How to Waterproof Leather Boots for Winter

How to Waterproof Leather Boots for Winter

Winter is the ultimate test for any pair of leather shoes! If your shoes can make it through the harsh snow, salt, water and mud, you better believe they can survive the apocalypse!

One thing’s for sure, leather boots don't come cheap (the genuine ones at least).

The last thing you want is to lose them to the three months of winter weather.

Sure, the best way to keep them safe and clean is to avoid wearing them altogether. But what fun is that? So how to waterproof leather boots for winter? Read on to find out!

Why must you waterproof your shoes

Why must you waterproof your shoes?

The first and obvious reason for waterproofing your shoes is to protect the delicate leather material. Leather needs to maintain a certain amount of moisture that gives it its flexibility enabling it to withstand lots of harsh conditions.

Rapidly absorbing and releasing water often leads to the material drying out and even cracking. For this reason, a thin layer of waterproof compounds such as wax, in conjunction with proper cleaning and maintenance, will allow your shoes to last longer.

If not for the sake of durability or longevity of your leather shoes, then do it for your own comfort. To a certain degree, waterproof compounds prevent water from seeping into your shoes and wetting your feet. This not only affects your comfort but also your health in the long run. 

Methods used

The subject of leather dressing is quite controversial, especially in deciding which method is less invasive yet effective. Some waterproofing compounds can end up discoloring your shoes or even lead to irreparable damage such as drying out. Nonetheless, the methods below are commonly used to waterproof shoes. 


Oils have long been used to dress leather in pursuit of keeping water off. While oils work well in repelling moisture, they have the huge disadvantage of discoloring your shoes over time.

Oils can also get absorbed in the leather causing the material to disintegrate. For this reason, they are not the best solution, especially for prolonged use.

Commonly used oils for waterproofing leather are mink and neatsfoot oils which are sometimes incorporated in shoe creams for repelling water. 


This is a great alternative to oils as it does not penetrate the leather, which reduces the risk of the material disintegrating.

While some companies like Lincolns produce excellent shoe wax, the best results are often obtained when using natural bee wax. It is inexpensive and can easily be found in leather shops and retail shops including online stores. 

Waterproof Sprays 

Sprays are a pretty hassle-free way of waterproofing your boots. You get to cover a large area fast and without getting in contact with the compound. Most sprays consist of a Silicon Polymer and work by forming a protective coat on the shoe.

Acrylic co-polymer sprays work the same way as silicon-based sprays but have been proved to be more effective in repelling water than their counterparts.

It should, however, be noted that leather spays don't last very long since they simply form a thin coat on the shoe as opposed to creams which penetrate the material. You will, therefore, be required to reapply them after every use and sometimes even use a second coat.

How to waterproof leather boots in winter

How to waterproof leather boots in winter

Clean your shoes

Waterproof compounds work well on clean shoes, so before you apply any waterproof compounds, make sure you clean your shoes and dry them the right way. The best way to clean leather is by using saddle soap as opposed to ordinary soap.

Saddle soap, as the word suggests, is used to clean horse saddles. It does more than just cleaning your leather shoes. For one thing, it contains ingredients such as lanolin that moisturize and condition leather. It also works well on tough stain, removing them without discoloring your shoes. 

Dry the shoes first before applying the waterproof compound

The first thing idea that springs to mind when it comes to drying shoes is putting them near a heat source. This will backfire with leather shoes as they do not respond well to drastic changes in moisture levels.

Instead, let them dry naturally at room temperature. If you are in a hurry, you can use absorbers to draw out moisture. Absorbers include stuff like dry clothes or newspapers stuffed inside the shoes. Make sure you replace the absorbers every now and then when they get soaked.

You should follow this with a conditioner of your choice to replace any moisture lost while washing your shoe (although this is less likely to happen if you wash using saddle soap). 

Patch test

Before you start slathering your shoes with waterproof compound, do a little patch test on an inconspicuous spot on your shoe (such as the back section). Apply a very small amount of the waterproof compound and spread it well. Leave it to dry for about thirty minutes.

This helps with knowing whether the compound works well on your shoes or if it will end up discoloring them. 

Apply the waterproof compound evenly

You need to apply the waterproof compound evenly, ensuring that you cover the entire shoe. This makes sure that you don’t leave out any areas that might leak in water.

To do this effectively, make sure you remove the laces from the shoes before you start working on them. You can check for instructions on how long to wait for the waterproof compound to dry. If nothing is indicated, you can wait for the generally accepted 30 minutes before wearing your shoes.


As I said earlier, the best way to keep your shoes in great condition during winter is to avoid wearing them altogether. Alternatively, you can go for shoes like Gortex that have a waterproof lining to protect your feet from water.

You could also invest in galoshes. By wearing them on your leather shoes, you can protect them from all the elements including water and snow. This also helps reduce the number of times you need to clean or maintain your shoes.