Whether you’re a proud owner of patent leather boots or love to rock your Uggs, dirty boots are always an issue.

If you love your boots like most do, throwing them aside simply because they have salt stains or scuff marks is just sad. Cleaning your leather boots and giving them a little TLC can breathe new life into them. (By the way, the same is true if you’re dealing with dirty suede shoes.)


Leather is essentially processed animal hide, which means it requires periodic conditioning and moisturizing to keep it from drying out and looking dull. Regular cleaning followed by polishing and conditioning protects the leather and extends its life.

before and after cleaning boots with dish soap

Polishing is an integral part of maintaining leather – whether it’s boots, gloves or a handbag made from leather. That, along with regular cleaning, can usually turn your leather footwear from drab to fab.

Taking care of your leather doesn’t always mean that you need to burn a hole in your pocket with expensive leather cleaners and overpriced leather conditioners. With some simple hacks and nifty DIYs, you’re all set to take care of your leather on your own.


There are three stages involved in cleaning and restoring your leather boots.

Normal Cleaning

Your leather boots require a normal cleanup regularly, especially if you wear them often. Regular cleaning will prevent everyday stains from setting in and marring the look of your boots.

Method 1: Use Dish Soap

before and after cleaning boots with dish soap

You can use any mild dish soap for the normal cleaning of your leather boots. Water doesn’t ruin the texture of the leather, which means that a well-diluted soap solution made with warm water can be used to thoroughly clean your boots – from everyday grime to simple stains.

If you’re worried about your leather drying out, don’t skip the polishing step. As a rule, leather should be moisturized with a good moisturizer every time it is cleaned.

Things you’ll need:


things you will need to clean leather boots with dish soap

  • Shoe shine sponge (removes dirt)
  • Liquid dish soap – 1 teaspoon (cleaning agent)
  • Warm water – ¼ cup
  • Towels – 2
  • Paper towels

Step 1. Remove the laces

remove the laces of boots

  • Before you start cleaning your leather boots, remove the laces.

This will allow you to clean your boots thoroughly. The net of the laces often traps dirt, and you don’t want that left behind after you’ve done your cleaning.

Step 2. Clean the surface dirt off the boots

clean the surface dirt from boots

  • Remove the surface dirt from your boots using a shoe shine sponge.

You can easily get these sponges from any shoe store. Using this type of sponge will greatly reduce the amount of work needed in the subsequent steps.

Step 3. Make a soap solution

make a soap solution

  • Put 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap in a bowl.
  • Pour in ¼ cup of warm water.
  • Mix the ingredients well.

Step 4. Clean the boots with the soap solution and a towel

clean the boots with the solution

  • Fold a small towel and dip a corner of it into the soap solution.
  • Wipe your boots with the damp part of the towel. The soap will readily remove any grime from the surface.
  • Continue until you’ve cleaned the entire leather surface. Use a fresh corner of the towel once the previous one gets too dirty.

Step 5. Remove the soap residue

remove the soap residue from the boots

  • Dip a clean towel in plain water and wipe off the soap residue from the surface of the boots.

Step 6. Dry and lace the boots

dry and lace the boots

  • Wipe the boots dry with paper towels.
  • Lace the boots and you’re good to go.

clean boots using dish soap


Stain Removal

Despite your best intentions, your precious leather boots often end up with various stains and marks. Here, we’re explaining how to remove salt stains and scuff marks.

Scuff marks are quite common. The only way you can truly avoid them is to never wear your boots at all, be it inside or outside.

Salt is another story. Whether you like snow is neither here nor there, but inevitably those snowy winter days leave your footwear with sorry looking salt stains. Salt can actually ruin the leather over time. It can dry it out and cause cracks to develop, making it vulnerable to the elements of nature.

# Scuff Marks

Method 1: Use Vaseline

before and after cleaning boots using vaseline

Use Vaseline or any other petroleum jelly that you have on hand to remove scuff marks from your leather boots without ruining the finish. Vaseline works especially well for patent leather and vinyl shoes. All you need to do is buff it in.

Things you’ll need:

things you will need to clean boots using vaseline

  • Vaseline (removes scuff marks)
  • Paper towels

Step 1. Coat the scuff marks with Vaseline

coat the scuff marks on boots with vaseline

  • Apply Vaseline over the scuff marks with your finger.

Step 2. Buff with a paper towel

buff your boots with vaseline

  • Buff the scuff marks with a wadded piece of paper towel until the Vaseline is completely rubbed in.

clean boots with vaseline

Method 2: Use Toothpaste

before and after cleaning with toothpaste

Toothpaste is not only good for whitening your teeth but also for erasing scuff marks on your leather boots. The superfine abrasives present in common white toothpaste can buff out scuff marks without damaging the leather. Toothpaste also works well with scuff marks on canvas shoes.

Things you’ll need:


things you will need to clean boots with toothpaste

  • Generic white toothpaste (removes scuff marks)
  • Paper towels

Step 1. Apply toothpaste on the scuff marks

apply toothpaste on scuff marks on boots

  • Squirt a little toothpaste on the scuff marks on your boots.
  • Spread it as needed so that it completely covers each mark.

Step 2. Buff with a paper towel

buff your boots with paper towel

  • Use a wadded paper towel to buff the toothpaste over the scuffed leather and erase those unsightly marks.

clean boots with toothpaste

# Salt Stains

Method 1: Use Vinegar

before and after cleaning boots with vinegar

The acidic nature of vinegar can easily dissolve salt stains on your leather boots. Being a mild acid, it is suitable for use on leather as the pH level of leather is low as well. Don’t worry about the vinegary smell. It diffuses within about an hour.

Things you’ll need:

things you will need to clean leather boots

  • White vinegar – 1 tablespoon (removes salt stains)
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Dish towel
  • Paper towels

Step 1. Dilute the vinegar

dilute the vinegar to clean boots

  • Dilute the white vinegar by mixing 1 tablespoon of it into 1 cup of plain water.

Step 2. Remove the salt stains with the diluted vinegar

remove the salt stains from boots

  • Wet a dish towel with the diluted vinegar.
  • Wipe it over the salt stains to lift them from the leather surface.
  • Clean the sides as well as the soles of the boots to remove all the salt stains.

Step 3. Dry the boots

dry the boots

  • Finally, dry the moisture from the leather surface with a paper towel.

clean boots using vinegar


While professionals use neatsfoot oil to polish leather, you can also use vegetable oils, beeswax and even hair conditioners for your regular DIY upkeep of your boots. A good moisturizer lubricates the fibers in the leather and restores life into stiff and dry leather. Polishing, especially with beeswax, can also weatherproof your boots, which can come in handy during the winter and in wet climates.

Just keep in mind to never polish dirty boots, as it damages the leather over time. Repeated polishing without cleaning the leather properly can create a thick film of numerous layers of dirt and oil that can become impossible to clean.

Also, always let the leather dry completely before you condition and polish your boots. Not doing so can give rise to severe mold.

Method 1: Use Olive Oil

before and after cleaning leather boots uisng olive oil

Olive oil is a simple DIY leather polish that penetrates faster and more evenly than most leather conditioners. In fact, some professionals even prefer olive oil over other leather oils. Use extra-virgin olive oil for best results.

When polishing leather with olive oil, keep in mind that a little goes a long way. Using olive oil too liberally can saturate some leather surfaces and result in oil spots over time.

Things you’ll need:

things you will need to clean leather boots with olive oil

  • Extra-virgin olive oil (moisturizer and conditioner)
  • Paper towels

Single-Step Treatment: Polish the boots with olive oil

polish boots with olive oil

  • Put a little extra-virgin olive oil on a folded paper towel.
  • Use it to buff your leather boots.
  • Spread the oil over a considerable surface area and keep working it in until it absorbs completely.
  • Using a fresh paper towel and oil as needed, continue until you’ve polished the entire leather surface of your boots.

clean boots using olive oil

Method 2: Use Leave-On Hair Conditioner

before and after cleaning boots with leave on hair conditioner

Hair conditioners are quite multi-functional. Other than hair care, they can also be used as fabric conditioners as well as leather conditioners. A leave-on hair conditioner is the best choice for your leather boots. It will moisturize and soften the leather and also provide protection from further abuse.

Things you’ll need:

things you will need to clean leather boots using hair conditioner

  • Leave-on hair conditioner (moisturizer and conditioner)
  • Paper towels

Single-Step Treatment: Polish the boots with hair conditioner

polish the boots with hair conditioner

  • Put a little hair conditioner on a wadded paper towel.
  • Use it to apply the conditioner on the boots.
  • Buff the leather surface until the conditioner is completely worked into the leather.
  • Using a fresh paper towel and conditioner when needed, repeat until you have moisturized and polished all the leather on your boots.

polish boots with leave on hair conditioner


  • Always spot test any cleaning or polishing agent in an inconspicuous area of your leather boots before using it to clean or condition the footwear.
  • Baking soda, acetone-free nail polish remover, a rubber eraser or a Magic Eraser can also be used for removing scuff marks from leather.
  • Vaseline can also be used to polish your leather boots.
  • Weatherproofing your leather boots can protect them from potential damage from rain, sleet, snow and salt.
  • Never dry leather in front of a heater, with a blow dryer or in bright sun. Air-dry your leather boots in a well-ventilated place.
  • Get rid of the odor in your boots by sprinkling baking soda inside them, as smelly shoes can give rise to bad foot odor.

Summary of How to Clean Leather Boots

clean leather boots

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