Washing, waterproofing and waxing your boots may be as popular a prospect as housework, but it’s better than trudging around in soggy socks, and it’s a small price to pay compared to buying a decent new boots. The occasional bit of TLC will keep your feet dry and extend the working life of your boots.
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But how often should you waterproof hiking boots? The simple answer is when water stops beading on the surface and the uppers start wetting out. When that happens, follow these steps.
1. Scrub your boots
Swishing through long, wet grass performs a cleaning function of sorts, but you really need to use a brush (try the Hymax Mudsweeper, a nailbrush or even an old toothbrush) to remove dirt and mud. Take out the laces before you start so you can get into the billow tongue area.
2. Rinse your boots
A good old cold shower from the tap should wash away lingering mud and leave uppers dirt-free in preparation for a proper clean.
3. Clean your boots
Use a specialist cleaning product, such as Granger’s Footwear + Gear Cleaner or Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel to shift stubborn dirt and stains. This is particularly important with fabric hiking boots that rely on their durable water repellency (DWR) to make water bead on their surface, rather than saturate the upper. Then rinse with a clean sponge or cloth. You shouldn’t need to use these cleaning agents every time you wash your boots.
4. Re-proof your boots
Apply a wax or waterproofing agent to your boots to restore their water repellency and stop them from ‘wetting out’. Different waterproofing products are available depending on the type of boot.
- For nubuck, suede and synthetic fabric boots, spray a product such as Nikwax Fabric & Leather Proof or Grangers Footwear Repel Plus onto clean, wet boots and leave to dry before you next go hiking.
- For smooth, leather boots, use a wax, such as Grangers Waterproofing Wax or G-Wax. Use your finger and a clean cloth to rub a thin layer of wax into clean, dry boots. The more layers of wax you apply, the better the end result; wait until the wax has dried before walking. You can buff the wax finish with a dry cloth for a smarter finish.
- Alternatively, from time to time it’s worth conditioning leather boots with a product such as Grangers Leather Conditioner or Nikwax Conditioner for Leather. These help to keep leather supple and avoid cracking, as well as restoring its waterproof qualities. Apply conditioner to damp boots, using a finger and clean cloth, and work it into the stitched seams as well as the leather, before wiping off any excess and leaving to dry naturally.
Don’t be tempted to speed dry boots on radiators. It dries out the leather. Leave them to dry in a well aired room.
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