The best proven way to make your leather boots last

Shower them with love, attention, and bit of baking soda.

Closeup details of leather boots and laces.
Properly caring for your leather boots can add years of life.Steve Johnson

This story originally featured on Field & Stream.

If you’re one of those people who’s ever found the perfect pair of leather boots, you know how important it can be to enjoy every minute of your time in them. Your favorite shoes are like an old friend—even if you haven’t seen them for a while, you can take up right where you left off comfortably. Take good care of those boots, and they’ll take good care of your feet. To maintain them properly, follow these three steps.

Clean after each use

Umien Combo Scraper and Scrubber
A boot scraper and brush will let you get the mud and grime off your boots before stepping into your home or hunting cabin.UMIEN

There are more important reasons to clean your boots after each use than just ensuring your significant other doesn’t gripe at you for tracking mud and muck into the house. Leather that isn’t cared for is more likely to weather and crack than properly treated leather. First on the list of boot-maintenance to-dos is using a good brush or boot cleaner when you get home to get all the dirt and other residue off. To remove grease or oil, sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the area, rub it gently with a wet rag, and let it sit overnight. Later, wipe off the powder with a soft cloth. For other stains, mix equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar into a paste, apply it to the stained area, and let sit for a half hour. Then, use a damp cloth to remove the paste.

Condition the leather

Leather Honey Boot Conditioning
A leather conditioner can penetrate pores to protect new leather and rejuvenate old leather.Leather Honey

All-leather boots are typically made of split cowhide; the outside of the hide is called top-grain leather. That top-grain leather often undergoes an additional finishing process to remove any natural scars or blemishes. If it doesn’t it’s called full-grain leather. Regardless, leather is a skin, and skin needs treatment to stay supple and fresh. That’s why conditioning your leather boots is an important next step after cleaning. Rub an oil or wax conditioner made specifically for leather into the grain with a soft, dry cloth. Make sure you cover all of the leather surfaces well and don’t miss any small spots that can become problems in the future. You’ll want to let them dry well before moving on to waterproofing, if you choose to do so.

Add a waterproof treatment

FRYE Leather Conditioning Cream
A specialized leather conditioner weatherproofs, conditions, and restores all oil-tanned leathers.FRYE

The next boot-care step is waterproofing your best outdoor pair so your feet stay warm and dry when worn in inclement weather. For that, you can massage wax waterproofing treatments into the leather on the boot, much like waxing your car. Keep rubbing until most or all of the cream has penetrated the leather. Some people like to use silicon spray sealants that are equally effective and somewhat easier to use. It’s easy to apply, but the tradeoff is that silicon sprays tend to wear off quickly and need to be reapplied more often. Note that many people choose not to waterproof their leather boots that have a Gore-Tex or similar lining. But even if your shoes are lined with a waterproof membrane, the leather is subject to the elements, so it’s still a good idea to treat it with a compound occasionally.