Harsh weather can be devastating to cowboy boots. Fight winter damage with boot care tips from Nigro’s!
Cowboy boots face a triple threat during the winter: 1. Dry air, 2. Excessive moisture, and 3. Salt. The combination of the three can wreak havoc on boot leather, but Nigro’s is here to help! The secret to cowboy boot longevity in the winter is twofold: First, prepare your boots before heading out into the elements; Second, nurture your boots when you step back in from the cold. As most readers will likely have already had multiple trips outside into winter weather by now, we’ll approach these two steps in reverse!
Why is Winter so Hard on Boot Leather?
Winter air is dry and holds much less moisture than warm air. Cold weather causes dry hands as moisture quickly evaporates back into the air. Cold, dry air also robs crucial moisture from leather boots.
It’s a fact that boots stay softer and more comfortable when they are regularly conditioned – replenishing and sealing in natural oils. Even in warm weather, regular wear and tear depletes boot leather’s natural oils. Dry air demands even further diligence to keep boot leather moist and well-conditioned.
It’s nearly impossible to avoid sleet, rain, and snow in the winter. It goes without saying – when the weather is wet, boots get wet. And when wet leather drys, it tends to shrink. The combination of wet boot leather mixed with salt from ice melt dries and shrinks leather even faster.
What to do When Boots are Soaked?
When boots get wet, it’s imperative to begin the drying process as soon as they are back in from the weather. First, thoroughly wipe boots dry with a cloth or towel and then go over them with a brush. Avoid the temptation of setting boots near a direct source of heat such as a fireplace or space heater. Boots may dry quickly next to a heating vent or a fireplace, but the leather may dry too quickly – causing them to shrink, crack, or sustain other irreparable damage. Once excess moisture is toweled off, let the boots naturally air dry.
Boots worn in winter weather may also develop a white, filmy residue as they dry. This effect is caused by road salt, a natural absorbent that dries out leather alarmingly fast, causing it to become brittle and even crack. That’s why it’s important to clean salt residue away as soon as possible using a clean cloth dampened with vinegar and water.
Preparing for Winter Weather – Mink Oil for Water Resistance
Mink oil is an excellent way to shield boots from moisture. It will not make them fully waterproof, but it will improve resistance and revitalize the leather.
Mink oil is extremely popular among cowboy boot wearers for its remarkable remoisturizing properties. It replenishes the oils in the leather and lubricates the fibers to improve both the flexibility and durability of boots. The oil deeply penetrates the pores in the leather, making the leather more resistant to water. In fact, mink oil will actually repel water for a short period of time while keeping natural leather oils sealed and intact.
Before applying mink oil to boots, be aware it will cause the leather to darken a shade. Much like a driveway looks darker when soaked by rain, the moisture of mink oil darkens boot leather. Mink oil soaks in deeply where it settles and protects for an extended period of time.
Occasionally mink oil may react chemically with leftover tanning agents from the leather curing process – or with wax that may have been added to improve the boot’s resistance to water. Both may cause the appearance of darker leather. Depending on the type of leather hide used to make the boot and how much mink oil is applied, the darker appearance of the leather can last for a significant period of time. Typically the darker look of the leather after mink oil application just returns the boot to its original fresh out-of-the-box patina. Over time, the protective oils are worn away, and the boots will begin to lighten back up – signaling it’s time for another mink oil treatment.