How to Fix Leather and Suede Boots After Winter Weather

Nothing is worse than buying an expensive pair of leather or suede shoes and seeing them ruined by snow, salt, and dirt.  The good news is there there’s an easy way to clean and refurbish them.  The better news is that it’s also cheap to do.

Leather Shoe Chapstick before and after

First let’s talk about leather.  There’s a secret product called Chelsea Leather Food that is made for extending the life of high end leather soccer cleats.  You can find it on Amazon for about $16, direct link is in the sidebar for either the clear or black variety.  One jar should last a few winters depending on frequency of use.

Using Leather Food on Shoes

To use, just wipe the shoe clean with a damp cloth and then use a dry cloth to rub in the leather food.  I like to describe it as “chapstick for your shoes” because it’s got a soft wax consistency and you can immediately see the difference.  The Chelsea Leather Food will moisturize the leather (just like chapstick on lips) and will extend the life of the shoe.  My shoes pictured here have made it through three winters and they still look brand new.

Cleaning Suede Shoes

Moving on to suede.  Everyone knows that it’s impossible to keep suede clean.  My first suggestion is to not buy suede shoes, but if you have to (because they’re adorable and comfy) do yourself a favor and buy a dark color.

To clean dirt and salt off of suede make a small bowl of equal parts warm water and vinegar. Use a clean cotton towel to wipe the shoe clean. It only takes a few minutes. Make sure the suede has time to dry before wearing, and if there are annoying particles stuck to the suede when it’s still damp, you can brush them off after the material has dried.


Suede Shoes Before and After

Hope this helps keep your feet sparkling through winter!

22 thoughts on “How to Fix Leather and Suede Boots After Winter Weather”

      1. Danielle, I have used it on cracked leather jackets before and it definitely works. Just make sure it’s real leather and not synthetic or the product will not soak in correctly. Hope this helps!

      2. Sure can use on leather jackets, other thing, leather its skin, same as humans. You can clean the jacket first with face foam cleanser, softly, dry off, then u can use colorless shoe wax or light color. Your jacket have a second life !

  1. I was just saying to someone the other day that this winter has been extremely rough on my boots. So happy to have found this on Pinterest!

    1. Lisa (And Tammy!) Although I haven’t tried using Chelsea Leather Food specifically on my furniture (yet), I have found some users online who say it is perfectly fine to do so. Based on my experience using it on shoes (which I actually did just this morning before work!) I would say, yes, you can use it on leather furniture, BUT you would need to let it set for at least 24 hours before you sit on the furniture. This product works just like chapstick on dried lips; you have to apply and let sit or the leather food will just rub right off.

      Here’s a furniture website that recommends using this product on their non-shoe leather products, so that’s a great indication that it works!

    1. Thresa, I think the best way to decide which product is best would be to compare the base ingredients and to what specifically you are applying the product.

      Saddle soap contains mild soap and softening ingredients such as neatsfoot oil, glycerin, and lanolin. It also contains beeswax to protect leather. Both neatsfoot oil and glycerin are synthetic, derived from petroleum or mineral oil and lanolin is a natural oil from animal glands. Saddle soap was originally made for saddles but is also commonly used for shoes.

      The Chelsea Leather Food was created for use specifically for use on soccer cleats. It’s base ingredients are natural (non-synthetic) oils and waxes. It also can protect from weather and gives a more natural look (not high gloss like shoes polish).

      My recommendation is to think about what type of finish you want on your shoe. The boots I tend to buy are softer leather which is why I, like the soccer players, prefer Chelsea Leather Food. If you have a boot that has a harder leather, like a saddle, then maybe it would be better for you to use a Saddle Soap product.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Great tips. Just to add, you can use the vinegar, water method to clean salt from your leather. And a nubuc block can work on the tough spots on suede. We use mink oil on our leather boots and gloves as well as it used to be used on saddles. I save had my leather boots for 15 years and hubbly his for 20 doing this method

  3. I used melted coconut oil (which I buy in large quantities to use for cooking, moisturizing my skin and occasional intense conditioner for my hair) and rubbed it into my 23 year old motorcycle jacket which had gotten quite stiff and uncomfortable to wear after just hanging in the back of a closet for the past 20 years. After letting the jacket sit for 24 hrs, I went over it all with a clean cloth to remove any surface residue. It’s now quite pliable and once again quite comfy to wear.

    1. Mike, yes this product is clear when applied to the leather. Unlike regular shoe polish in which you have to match the polish color to the shoe color, Chelsea leather food can be used on any color of leather. It might make the leather appear slightly darker, but that’s only because it’s hydrating the leather and removing the dry and cracked look. This is why I like to think of it as “chap stick”. Hope this helps!

    1. Sara, the product shown is for leather only. The cleaning method shown is meant for suede boots which would include Uggs.

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