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Gear Pro: Boot TLC

Give your favorite pair a little love. Two easy steps and they’ll be good as new.

by: Kristin Hostetter

Do your boots look like these? Dusty, mucky, battle-scarred, and a little parched?

I love these boots. They happen to be a 4-year old pair of KEEN Glarus, and they’ve treated me well on some amazing trips: 9 days in Tasmania, several Colorado long weekends, a week in Capital Reef, a dozen or more weekends in Vermont, countless New England dayhikes, and most recently a week in the desert of Jordan. I haven’t treated them so well, though. I’ve never given them more than a cursory clap together to remove muck caked into the lugs before stowing them in my luggage. The leather is pale and rough, and although there has been no long term damage—like deep cracks—if I let them go for too much longer they might be toast.

It’s time to give them a little love. I want these boots to carry me through many more trips, so today I gave them a little spa treatment. Here’s how to do the same for your favorite kicks.

Step 1: Get them wet. Just moisten the leather under the kitchen faucet.

Step 2: Give them a loofa scrub.
I used my Scrub Daddy (any sponge or cloth will do) and Revivex Boot Cleaner Concentrate ( because I had some on hand. But you can use any purpose-built boot cleaner or even a drop of dish soap. Use some elbow grease and scour the surface clean, then give it a good rinse under the faucet until the water runs clear. Let them air dry.

Step 3: Condition that thirsty leather.
You’ve got all sorts of options for products. I’m partial to Aquaseal Leather Waterproofing and Conditioner (, which is a silicone and paraffin-based crème. Leather just seems to drink it up and the boots will return to their original rich, brown color. Use your fingers and massage the cream into the leather in a thin coat. Don’t glob it on, though you may be tempted to. You’ll get much better results if you apply two or three thin coats, letting the boots cure for a couple hours in between each one.

While this process will certainly spruce up their appearance, don’t expect miracles. Deep scratches in the leather will remain visible (but less so…note the heel area in my finished boot. The scratches are still there, but not so obvious.)

How often should you treat your boots? More often than I do, that’s for sure. I suggest doing it at least a couple times a year, depending on how hard you use them. Basically, anytime the leather starts looking dry and light-colored.

For lots more advice on caring for and fixing your gear, grab a copy of my book The Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair. You can score a copy on amazon right now for less than 15 bucks!

Got any other pesky gear repair problems? Tell me about them at…maybe I can help!

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Star Star Star Star Star
Jan 20, 2014

Awesome tips on care and maintenance. I am kind of partial to snowseal myself. I am pretty sure that it is just a waterproofer, however I think that it would help with making the leather more supple and less prone to cracking and just all together falling apart.

Star Star Star Star Star
Joe Miller
Jan 13, 2014

Excellent excellent little how to article. This is really useful helpful. I just bought a beautiful pair of Keens myself and now I know how to treat them right!! Many thanks!


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