I learned many tips and tricks and but most of all I learned that taking care of my boots is really quite simple if you know what to use. “There are so many products on the market that you just don’t need. No reason to make it complicated. It’s really a pretty easy process,” Ron said.
Ron truly is a master of his craft and I was enthralled after taking a look at his shop and watching him work. People from all over as well as the locals send him their boots to clean, restore and fix. He recently purchased a machine from Italy that will restore your Uggs and make them look like new again. Check out the process here. He believes that the better the boot quality, the longer he can make them last, which means your investment piece has the potential to be around for many years to come. He’s even working on widening a pair of riding boots for a customer and he’s one of the few cobblers who can do this.
Here are a few before and afters from my visit. What a difference a little shine can make! And the right Ugg was cleaned using Ron’s new machine. I wish I would have gotten a picture of the right one before he cleaned it. It was sooo much worse than the left and now it looks brand new!
Products for Suede and Leather Boot Care
Okay, so I know you’re eager for me to get to the steps of boot care, but first here are the products Ron swears by and how to use them.
Please Note: Before using any products read the directions first and know the type of material you are working with. If you are unable to find a tag to know for sure, contact the manufacturer directly to ensure that you are using the right product for the right material.
To Clean – Angelus Foam Tex Gentle Foaming Cleaner
Angelus Foam Tex is an amazing cleaner and versatile as it works on a variety of materials like leather, suede and canvas. It is very simple to use and requires no water. Simply pump the foam onto your boot and use a clean cloth, t-shirt, soft brush or sponge to rub clean.
To Condition – Dyo Leather Balm Conditioner
Dyo Leather Balm Conditioner is perfect for keeping your leather goods looking new and the best part is that it works on every color, no need to color match here! Think of leather like your skin, you need to keep lotion on it to keep from drying out, this is the lotion for your leather. Wipe first with a clean towel or t-shirt, then using that same towel rub this balm into the leather until the leather has absorbed it and has a polished finish. Wipe off any excess. This step may only need to be repeated seasonally depending on how much you wear your boots and how quickly they dry out. Do not use this product on suede like materials.
To Protect – Kelly’s Professional Grade Water Protector
Protecting your boots is the name of the game and no product does it better than Kelly’s Professional Grade Water Protector. According to Ron, this product is easy to use and hard to mess up and requires only two light coats for ultimate protection. Be sure to spray in a well-ventilated area and let the first coat fully dry before applying the second. Keep in mind this product may need to be reapplied throughout the season depending on how much your boots are exposed to the elements. If you can’t find this, other water repellant sprays such as Kiwi Rain and Stain Protector will work, just be sure to stay away from silicone as that protectant is mainly reserved for hunting boots and such and can be very hard to work with.
For Salt – Fiebing’s Salt Stain Remover or Angelus De-Salter
Leaving salt to sit on their boots is one of the biggest mistakes people can make. It will cause discoloration and eat away at the material. Salt should be removed from your boots as soon as you can and the best way to do this is by using products specifically for this. Ron suggests two different brands, Fiebing’s Salt Stain Remover or Angelus De-Salter. Both products are safe to use on suede and leather. They will safely remove the salt and salt stains without discoloration.
For Brushing Suede – Ralyn Brass Brush
A brass brush is the way to go when cleaning suede. Gently brush the grain of the suede multiple times in one direction then switch directions to help remove dirt and stains. For a larger surface area, you can also use a larger stiff bristle brush like this one.
Simple Steps for Boot Care
Now to put these products to work. I’m going to focus on the most common boot materials, leather and suede (which is the same as nubuck). Did you know that you can also extend the life of your faux leather and suede goods the same way too? Below is our handy GYPO Boot Care Cheat Sheet to help lay out the steps to keeping your boots looking great!
Additional Tips From Ron
* Do Not Use Vinegar to clean your boots or to remove salt unless you are working with a black boot and you are okay with having to dye them after. Vinegar will remove the stain, but it will also remove all the color and color matching can be very hard unless you’re dealing with black.
* Do not try to remove ink, you will only make it worse. “In all my years of cleaning leather and suede, I have bought every single product on the market and tried every single method to remove ink from shoes and purses. It’s just not going to come out without damaging and discoloring the material.”
*Oil may come out but that is also something to leave to the professionals. Prevention is your best defense against oil and ink so be sure to spray a protectant on all your boots!
*Know when you can treat your boots at home and when it’s time to call in a professional. There are just certain methods and certain products the professionals have access too that go way above what you’re able to do at home. A quick search online will help you find a professional in your area. If you’re unable to find someone local, some cobblers like Ron accept orders through the mail. Click here for more information on Mancuso’s Shoe Repair.
* Water soaked boots – If your boots do become saturated with water stuff them with newspaper to help pull out the moisture. Continue to change out the newspaper as it becomes too wet. After your boots are dry follow up by conditioning and protecting them.
* Protect your purses too! – These tips do not just apply to your boots and shoes, but your purses, belts, totes, and anything made of these materials!
*Storing your boots – To store your boots at the end of the winter season, stuff with newspaper and store upright in a cloth bag, an old pillowcase will work too.
A special thank you to Ron and everyone at Mancuso’s for showing me just how long a great pair of boots can last with the proper home and professional care. With this knowledge, I now realize that owning a great pair of boots isn’t just a splurge, but a true investment in something I will be able to enjoy for years to come!
Your turn! Show us your before and after photos of your boots whether you did them at home or found a professional!
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