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Full disclosure: I’m a dedicated shoe fanatic. I love all different styles, but boots are my favorite accessory for the autumn and winter. Although leather boots look great with sweaters and scarves, they don’t hold up too well in winter weather. Rain, snow, sleet, and salt can ruin your beautiful boots. And we all know how pricey leather shoes are — they’re definitely a wardrobe investment you want to last, so shoe repair tips are a must. Keep in mind, you can find great boot deals and avoid paying full price, too.
If you have a pair of leather boots or shoes you love and they’re starting to look shabby, here are some do-it-yourself repair tips for leather shoes with water damage. Be your own cobbler! Always test a small area of the leather before you dive into a repair, though, just to be sure.
Can leather shoes get wet?
Yes and no.
The question isn’t so much can leather shoes get wet, as much as it has to do with how wet. And then the care you give your leather boots once they’ve been in the rain. Sure, you can totally avoid getting them wet, but for many climates in the U.S., this isn’t an option.
Leather is hide, and water damages the tannins and oils in the leather that keep it supple and strong. How to fix leather boots with water damage? Well, if your leather gets a little wet, it’s going to be fine. But if it’s soaked through to the sole and you just leave it, this causes cracking and will decrease the life of your boots over time.
So yes, you can wear your boots or leather shoes in the rain; just be sure you follow up with proper care and repair as necessary. Let’s get into that …
1. Water damage
Oh, weather … why do you have to be so moody? One minute the sun is shining. The next it’s pouring down rain. And because I’m not a duck, I risk damaged leather boots when it rains. In earnest, I’ve tried to dry my water-drenched shoes with a blow dryer. Don’t do this — your leather will crack. When you purchase a pair of leather shoes, remember to spray them with a leather protector to guard them from the elements. But if water damage does happen, here’s a quick remedy to dry them out:
- Remove the inner sole (if removable).
- Stuff the boot generously with newspaper, which will absorb the moisture. Leave overnight or for at least 12 hours.
Related: Life-Changing Shoe Hacks You Need Now
2. Water damage on suede
Suede is delicate and requires a soft bristle brush. If your suede shoe becomes damaged, use the following shoe repair tips to treat it and attempt to restore the suede to its original condition.
- Brush the damaged suede with a soft back-and-forth motion.
- Dab a bit of vinegar onto a clean cloth and gently work at the stain, being careful not to completely saturate the suede.
- Hold the shoes over a steaming pot of water, but don’t allow the shoes to get wet. Steam helps the nap of the suede to stand back up. You can also use sandpaper in a circular motion to restore texture.
3. Scuff marks
I have a desk job and a really bad habit of putting my shoes on the bottom of my chair, which scuffs my boots. For minor scuffs like these, here are some shoe repair tips to combat that:
- Use a permanent marker in the boot’s matching color. Gently alternate blotting the scuff with the marker and a tissue. Reapply several times to seal color.
- Use a clean pencil eraser to “erase” the scuff mark.
- Toothpaste and dish detergent also work when applied to a cloth and rubbed gently over scuff marks. Use a clean cloth to dry.
- Believe it or not, the inside of a banana peel is an excellent, inexpensive buffer for scuff marks!
4. Salt stains
Salt causes white stains on leather shoes. Remember to spray your new boots with leather protectors when you purchase them to avoid this. However, salt stains can still occur. Treat them with the following combination:
- Mix 1 cup of white vinegar with 1 cup of warm water.
- Moisten a clean cloth with the vinegar solution.
- Wipe the salt stain gently until the spot disappears.
- Rinse with a clean cloth to remove the vinegar solution.
5. Dull patent leather
Patent leather is one of my favorite types of shoes because once they’re broken in, they’re so, so, so comfortable. To bring back the original shine, try the following:
- Prepare the shoe by wiping it with a clean, lint-free cloth.
- Create a solution of 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water. Mix, apply to a cloth, and gently clean the shoes. Let the solution seep into the leather for about two minutes, then rinse with a cloth dampened with just water.
- Wipe dry, then shine the shoe with petroleum jelly. Apply with a firm circular motion. Allow to dry one to two hours.
- Buff with a dry cloth and restore the patent leather shine.