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Boot Cleaning

I just got a very expensive pair of Tredstep Medici tall boots, but I don’t know how to clean them properly. I have no trouble polishing them, but I am a little puzzled when it comes to cleaning. What cleaners do you use on your tall boots?

Nothing, wipe with a damp cloth, then polish.

If muddy, wash under running tap, of course outside or in the boot room, because some people think that the kitchen sink is not for rinsing muddy boots (these of course are people with handy boot rooms)

Just plain water to remove dirt, don’t rub or scratch, rinse to remove stuff…dry carefully with a soft cloth and then polish…same way my daddy taught me years ago…


What?! The kitchen sink is not for muddy boots?

Leather is a natural material, designed to cope with natural things like mud and sweat. So use plain cold water to rinse off mud and a cloth for the more stuck on stuff and a careful use of a finger nail or even the blunt side of a knife for really persistent blobs of crud. Then always allow the boots to dry quietly: don’t take any aggressive steps to dry them faster, like putting them under a hot radiator. Same if the boots get soaked through after rain or a fall in water. Once dry, polish as usual. Spit and polish.

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after normal daily wear, wipe the inside of the boot where it has come in contact with the horse with a damp rag. You want to remove the acidic sweat and dirt which harms leather. lightly brush away dirt etc from the sole and crevices

as the others have said, conventional polish is how you condition and protect boot leather. A polish is always preceded by a damp wipe down to remove dirt.

the finish of boot and shoe leather is not the same as that of bridles and saddles,you do not treat them the same. But like conventional tack, wiping down with a damp cloth after use is important first step

and certainly NEVER oil

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Yep, plain water. I’ve had issues with paddock boots and half chaps using leather cleaners and stripping the black dye. I wouldn’t want to risk it with nicer boots.

Some people have strange ideas, get upset with bits in the dishwasher, and show sheets in the clothes washer…

BUT at the same time think it is acceptable to take chainsaw engines apart on the kitchen table…


FYI - don’t polish every time you clean them, unless you clean rarely. Traditional polish is abrasive and you’ll just find yourself having to do it more frequently.

My schooling boots get polished once or twice a year but get wiped off with a damp rag every ride. My show boots get polished whenever they loose their luster.

I love the Der Dau Boot Condition and use it once a week usually. It seems to help keep the leather looking a bit shinier between polishes. SmartPak discontinued it so I’m going to try the Kiwi Leather Lotion, which I used to use years ago.

Every once in a while, take a tooth brush to the edges where the sole and foot meet and to the zipper. Use a piece of clear wax to grease the (cleaned) zipper frequently.

Damp cloth, not running water. That much water will ruin the leather. I work at at a tack shop and see lots of boots come back “because they didn’t hold up”, when clearly they have been saturated. Be gentle with your boots and they will last much longer.

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Mmmm damp cloth will scratch if you are not careful!

Being a Brit I am used to stuff that can cope with being wet regularly. Boots that are washed, dried and polished should hold up.

Water is very good for cleaning mud but not good at all for cleaning off oils. That would include skin oils from humans, horses, etc. There are also natural oil sources in plant materials and other things boots come in contact with. To keep them clean requires a cleaning material that remove these surface oils but does not adversely affect the leather (that is, in fact, dead skin).

A good quality cream polish is not abrasive and will not mechanically damage leather. It still has to be used appropriately but will not damage leather when correctly used.

My personal program is to clean off mud using water and cleaning the welts using an old tooth brush. Then use Stubben Leathersafe to clean the surface. Let dry and wipe it down. Finally, use a good quality creme polish (I prefer Meltonian) and let it dry for at least an hour or two (overnight is even better). Then buff it out with a soft buffing brush. If you want a higher quality finish buff a second time with a piece of sheepskin wool. You can buy this at Tandy Leather or a similar store.

My oldest pair of boots, my black French Calf dress boots, are 20 years old. The second oldest are a pair of Dehners bought in 2003. Both are fully serviceable. The dress boots are not worn regularly but the Dehners have endured the often wet weather of East TN for a long time.


My Dubarry boots will definitely hold up to running water. My calf leather Konigs, not so much! The Tredstep Medicis are a very fine calf leather that will absolutely disintegrate if subjected to running water.

And of course one would use a very clean, soft damp cloth to wipe off surface sweat and grime, not something coarse and scratchy.

From the Tredstep website: Cleaning

• Wipe all traces of dirt and dust with a damp soft cloth or soft brush. Pay particular attention to the seams and creases.
• If the boot gets wet let the leather dry completely before wearing them again. Allow the leather to dry naturally with newspaper stuffed inside. Avoid using artificial heat sources.
• When the boot is completely dry polish with a wax based polish

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Big emphasis on the wax-based polish in my experience- not only does it shine up beautifully for the show ring, but once you’ve built up a few layers, then it’s that much easier to simply wipe off any dust or mud and helps protect the leather from water damage.

The problem with multiple layer, wax based shining is that if you get a “gouge” in the shine it’s like scratching the paint on a car. It’s a major operation to fill in the “crack” and blend the finishes to be even. If you’ve got lots of time, that’s OK. If not, well, there are other other methods! :wink:

Here are two videos on methods that produce spectacular results but are time consuming and require a certain level of expertise.



In each of these there are multiple other videos showing other ways to do the job.



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After I wipe off the dust and dirt with a damp cloth, if I feel like the boots need more, I like the Cadillac boot conditioner - my tack shop recommended it as being similar to the old Vogel conditioner. You can find it lots of places online, including Amazon and WalMart. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Cadillac-Boot-Shoe-Care-Leather-Conditioner/439546631?athcpid=439546631&athpgid=athenaItemPage&athcgid=null&athznid=PWVAV&athieid=v0&athstid=CS002&athguid=466001f5-626655aa-f77e0abaacf9f776&athena=true

Not to hijack, but what’s the best way to clean waxed leather? I bought a very nice pair of Ariat paddock boots that have a waxy, matte finish. What’s the best way to clean and condition? I have been going with the damp cloth but I’m unsure about the conditioner.

After I ride I wipe the dust off with a soft towel, and then a soft damp sponge for a quick rub - usually the same sponge I use for my post ride saddle/bridle wipe.

Once a week (ish), I give them a more thorough going over - again just with water - but I get into the welt and just overall pay more attention. Polish 1-2x/year.

In general I am careful where I wear them. I do wear them while tacking up, and might have them on in the wash stall while I rinse my horse/ keep them on while I pop her back down to her paddock - but I do not wear them around for general barn work.

Mine are MH Victoria Dress Boots - not super duper soft calf leather. My last boots were extremely soft, and while I liked them, I was nervous about them all the time!

If I understand what you’re asking with a waxed (or otherwise treated leather with a matte finish) there is no intent that they be shined. I’d just clean them with water most of the time and Leathersafe or glycerin soap as required in the event of more damaging surface materials like oil, manure, urine, etc.


Wow, clean my Petrie boots with saddle soap a few times a month and use a little conditioner on them a few times in the winter months. I also zip them up and clean the zippers with a little Dawn dish soap once a month. Polish only for shows, which is four times in the summer. I’m going to boot hell when I die.

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Something I forgot to add: shoe/boot trees.

These will allow the boot to maintain its shape when you remove and while your cleaning it. Make a huge difference in the longevity of the foot wear.


Keep in mind that if you have Patent or Brushed boots you should only use a silicone based cleaner. These come in a spray and in a creme.