Leather cowboy boots look rustic and resilient, but you can bet your boots that they won’t last long if you don’t condition them. Even six months is too long for your boots to go without conditioning.

Here’s how you can use leather conditioner to keep your cowboy boots scootin’ along.


What is Leather Conditioner?

Leather conditioner preserves the soft, smooth texture of real leather. It’s not polish, which sits on the surface, but a substance that sinks into the leather. If you don’t use a conditioner, your boots will become dry, stiff and cracked. This is because leather is skin, and skin is composed of tiny fibers meshed together in a stretchy web. When the fibers dry out, they lose their pliability, and your boots will crease, crack and tear at unconditioned areas that bend frequently. Leather is an expensive material, so a conditioner is essential to protecting your investment and extending its life.

Clean Your Boots First

  • First, take a clean, dry rag and lightly whisk it over the boots to remove tiny particles like dirt, dust, and sand.
  • Run a dry toothbrush over seams and the welt (the narrow area where the sole and the heel meet the boot’s body).
  • Use your rag to remove any particles that the toothbrush stirred up.

Apply the Conditioner

  • Leather conditioner slightly darkens cowboy boots, so ensure you’ll be pleased with the results by doing a spot-test somewhere inconspicuous on the leather before you proceed with the entire boot.
  • If you are satisfied with the result, pour conditioner on a clean, dry chamois or terrycloth rag and gently rub it in circles on the boot’s surface.

Avoid applying thick coats of conditioner. This will clog the leather’s pores and impede absorption.

  • If your boots are extremely damaged, they’ll need several coats of conditioner. Exactly how can you tell when enough is enough? The leather is sufficiently restored when the conditioner stops soaking in and begins to moisten the boot’s surface.
  • Let the boots sit overnight to effectively absorb the conditioner. Do not dry them with a blow dryer, since this will crack the leather. After 12 to 24 hours, blot excess moisture with a clean, dry cloth.


How to Condition Exotic Leathers

Boots made from snakeskin, ostrich, crocodile, and alligator need to be conditioned with techniques that are different than those used to condition other leathers.

  • Snakeskin — Wipe off debris from the surface with a clean, dry cloth, making sure you wipe in the direction of the scales, so you don’t strip them. Use a lanolin-based conditioner specifically made for snakeskin because cowhide conditioner can strip the scales.
  • Ostrich — Ostrich hide can be damaged by oils, so steer clear of all oil-based conditioners. If you use an oil-based conditioner, your boots’ color will change.
  • Crocodile and Alligator — Use a conditioner specifically designed for reptile leather on croc and alligator skin. This particular conditioner will be weightless, so it can be applied in several coats if your boots are especially parched.

Spending about $20 several times a year on a conditioner for leather cowboy boots is trivial compared to the cost of completely replacing them. Keep your cowboy boots in tip-top shape, and you’ll be riding high in the saddle.

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