How to Care for Leather Hunting Boots

Leather hunting boots are an essential part of any outdoorsman’s wardrobe, providing warmth and protection from the elements. But to ensure your leather boots remain in good condition, you must take proper care of them. This guide will help you understand how to properly care for your leather hunting boots so that they last for many years, while also maintaining the quality and look of your boots.

Understanding Leather Hunting Boots

Understanding the nuances of each type of leather hunting boot and their unique features is the foundation for effective care.

Types of Leather Hunting Boots

The two main types of leather hunting boots are full-grain and split-grain. Full-grain leather is the higher quality of the two, as it hasn’t been treated or sanded down like split-grain leather. Full-grain leather holds its shape better and is more resistant to water and wear. It also doesn’t require as much maintenance. Split-grain leather, on the other hand, is thinner and more pliable, making it a perfect choice for those looking for lightweight boots. However, it does require frequent maintenance to protect the material from water damage and wear.

Leather hunting boots come in various styles, each tailored to different hunting environments and preferences. For instance, forestry boots are waterproof and insulated, designed for navigating through wet terrain; while snake boots are lightweight and provide protection from venomous snakes.

Features of Leather Hunting Boots

Leather hunting boots come with several features that you should be aware of. These features can range from waterproof linings to insulation and traction. Knowing these features will help you determine which type of care is best for your particular boots.

Waterproof lining helps protect your feet from rain and snow during your hunt. Insulation keeps your feet warm in cold temperatures and protects them from the environment. Traction prevents slipping on wet or icy surfaces, keeping you safe while hunting.

How to Care for Leather Hunting Boots

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Proper care of your leather hunting boots begins with establishing a regular cleaning and maintenance routine. This not only ensures they maintain their sharp appearance, but also extends their overall lifespan, guaranteeing their reliability on your hunting expeditions. The hunting environment exposes your boots to various elements such as dirt, mud, leaves, and debris, which can gradually deteriorate the leather. By adhering to a regular cleaning schedule, you can effectively prevent these elements from causing any damage. Remember to clean your boots after each outing, and immediately address any challenging environments encountered, such as muddy or wet terrains.

How to Clean Leather Hunting Boots


  • Before using the new cleaning product on the entire shoe surface, you should test it on a small, inconspicuous area of your shoe to ensure it does not cause any unwanted impact on the leather.
  • Avoid using hot water to clean the skin, as it can strip away natural oils and leave the skin dry and stiff.
  • Avoid soaking shoes in water or putting them in the washing machine, as water can deform the leather and ruin the original shape of the boots.
  • After cleaning, let the boots air dry in a well-ventilated area and avoid direct sunlight. Do not use a dryer or strong heat source to dry the shoes.
  • When cleaning, use gentle motions, avoid applying excessive pressure or scrubbing, to prevent scratching or damaging the leather.

Step 1: Prepare the Boots

Before you start cleaning, remove the laces and insoles to access all areas of the boots effectively.

Step 2: Brush Off Surface Debris

Gently use a soft bristle brush or a clean cloth to remove loose dirt, mud, and debris from the surface of the boots. Be sure to get into crevices and stitching areas where dirt can accumulate.

Step 3: Wipe Down with Damp Cloth

Dampen a clean cloth with lukewarm water. Wring out excess water to prevent over-wetting the leather. Wipe down the boots, focusing on one section at a time. Avoid saturating the leather, as excessive moisture can damage it.

Step 4: Use Mild Leather Cleaner

If the boots are particularly soiled, use a mild leather cleaner suitable for your specific type of leather. Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a damp cloth and gently rub the surface using circular motions.

Step 5: Rinse and Dry

After cleaning, use a separate damp cloth to wipe off any residual cleaner. Allow the boots to air dry naturally, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Direct heat can cause leather to crack or warp.

Step 6: Reassemble and Store

Once the boots are completely dry, reinsert the insoles and re-lace them. Properly lacing your boots not only ensures a snug fit but also maintains the boots’ structure.

Conditioning to Restore Suppleness

After a thorough deep cleaning, the next crucial step is leather conditioning. This process helps replenish lost moisture and oils, ensuring that the leather remains supple and resistant to cracking.

Step 1: Applying Leather Conditioner

Once the boots are completely dry, apply a quality leather conditioner to a clean, soft cloth. Gently massage the conditioner into the leather using circular motions. Be sure to cover the entire surface of the boots, including seams and stitching.

Step 2: Allowing Absorption

Let the conditioner sit on the leather for the recommended amount of time, allowing it to be absorbed. This process nourishes the leather fibers and helps maintain their flexibility.

Step 3: Buffing for Shine

After the absorption time, use a separate clean cloth to buff the leather gently. This will help bring out a natural shine while ensuring an even distribution of the conditioner.

Waterproofing and Protection

After conditioning, provide your leather with a layer of protection. Especially if you are using leather boots for more rugged outdoor activities, waterproofing can help maintain their condition and prolong longevity.

Step 1: Choosing a Waterproofing Product

When selecting a waterproofing product, be sure to find one specifically designed for leather. Avoid using general-purpose protection products as they may not provide enough moisture and stain resistance. Remember to always do a spot test on a small, inconspicuous area of the boots before using any product widely.

Step 2: Applying Evenly

Once you have selected the product, apply it evenly on all areas of the boots, paying extra attention to seams and stitching. Make sure to cover every surface completely but do not apply too much product as it can leave the leather feeling stiff.

Step 3: Testing Water Resistance

After application, test the water resistance by exposing the boots to a small amount of water. If you notice any moisture seeping in, reapply the waterproofing product.

Step 4: Reapplying Periodically

Finally, reapply the waterproofing product periodically to ensure that your boots remain water-resistant. This is especially important before going out in wet conditions such as extreme rain or snow.

Preserving the Shape and Structure

Properly storing and lacing your boots is essential to maintain their shape and structure. To maximize the longevity of your leather hunting boots, we recommend:

  • Using boot trees or stuffing the boots with newspaper after each use. This will help them keep their initial shape and minimize creasing or misshaping.
  • Avoiding storing the boots in any manner that could cause creasing or misshaping.
  • Properly lacing the boots to maintain ankle support and shape. This will also help keep your feet secure and comfortable during any outdoor activity.
  • Utilizing boot sprays to protect the leather from potential damage caused by water, stains, or dirt. Boot sprays help ensure that your boots stay in prime condition.
  • Frequently checking for any signs of wear and tear, such as cracks or loose stitching. If you notice any issues, it is best to repair them immediately.

Protection against Odors and Mildew

Preventing odors and mildew from developing in leather hunting boots is a multi-faceted process. To reduce the risk of bacterial growth, we recommend:

  • Allowing your boots to air dry thoroughly after each use. Make sure that any areas where moisture can collect are completely dry.
  • Wearing moisture-wicking socks to reduce sweat accumulation.
  • Applying a specialized shoe deodorizer or using baking soda to absorb odors.
  • Cleaning and conditioning your boots regularly, especially in wet weather conditions.
  • Storing them in an area that is ventilated and away from direct sunlight. Sunlight can cause the leather to fade over time.

How to Properly Store Leather Hunting Boots?

Proper storage is just as important as regular cleaning and maintenance for keeping your leather hunting boots in excellent condition. To protect your boots from dust, moisture, and other elements during storage, keep them in a cool, dry place; avoid storing them outside or in direct sunlight.

For long-term storage, it’s best to stuff the boots with newspaper or tissue paper. This will help maintain their shape and protect them from any moisture that may accumulate inside the boot during storage. Finally, make sure to polish your boots regularly with a natural wax or leather conditioner to keep them looking new for years.

How to Choose Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Product?

Before starting the cleaning process, identify the exact type of leather your boots are made from. Different leather types may require different care products. Choose products specifically designed to clean leather shoes. Avoid using soap or unsuitable cleaning products as they can damage the leather.

Full-Grain Leather Hunting Boots:

Full-grain leather is a naturally durable type of leather. However, due to its minimal processing, it’s prone to showing dirt and scratches more easily. When cleaning, it’s important to use gentle care products that preserve the leather’s natural appearance. For cleaning full-grain leather, products like Lexol Leather Conditioner are highly recommended. This pH-balanced leather cleaner effectively removes dirt and grime without stripping away the leather’s natural oils.

And if you want to condition the leather, opt for a conditioner that won’t leave any residue behind. Products like Chamberlain’s Leather Milk are perfect for conditioning full-grain leather; this conditioner effectively replenishes the lost oils and nourishment without leaving any mark on the surface.

Split-Grain Leather Hunting Boots:

Unlike full-grain leather, split-grain needs extra protection to maintain its quality. When cleaning, use a mild product that won’t damage the leather’s protective coating. For this type of leather, saddle soap is ideal, as it cleans and conditions in one application. And for conditioning split-grain leather, products like Fiebings Leather Conditioner are perfect; it has a gentle formula that effectively nourishes the leather without leaving any residue behind.

Nubuck or Suede Leather Hunting Boots:

Nubuck and suede leather require a bit more effort during the cleaning and conditioning process. Use a brush specifically made for this type of leather to remove dirt, dust, and debris from the surface. A product like Leather Honey Conditioner or Angelus Nubuck and Suede Leather Cleaner and Conditioner is ideal for conditioning nubuck or suede; it effectively softens and oils the leather without leaving any residue behind.

When cleaning nubuck or suede, avoid using any products that contain acetone, alcohol, turpentine, or abrasives as these can damage the leather. And when conditioning them, use a product that is specifically made for this type of leather. Doing so will help ensure your boots stay in great condition for years to come.

Waterproof Leather Hunting Boots:

Waterproof leather hunting boots are designed to keep your feet dry and comfortable in wet conditions. To maintain this waterproof protection, treat the leather with a specialized waterproofing product every few months. Products like Sno-Seal Original Beeswax Waterproofer or Obenauf’s Heavy Duty Leather Preservative help form an invisible barrier against water and dirt without darkening the leather.

Insulated Leather Hunting Boots:

Insulated leather hunting boots are designed to keep your feet warm in cold weather conditions. To maintain the insulation, treat the leather with a specialized waterproofing product every few months. Products like Obenauf’s Leather Oil or Mink Oil work great for this task; contains beeswax that conditions and protects while preserving the insulation properties while maintaining its breathability.

Exotic Leather Hunting Boots:

Exotic leather is one of the most expensive types of material used in hunting boots. To maintain its quality and prevent discoloration, treat it with a specialized conditioner every few months. Products like Cadillac Select Premium Cream Leather Conditioner or B&E Exotic Leather Conditioner are specifically designed for exotic leathers, this conditioner helps nourish and protect while maintaining their exotic characteristics.


How often do I need to clean and condition my leather hunting boots?

We recommend that you clean and condition your boots at least once a month. Doing this will help keep them in prime condition and extend their lifespan. Additionally, if you’re planning to use them in wet conditions, it is best to condition them before each use.

How do I store my boots to maintain their shape?

To maintain the shape of your boots, we recommend using boot trees or stuffing them with newspaper after each use. Additionally, make sure that the boots are properly laced and stored in an area away from direct sunlight. Lastly, avoid storing them in any manner that could cause creasing or misshaping.

What should I do if my leather boots start to crack?

If you notice any cracks in your boots, it is best to repair them immediately. We recommend using a quality leather conditioner with UV protection to help prevent further cracking and maintain the suppleness of the leather. Additionally, make sure that your boots are not exposed to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.

What is the best way to condition leather boots?

The best way to condition leather boots is to apply a quality leather conditioner with a clean, soft cloth. Massage the conditioner into the boots using circular motions, covering all areas including seams and stitching. Allow the conditioner to sit on the leather for its recommended absorption time before buffing it with a separate clean cloth for shine. Finally, remember to condition your boots regularly to keep them looking their best.

What is the best way to clean leather boots?

The best way to clean leather boots is to use a mild cleaner formulated specifically for leather. Start by using a damp, clean cloth to gently wipe away any dirt and grime from the surface of the leather. If necessary, you can use a soft brush to remove any tough dirt or mud. Make sure not to scrub too hard, as this can damage the leather. Once the surface is clean, rinse the cloth and wipe away any remaining cleaner from the boots. Finally, allow them to dry naturally in a cool, well-ventilated area before applying conditioner.

How often should you oil leather boots?

To keep your leather boots in the best condition, we recommend oiling them at least once a month. When applying oil to your boots, use a product like Obenauf’s Leather Oil or Mink Oil; these are specifically formulated for leather and will help to nourish the material while preserving its breathability and waterproof features.

What is the best way to waterproof leather boots?

To waterproof leather boots, we recommend using a quality product like Sno-Seal Original Beeswax Waterproofer or Obenauf’s Heavy Duty Leather Preservative. Apply these products according to the instructions on the label and let them dry completely before wearing your boots in wet conditions. Additionally, remember to reapply waterproofing treatments every few months to maintain their protection against water and dirt.

What should I do if my leather hunting boots are too tight?

If your leather hunting boots are too tight, try using a leather conditioner with beeswax to help break in the material. Additionally, you can use a stretching spray that is designed to help break in leather boots.

What type of cleaner should I use on my hunting boots?

When cleaning your hunting boots, it is important to use the right type of cleaner. We recommend using a mild cleaner specifically made for leather. Avoid using harsh cleaners, detergents or abrasive materials as these can damage the leather and reduce its lifespan.

How do I remove salt stains from my boots?

Salt stains can be removed with a mixture of one part water and one part white vinegar. Use a clean cloth to apply the mixture to the stained area, then gently scrub away the stain with a soft brush. Once you have removed the stain, rinse off the boots and allow them to air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area.

What can I do if my boots are smelly?

If your leather boots are smelly, use a specialized odor-eliminating product to get rid of the bad smell. Products like Obenauf’s Deodorizer or Rejuvenate No-Odor Odor Eliminator are designed to help remove odors from leather and fabric without damaging the material. Additionally, make sure your boots are properly aired out after each use and stored in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight.

Do I need to polish my leather hunting boots?

Polishing your hunting boots can help to protect the leather from water and dirt while also improving their appearance. We recommend using a quality shoe polish every few months, applying it with a soft cloth in circular motions until the material is evenly coated. Allow the polish to dry before buffing it off with a separate clean cloth for shine.

What kind of oil do you use on leather boots?

We recommend using a quality leather oil or mink oil to help nourish and protect your leather boots. These products are specially formulated for leather and will help to keep the material soft while preserving its breathability and waterproof features.

Do leather boots need to be treated?

Yes, leather boots need to be treated regularly with a quality leather conditioner. This will help to keep the material soft and prevent cracks and creases from forming over time.


Caring for your leather boots is essential to maintaining their quality and longevity. Treat them with a quality leather conditioner, oil or waterproofing product regularly, and store them properly in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight when not in use. With the right care and maintenance, your leather boots will stand the test of time.


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Leo Massy
Leo Massy, the hunting boots expert, seasoned hunter, and owner of the Hunting Boots Store located at 1460 West Franklin Street, Dothan, Alabama. With a deep love for the outdoors and a wealth of knowledge in hunting boots, Leo is the go-to resource for hunters of all levels.
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