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Making Leather Boots Supple

by Melissa J. Bell, studioD

Leather is soft and supple when originally tanned, but even well-cared-for leather can lose its pleasing texture and flexibility over time. Conditioning oils applied by the manufacturer eventually dry out and disappear, leaving a favorite pair of boots brittle or disastrously cracked. Despite waterproofing, exposure to heat and rain, and even simple heavy use can all contribute to the loss of moisture in a boot. Restore your boots to their original supple texture with the application of a leather conditioner.

Clean the boots thoroughly. Wipe off all visible dirt with a dry cloth. Go over the boots again with a stiff dry brush, then a wet sponge. Brush the leather with the grain, not against it.

Apply saddle soap to a sponge and rub it firmly into the leather in a circular motion to create a lather. Saddle soap both cleans and conditions leather. Wipe off the lather with a damp sponge before it dries, then wipe the boots down with a clean dry cloth. Let them air dry.

Choose a leather conditioner in the closest possible color to the boots, or select a transparent variety. If desired, create a homemade mixture by combining 1/2 cup of olive oil with 1 teaspoon of lemon oil, or 1 teaspoon of vinegar with 1/2 cup of linseed oil.

Apply a small amount of the conditioner to a clean cloth and work it deeply into the leather, just like shoe polish.

Wipe away the excess conditioner with another clean cloth. Let the boots air dry completely before wearing.

Items you will need
  •  Dry cloths
  •  Stiff brush
  •  Sponges
  •  Saddle soap
  •  Leather conditioner


  • Apply leather conditioner to scuffed or color faded boots, as these signs indicate drying.
  • Too much conditioner weakens leather and leaves a sticky residue.
  • Conditioning leather without an initial cleaning will simply trap the dirt under a protective seal.


  • Consult the boot manufacturer's care instructions before applying any product.
  • Certain conditioners should not be used on some leathers.


  • The National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Guide; Mark Harvey
  • The Outward Bound Staying Warm in the Outdoors Handbook; Glenn Randall
  • Clean It Fast, Clean It Right: The Ultimate Guide to Making Absolutely Everything You Own Shine & Sparkle;Jeff Bredenberg
  • Leather and Latex Care: How to Keep Your Leather and Latex Looking Great; Kelly J. Thibault

About the Author

A writer with a Bachelor of Science in English and secondary education, but also an interest in all things beautiful, Melissa J. Bell has handed out beauty and fashion advice since she could talk -- and for the last six years, write for online publications like Daily Glow and SheBudgets.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images