How to Protect, Clean, and Store Winter Boots and Shoes
Your boots are made for walking — and, during winter months, they’re expected to stand up to rain, snow, ice — even salt. It seems like a tall order, doesn’t it? But your boots can do it, if you give them some TLC. Meghan Cleary, footwear expert and author of Shoe Are You?, offers some tips on how to help our winter shoe collections survive the harsh season.
A little-known enemy of winter footwear? Salt. While super efficient at dissolving snow and ice in driveways, it also can permanently stain leather and suede shoes. To prevent salt damage, Cleary recommends spraying boots a minimum of five to seven times with a protective shoe spray before wearing them.
“Let [your boots] dry between sprays and then let them dry overnight. This will give a great foundation for protection for the season,” she adds.
When you come inside after being in nasty weather, boots and shoes must be immediately wiped off or cleaned because, as Cleary says, once salt is left on your boot, it’s over.
“It’s quite tragic to get salt on your favorite pair of boots,” she says. “It not only discolors leather and suede, but eats away at it as well.” The solution? “Have a brush or cloth at your door for when you come in to head off any problems immediately.”
Polish and clean
The thought of polishing my boots reminds me of being a kid and seeing my dad shining up all his dress shoes on a Sunday night for the week ahead. But it’s probably time to step up and become a master polisher myself. Polish adds another layer of protection, and the more conditioned and oiled your boots and shoes are, the better they will repel salt and dirt. “An ounce of prevention can save you so many pairs of shoes and boots,” Cleary says.
She suggests cleaning leather with saddle soap and a damp rag, but says it’s best to leave it to the pros when it comes to suede. If they get scuffed she suggests taking them to a shoe repair specialist for steam- cleaning.
It’s not just the winter season that you need to think about protecting your cold weather shoes and boots. Shove them to the back of the closet in the “off-season” and they will most likely end up dusty and dirty and misshapen. “Boot storage is the conundrum of women the world over!” says Cleary.
Boot shapers to help them keep their form when you’re not using them, or for a simpler, less expensive solution, place a rolled-up magazine in the boot. It will expand slightly to the size of the boot and keep it up upright, maintaining the correct shape.
Fall and winter footwear can be stored under the bed in a flat shoe-storage bag. Not only will this keep them clean and safe from getting trampled, but when you pull them out again next fall, they’ll feel new again.