After a long ride, motorcycle boots can get covered with dirt, mud and crud. If your boots are looking worse-for-wear or you aren’t sure what’s on the bottom of them lately, follow these steps to maintain, protect and restore your leather boots. Whether you’ve just purchased premium riding boots or are still rocking your classic leather boots, grab your stiff bristled brush and get to work.
Collect Your Tools and Cleaner
The first thing you need to do is check out the type of boot you have. Some riding boots look convincingly like leather, but are actually vinyl-topped or Lorica. You’ll need a different cleaning solution for these alternative materials. This guide will focus on true oiled leather boots. Check out your toolkit for these items to make sure you’re ready for your cleaning project:
- Bristled brush
- Soft cloth
- Leather cleaner
- Boot or mink oil
- Optional: leather protectant
If you’re missing one of these, swing by the store or order it online. Don’t get started without the right tools, but save yourself time and prepare your kit for a well-oiled finish on your favorite boots.
Leather protectant is an optional step for premium care. It’s not a required step, but it can help you enjoy a longer lifespan and greater waterproofing. Be sure to shop for leather protectant that works for your particular leather boots, or go old-school and let your boot oil do its work.
Basically, you’ll follow the same steps that you use for any of your motorcycle leather. All leather needs three basic steps for long-lasting shine and rugged capabilities:
- Wiping exterior
- Cleaning leather
- Conditioning with oil
From motorcycle jackets to gloves, boots and trim details, every piece of leather in your riding kit will benefit from these steps. Without them, you’ll find your leather becoming stiff, uncomfortable, stained and wearing out sooner. You’ve already investing in quality gear, so take care of it to keep it protective, comfortable and safe for years to come.
Proper boot cleaning can take a few days as you wait for them to dry in between steps. Don’t start oiling your boots up the night before a big ride and expect them to be dry and ready to go. Give yourself a good weekend or a few days to be sure you have time to do it right.
Prepare Your Boots
Before you go crazy with all your leather cleaner and oil, you need to prepare your boots. Hours, weeks or years of rough riding have caked dirt, sweat and grime on your boots. Oiling up dirty boots isn’t going to get all that baked-on mud off, so take out your stiff bristled brush and old toothbrush and get to work.
Gently scrub every area of your boots to clear them of dirt. A toothbrush is a great tool for around your laces and edges, particularly if your boots have any unusual styling or additional seams on them.
Now that they’re all clear from debris, it’s time to apply leather cleaner. Be sure you have a cleaner that works for true leather, and follow all the instructions when applying cleaner. Whether you need a special brush or a good old-fashioned rag, apply it and scrub it to get into every crack and corner.
Wipe away all the extra cleaner and set your boots out to dry for a few hours or overnight. If you’re in a rush, it may be tempting to speed the process up. However, heat at this stage can dry out your boots and damage them. Put away your boot dryer, blower dryer and blowtorch and let your boots dry on their own.
Boots that are still wet with cleaner aren’t ready for oil, which is the most important part. Don’t skip the oiling step, otherwise your boots may not be sealed and will dry out and crack the next time you’re splashing through puddles or stomping through mud.
Oil Your Boots
Once they’re nice and dry, it’s time to oil them up. Mink or boot oil keeps the leather from drying out and gives them a waterproof finish. Oil up your hands or use a new cloth to liberally coat them into the entire surface area of your boots.
Oiling is the most important step, so don’t miss any part. Work oil into the seams, edges and every area. Think of it like a foot massage and really work that oil in. This is the conditioning step, so improper oiling creates dry, cracked boots that won’t protect you or offer much in the way of comfort.
There’s great debate between using mink oil and boot oil. Mink oil is an animal by-product and is useful if you want to keep your boots more flexible, but don’t mind darkening them a few shades. On the other hand, boot oil is tough and offers an additional layer of waterproofing, but may not darken them as much. However, in practice the difference is subtle. Many boot oil brands use a great deal of mink oil in their mixture, making the difference even less obvious.
Grab the brand and style of oil that is recommended for your boots or that is designed for your particular climate and riding style. Some are better suited for dry environments, while others are more moisture-resistant for those damp, rainy rides.
This is the conditioning step. Once it’s conditioned, your boots are ready to go. Oiled boots need to sit overnight to dry enough to be worn. If you’re looking for extreme protection for your valuable boots, shop for leather protectant. Similar to oil, this product adds an additional layer of water-proof protection.
Getting Ready to Ride
After these steps, you’ll enjoy like-new leather boots for your next big trip. Whether you need to impress your riding buddies or you’re gearing up for a big trip, prepare your boots and get ready to look your best. However, even the best cleaning and oiling job can’t fix every issue. If it’s time to retire your old boots, upgrade to the best motorcycle riding boots for comfort, protection and a cool, new look.