If you’re an avid backpacker, hiker, need boots for work, or are just a general outdoor lover, then waterproofing your boots is super important.
Not only is it good to be able to handle all weather conditions no matter what but not having to worry about bad weather rolling in creates peace of mind while enjoying the outdoors. More importantly, wet feet are never fun unless desired. Here are a bunch of tips with everything you need to know to waterproof your boots in order to keep them dry.
I will caution though, if your boots do not come from the factory with a waterproof guarantee, it will be hard to completely waterproof them to keep water out. If you truly need waterproof boots, I would suggest finding ones that are made of rubber, or those that come from the factory with a permanent waterproof seal.
Then you will be much more guaranteed to stay dry. You can then use some of these tips to further waterproof those boots for extra peace of mind.
How To Waterproof Hiking Boots Step-By-Step:
- Determine the material type of your hiking boot.
- Choose a cream, wax or spray waterproofing product.
- Find a well ventilated room or go outside to apply product.
- Rub in or spray liberally on the hiking boot.
- Wipe off or rub in any excess with a clean rag.
- Let dry as instructed (at least overnight).
The Different Types of Hiking Boot Material
Boots these days are made out of a variety of materials. Here is a little bit of info on each material, some pros and cons to the material to help you decide which boot material is best for you with regard to waterproofing.
- Leather – This is the most traditional material that boots are made out of. Leather boots are very durable and will last a long time after they are worked in. The only downside to wearing leather boots is the fact that the material is not breathable so your feet can get hot and sweaty inside. Full leather boots will be best for working.
- Suede – Suede is very similar to leather but will be much thinner, lighter, and softer. It is recommended to try and avoid using suede boots if there is going to be precipitation because they are not breathable similar to leather and will not be able to repel moisture even when waterproofed.
- Nylon and Synthetic Materials – These types of boots are great because they are both super lightweight and breathable. It is also a great boot material because it is pliable and flexible. This makes boots made out of nylon and synthetic materials very useful, comfortable, and great for hiking or any outdoor use. They are also great to waterproof.
Products For Waterproofing
There are many different materials you can use to waterproof your boots. Below I’ll go over a couple of different techniques used to waterproof boots and you can decide which will work best for you.
Before you do end up waterproofing your boots though, make sure that they are clean and dry as previously mentioned. If there is dirt on them or they are wet, the waterproofing will not work as well. It will miss certain spots and then your boots will not be 100% waterproofed as needed.
- Waterproofing Spray – There are sprays made specifically for each different type of boot material. Make sure you find the one that is used for the material of your boots. When applying the spray, hold it about six inches away from the boot and be sure to apply the spray in a thick even coat. Then wipe away any excess spray that is coating the boots and will be unneeded. This method will be best for synthetic and nylon boots.
- Wax and Bee’s Wax – Make sure when you use wax to slightly heat it up with a hairdryer or heat gun so that it is pliable and can be worked into the boots well. Also, use the applicator cloth that is provided when you buy the wax because that will be the best way to apply the wax. Wax will be best for leather boots.
- Cream – Rub the cream over the entire boot and allow it to have some time to soak in. Then wipe away and extra cream that cannot be worked into the boots. Make sure to get it into all the seams and crevices of the boot.
Be sure to read all labels on the products you buy because some might alter the color of your boots to make them slightly darker after their application.
After you are done with whatever waterproofing material you decide is best for your boots, make sure you wait before you take them outside again. They will need at least time overnight to allow the treatment to settle and soak completely into the boot material.
Recommended Products For Waterproofing Leather
Here are some of the best products on the market for waterproofing a pair of boots:
Nikwax Fabric and Leather Waterproofing Spray – This is one of the best waterproofing sprays on the market today. It is both affordable and works great. Also, it can be used for other fabric besides leather so that you can completely waterproof and article of clothing that you need.
Nikwax Waterproofing Wax For Leather – This wax will be a bit more specific to leather. It is easy to apply and will not soften the leather that it is put on. Beyond that it can be used on other items like work gloves. It is biodegradable, water based, and will not alter the color of any leather that you apply it to.
Skidmore’s Premium Beeswax Waterproofing – This is some of the best waterproofing beeswax on the market right now. It is easy to apply, completely natural, and comes with a 100% lifetime guarantee or your money back. It works great for keeping out both the rain and the snow.
Homemade / Do It Yourself Waterproofing
There are quite a few ways to waterproof your boots if you do not want to buy a specific product. Although the products listed here and many more produced specifically for waterproofing today are quite affordable.
Still, one way to keep boots waterproofed is a heavy application of mink oil. Besides that, you can use a silicone spray found at most hardware stores, mineral oil applied with a rag, or even olive oil. All these might however change the color of your boots.
There are many other theories all over the internet on ways to waterproof boots using common items found around the house, so do some more research and you just might find an unconventional method that works great for whatever material your boots are made out of.
Do Gore-Tex Boots Need To Be Waterproofed? Gore-Tex boots do not typically need extra waterproofing. However, I will mention that adding extra waterproof materials to a pair of Gore-Tex boots will not hurt them at all. Because Gore-Tex has an inner liner that is waterproof, you will be fine without.
Yet, once the outer shell gets a little waterlogged, having an extra layer of waterproofing on the outside will help them stay drier on the inside. That way you will not have heavier boots when they get wet, and the inner liner can continue to do its job of keeping your feet dry.
Does Vaseline Waterproof Leather? Vaseline will do a fairly good job, albeit temporarily, of waterproofing leather. The Vaseline will soak well into the leather and will create a good barrier against water and the elements. Make sure to clean your boots thoroughly before you use this method because it is not the best method for waterproofing your boots.
Will WD-40 Waterproof My Boots? In short, yes WD-40 will waterproof and winter proof your boots. However I would caution against this being the end all be all method you use if you can help it. Other methods listed above that were developed for waterproofing boots will certainly work much better than a coat of WD-40.
But in a pinch, using WD-40 will create a good layer between the elements and your boots making them fairly waterproof but more winter proof than anything. If this is the method you want to use though, go right ahead. After you spray them, make sure to take a clean rag afterwards to wipe the boot down.
How Often Should I Waterproof My Boots? How often you need to waterproof your boots will depend heavily on how often you use them, and how often they are exposed to wet weather. You will probably need to waterproof your boots anywhere from every couple of months to once a year.
If your boots get heavy use outside in bad weather, you might even need to waterproof them every few weeks to ensure that your feet stay dry. Again, this will definitely depend upon how often you use your boots and how exposed they are to inclement conditions.
If you are outside every day in the elements, your boots will need to be waterproofed much more frequently than if you are just outdoors hiking every other weekend. One great way to know if your boots need to be re-waterproofed is if the water no longer beads on the surface of the material.
Furthermore, if you can visibly see water soaking into your boots around the seam lines or at the toes, this will be especially apparent on leather, then it is definitely time to have them waterproofed again.
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Cameron is a freelance writer with a focus on hiking, fishing and photography. He studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado Boulder and now calls Chicago, Illinois home.
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