How to Clean Leather Boots: Removing Odor & Conditioning (2021 Update)

There are many benefits to investing in a pair of leather boots. For one, they last a lot longer than many synthetic or man-made shoes. They also look even better the more that you wear them.

Leather boots have many great features, including breathability, water resistance, easy to clean, and very comfortable. And with cute skirts, they make one perfect match.

Learning how to clean leather boots is an absolute must, with frequent stain removal and polishing being recommended. Continual use not only affects the physical state of leather boots, but can result in a buildup of unpleasant odor.

how to clean leather boots

To make leather boot care as comprehensive as possible, measures need to be taken to repair damage and prepare for future blemishing.

How to Clean Dirty Leather Boots

If you're wondering how to clean leather boots, it is a pretty straightforward process. And how to clean brown leather boots will be basically the same as cleaning any other color of leather boots.

Step 1: Remove the Laces.

Take out the laces and replace them if they are frayed or wash them with a laundry load.

It might be a good idea to wash the laces too, if they’re dirty, although completely replacing them could be a better option depending on how worn they are.

Step 2: Remove dirt and debris.

Using a soft toothbrush or cloth, scrub any dirt or debris free.

Step 3: Clean thoroughly.

The type of cleaner that you use is also important. You want to use a good quality saddle soap mixed with a little water and wipe off your shoes until you are satisfied with the results.

It’s recommended to use either a soft cloth or toothbrush to properly clean everything.

If a toothbrush is used, then it’s vital that it has soft bristles as hard-bristled toothbrushes can easily scratch leather, resulting in an unappealing appearance.

Step 4: Rinse.

Wipe off any soap residue with a clean, damp cloth.

rinse leather boots

Step 5: Condition.

Apply a leather conditioner with a soft cloth.

Step 6: Dry.

Allow to air dry.

After leather boots have been cleaned they should be left out to dry. Overly-damp conditions can damage leather, but extreme heat can also crack it. Because of this, it’s best to leave it out to air dry, outside if possible, and to avoid the use of heaters or blow-dryers.

No matter what you do, do not try to wash your leather boots in the washing machine, or you will ruin them.


How to Remove Stains from Leather Boots

If you know how to clean leather shoes, you already know most of what you need to know to eliminate more stubborn stains. If your leather boots have stains on them, you can safely remove them with the right supplies and techniques.

Different stains will require slightly different methods to remove them, as well. If you have oil or grease stains, a little baking soda and water paste will get them out. Just be sure to let the paste sit on the stains for at least a couple of hours to give it a chance to absorb all the oil or grease.



For oil-based stains, either cornstarch or baking soda needs to be rubbed into the affected area with a damp cloth and then left to sit for several hours, preferably overnight. After a long period of time, the area should be wiped off with a dry cloth, removing the stain.

Sometimes you will need to use something stronger such as a little nail polish remover.

If you use nail polish remover, just be sure to work in a little leather conditioner with a soft cloth to replenish any oils that have been leached out by the nail polish.

Finish up by wipe away with a damp, non-abrasive cloth. Just be sure to let the conditioner soak in for at least 24 hours before buffing with a soft cloth.



Ink is another substance that frequently stains leather. To remove it, alcohol or nail polish remover should saturate a cotton swab that then blots the affected area.

It’s important for the swab to not be rubbed into the boot as it can easily cause the ink stain to spread.

Each time the cotton swab is dabbed on the ink stain, it should remove a little bit of the blemish. Eventually, the stain will disappear, or at least appear negligible.



boots scuffs

To get rid of scuffs, you can try a few different tricks depending on the severity of the scuffs.

For most scuffs, you can simply brush any dirt or debris away with a soft-bristled toothbrush or cloth and use an eraser to "erase" any offending marks. You may need to moisten a toothbrush for tougher scuffs and use a little toothpaste to rub away marks.



If your favorite pair of leather boots have gotten scratches in them, you can't remove them, but you can make them much less noticeable.

To do this, rub a cloth over the scratch with a dab of olive oil or vinegar on it. Use a circular motion and, once done, allow to dry for 24 hours for the best results.

For deeper scratches, you can fill them in with a little super glue. You can coat with a polish that matches the leather before lightly sanding and then coating again with the polish.

Buff and apply a leather conditioner. This method can be tricky, so you may want to try on a discreet area first before trying it on a more noticeable location.


How to Remove Odor from Leather Boots

An unfortunate side-effect of continued footwear use is the inevitable bacterial and impurity buildups which cause unpleasant smells.

boots smell

Certain measures can be taken to prevent awful order from occurring, such as constantly airing them out, but an odor buildup is almost inevitable.

Even if a pair of leather boots looks incredibly pleasing to the eye, bad smells can be distracting and embarrassing.

Fortunately, many different remedies have been devised to solve this problem over the years.

One method is to place a pair of boots in an airtight bag and place them in the freezer for a couple of hours. The extreme cold will kill off the odor-causing bacteria and leave the boots much more pleasant than before.

Here's another one. You can remove boot odors using a cloth and some saddle soap. Rub it around the inside of your boot until it gets sudsy and then use another damp cloth to wipe away any residue.

Allow to air dry completely and then wipe out the inside of your boots once more but this time using a cloth that is damp with a little vinegar and water mixture.

Then sprinkle in a little baking soda. You can also place a couple of dryer sheets in your boots when you are not wearing them or fill a sock with baking soda and leave in your boots for extra odor absorption.

Although many of the aforementioned methods can garner excellent results, they’re not always effective, which is why a complete deep scrub might be the best option. 

To do this, several drops of soap should be placed within the boot and then scrubbed with a damp cloth until foaming starts to occur.

An additional damp cloth should be used to wipe out any leftover soap bubbles and then should be left to dry.

Following this, a combination of vinegar and water should be used to completely disinfect any leftover odor-causing bacteria.

How to Clean Leather Boots with Household Items

There are many items that you probably already have around the house to keep your leather boots nice and clean.

Toothbrushes, soap, baking soda, and even vinegar have already been mentioned as being useful, and here's a long list of ways to clean leather boots with household items or to make them more visually stunning:


Vaseline is commonly used as a substitute for leather conditioner and can also double as shoe polish. It’s remarkably good at reducing the unseemly effect of scratches and rivals toothpaste in terms of scuff mark reduction.

Talcum Powder: 

Talcum Powder: If baking soda or cornstarch is not available, or not preferred, talcum powder can be used as a substitute. It’s also very good at limiting moisture inside boots to prevent unpleasant odors.

Hair Conditioner: 

Hair conditioners are a great tool for shining up your leather boots, and vinegar is also a great cleaner for leather. Talcum powder will also help to absorb stains. Just sprinkle some on any oil stains and allow to sit for an hour or two before brushing off.

Saddle Soap:

Saddle soap is a great cleaner to have on hand if you own leather boots or bags. Just put a few drops on a damp cloth and use it to clean your leather.

Dish Soap:

Dish soap is also effective. Just be sure to wipe off any soap residue with a damp cloth afterward. A paste made of baking soda and a little water will get any oil stains out of your boots while toothpaste and Vaseline will get rid of scuff marks.

Last but not least, if you are using vinegar to clean your leather, just be sure to mix it with some linseed oil to help prevent it from drying out. Then gently rub over the offensive stains in a circular motion.

How to Polish Leather Boots

There are a number of ways to get your leather shoes to shine. Be sure to first remove any dirt or debris and remove the laces. You will also want to clean your boots with a little saddle soap and allow them to dry thoroughly before beginning to polish.

Once you have adequately prepared your shoes, you can begin the polishing process.

You can use a reputable store-bought brand to give your boots a quick but temporary shine, but if you want the results to last, you will need to spend a little more time polishing your boots.

No matter what polish you use, you want to be sure to get into every crease and groove and to blend everything well with a soft cloth and using a circular motion. First, apply a shoe cream and then use a wax-based shoe polish.

If you only use one, you should opt for the shoe cream, but the combination of the two will give you the best results. The cream will help to soften and condition the leather while the wax helps protect the leather from the elements.

To obtain a higher shine, use a slightly damp cloth to use when applying the wax. Don't forget to buff with a buffing cloth once you are done working in the shoe cream and polish to achieve a higher level of shine.

How to Condition Leather Boots

Conditioning your leather boots is a vital step to keeping them looking like-new for as long as possible. When leather doesn't get conditioned regularly, it loses moisture and will crack and fade, which is not a good look. It actually weakens and looses its suppleness.

Before conditioning, make sure that they are clean and free of any dust or dirt. Then you can begin to condition with a soft cloth and leather conditioner or balm.

Your leather boots may appear darker for a few days after the application but will eventually lighten as the leather absorbs the oils, although it is always a good idea to test an inconspicuous spot first to be sure that it is the look that you want.

(Image: Slip-On Genuine Leather Platform Boots )


Use a circular motion for the best coverage and use firm but not hard pressure. Work it in and get into all of the creases and grooves.

Depending on how "thirsty" your boots are, you may need to apply two or even three applications. However, if you keep up on your leather care, you will probably only need one application the next time that you do it.

It is a good idea to condition your leather boots every three months or as often as once a month if you use them all the time and live in a dry climate.

Wipe off any conditioner that is not getting absorbed and allow to dry for about 12 hours before using a dry rag to absorb any moisture or oils that have not gotten absorbed.

Final Thoughts

Owning a pair of leather boots that you love is something that you can take pride in as you care for them and really get to know them through regular cleanings and polishing.

Leather is a natural material that looks better with age as long as you care for it.

Enjoy the process, and you will love your favorite pair of leather boots for many years to come.

Outfits that look awesome with leather boots:

Dresses & Skirts


Cute Shorts

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