If you own a good pair of leather work boots or two, you have likely heard of or even considered using Sno Seal. It’s a well-known and reliable waterproof treatment for leather boots that’s been around for decades and works. You can grab it at virtually any old-time shoe shop or traditional sporting goods store.

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Then, there’s mink oil. An often all-natural shoe care product is precisely what it sounds like – the rendered fat of a mink. It’s used for much the same purpose as Sno Seal – waterproofing your boots, so they’ll stand up better to the elements- but is also used for conditioning and preserving that leather.

But how do you know which one is right for your boots? What differences are there between the two, and when is it appropriate to use one over the other? We’ve broken down all the factors you should consider when choosing the right product for waterproofing your boots.

What is Waterproofing?

Waterproofing is the method of turning an item or structure substantially resistant to water or avoiding water infiltration under certain conditions. These items can be used in wet conditions or at specific depths underwater.

Waterproof refers to the ability of an item to be submerged in water without the water soaking into the components. Latex or synthetic materials, such as neoprene or polyurethane, are commonly used in this process. If you waterproof your boots, your feet will stay dry even if you wade through thick mud and puddles and sink your boots in the water for a while. 

When Should You Waterproof Work Boots?

The perfect time to waterproof your boots is during warm and dry weather, such as late summer or early fall. That way, they’ll be sealed before more humid weather gets to them. However, sometimes you might need to waterproof them during the wet season, and that’s always better than leaving them to soak while your feet get wet.

The Waterproofing Process

The waterproofing process for boots and shoes can vary depending on the type of shoe you have, the type of waterproofing you want for your shoe, the kind of products you are willing to use, etc. In this article, we will discuss all the possible options for waterproofing your boots and break down the entire waterproofing process.

The Best Ways for Waterproofing Boots

For those who are looking to keep their feet dry while hiking or skiing in the winter, there are a few things that you can do to bring yourself closer to being 100% waterproof. First, you’ll want to ensure that your socks and boots are made of synthetic materials like polypropylene.

To waterproof them all the way, you should try using silicone spray before putting them on for the first time. A suitable adhesive spray is also recommended for keeping moisture from seeping into your shoes over time.

How to Waterproof Boots?

There are several ways to effectively waterproof work boots, whether they are made of leather or synthetic materials. It all comes down to which waterproofing product you choose. Below are some of the best waterproofing methods for boots.

Make Sure Your Boots Are Clean

Before you can start waterproofing your boots, you need to make sure that your boots are spotless. It’s essential to ensure that the waterproofing process works effectively and gives you the best outcome. 

Cleaning your boots is pretty simple. If the soles of your boots are covered with mud, put them in approximately one inch of water for several hours to loosen the dirt, and then remove it with a cloth. If your boots need a bit more thorough cleaning, you can use other techniques to clean your boots before starting the waterproofing process properly.

Choose a Treatment for Waterproofing Boots

Choosing the proper treatment for waterproofing your boots is the process’s first and most essential part. You should keep a few things in mind before choosing the treatment. These little cautions can make a big difference in the long run. Here are some things you should know before getting started:

  • Keep in mind that some products can cause your boots to have a darker tone, so always ensure you test the product in a small area to see whether you like it or not before continuing.
  • Cover the entire boot except for the parts that are already waterproof, regardless of your chosen product.
  • Pay special attention to the creases and seams, as these areas can be prone to leaking because of punctures and bending.

Oils for Waterproofing Boots

Oils are one of the most commonly used methods for waterproofing boots. Several oils are available in the market, made explicitly for waterproofing purposes. Some of the popular options are Walrus and Mink oil. Whichever oil you choose, some steps to applying these oils will make the waterproofing process easier and more lasting.

  • To apply the waterproofing oil to your leather boots, use a soft cloth with a reasonable amount of oil and cover the boot evenly.
  • If you use oils in hardened block form, rub the block over your boot from top to bottom and from side to side.
  • If you use this waterproofing method, you will need to reapply it every month, and the boots will get wet each time.

Waterproof Spray for Boots

Waterproof sprays are another popular option that is the easiest to use, albeit not as effective as the other options. These protective sprays are excellent for shoes made of absorbent fabrics, such as suede and canvas. Here is how you should apply these sprays to your boots.

  • Make sure your boots are completely dry before applying the spray.
  • Keep the can at least 6 inches away from the boots.
  • Press the spray button to deliver a steady, clear spray to the boots.
  • Apply a light coat over the entire boot and let it dry in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
  • If necessary, apply a second coat.

Creams to Waterproof Leather Boots

Another alternative option for waterproofing your boots is using creams. A cream created from sheep’s wool oil called Lanolin is a traditional and natural method for waterproofing boots.

This substance has been used for centuries for waterproofing leather boots and other leather items. One thing to remember about Lanolin is that it becomes solid when cold. You can find the instructions for applying these creams on the back of their packs. 

Pastes for Waterproofing Boots

Similar to creams, pastes can be your option for waterproofing your boots. There are a few pastes in the market, but these aren’t as popular as the other options you can find. Here are the steps you should follow to use pastes for waterproofing your boots.

  • Make sure that your boots are clean and dry.
  • Then apply the paste to your boots with a clean cloth rubbing it in back and forth motions.
  • Ensure to cover all exposed areas.

Waterproof Waxes

  • To treat your boots with wax, you need to heat the wax and boots a bit to make them more pliable.
  • Then, rub the wax across the boot in both directions with fingers.
  • Pay close attention to cracks and crevices.

Seam Sealants

  • You can use a urethane-based seam sealant by applying it around the seams of your boots to prevent moisture from entering through them.
  • Avoiding this step can, over time, cause an accumulation of moisture that can tear the boot apart, causing the seams to break from the sole of the boot.
Drying Waterproof Boots

Now that you are done applying your treatment, here comes another crucial part of the waterproofing process. Letting your boots properly dry after using your waterproofing technique is essential for the whole process to work effectively.

 This step requires patience, so although it might seem tempting to try out your newly waterproofed boots, hold on for a while and keep these tips in mind when drying your boots.

  • Using direct heat, such as a hairdryer, to speed up the drying process can cause the glue of your boots to loosen or the leather to break.
  • Also, avoid drying them in direct sunlight.
  • Nevertheless, you can use a fan to speed up the drying process.
Waterproofing Treatment For Leather Boots

Sno-Seal: For Foolproof Waterproofing

Sno Seal is more of a wax. It is a wax – beeswax, with some all-natural additives thrown in there that we can’t quite figure out. It’s excellent at waterproofing boots and ensuring no moisture can get through the leather or seams.

To apply, heat it and the leather up a little bit, apply generously, wipe off excess and let it dry. Done! It can be time-consuming, and you’ll probably have to reapply it every year or even twice a year if you wear them a lot in the winter, but the results of this beeswax waterproofing speak for themselves.

Downsides

Sno-Seal can dry leather out over time – the opposite of conditioning it. It also has the habit of darkening leathers quite often permanently.

Mink Oil: Better For Conditioning Leather

Mink Oil, as we’ve said, is made of all-natural mink oil. It’s GREAT at conditioning and moisturizing leather and uses the natural Lanolin in the mink oil to naturally do it. It’s super smooth and soft and enriches leather instead of drying it out. Some mink oils contain additives like silicone for easier application and better waterproofing.

That said, while the natural waxes and oils will repel water, it’s not as good for waterproofing your boots. If you’re using your shoes in wet or muddy weather, Sno-Seal is probably a better bet. Use mink oil whenever your boots are looking a little shabby or too dried out, however, and they’ll soon start looking good as new.

Comparison Table

Here’s a detailed comparison table of these two oils to give you a clearer idea of their functionality. 

Category Sno Seal Mink Oil
Products Sno Seal is a wax created from beeswax. Mink oil is plain oil made of Mink fat.
Application The application process is to heat up the wax a bit before applying, coat evenly, and then wipe off any excess wax before letting it dry. Products The application process is to rub the oil into your leather, allow time for absorption, then wipe off the excess.
Care Sno Seal can cause your boots to become hard and dry. Mink oil is better used as a conditioner, for restoring your boots moisture and buoyancy. 
Protection Sno seal provides heavy protection from mud and snow. Mink oil is used for mild wear and tear prevention.
Waterproofing Leather Work Boots

Choose a waterproofing treatment specifically designed for your boots, whether they are made of complete leather, suede, nubuck, or fabric. Read the directions carefully since various footwear styles require varying waterproofing levels. Here are the techniques to waterproof some of the common types of leather and hiking boots.

How often should boots be treated with waterproofing?

Most new hiking boots come treated with a durable water-resistant (DWR) coating. But that finish will wear away with time, and you’ll need to replenish it regularly.

If you want your boots to endure more than a couple of years, you should treat them with a boot waterproofing solution at least twice during the hiking season.

Waterproofing Nubuck Hiking Boots

Nubuck leather is not as fine and glossy as full-grain leather, but it has a brushed appearance comparable to suede due to the buffering process. As a result, it’s lighter, less robust, and less waterproof than full-grain leather. Moreover, many nubuck hiking boots include a permeable waterproof layer to improve waterproofing.

Waterproofing sprays designed explicitly for nubuck hiking boots are commonly available. Choose a waterproofing spray that has been certified safe for use on nubuck and suede. Clean your boots thoroughly while avoiding soaking them in water. Most nubuck suede solutions require the boots to be moist to increase the absorption of the spray or cream. Before you begin, read the directions for your specific waterproofing treatment.

Waterproofing Leather Hiking Boots

If your hiking boots are made of leather, make sure your boots are very damp: You want the water to seep into the leather completely. It takes time; simply splashing water over your boots for a minute or two will not be enough. Wrap them in a damp towel and place them in a tub or sink for a few hours if they aren’t soaked enough.

Then go through your waterproofing treatment’s instructions. Last but not least, dry your boots in a well-ventilated area. They should be kept from any heat sources that might cause the leather to dry up too quickly. Use a fan or a boot drier to dry them quickly, or insert newspaper into them and replace it when it becomes moist.

Waterproofing Synthetic or Leather?

Several waterproofing hiking boot products are available, each of which is tailored to a certain boot material. Before we can recommend a boot waterproofing solution, you must first choose what type of hiking boots you need to waterproof.

Full-grain leather, commonly known as leather, is created from the hyde of animals and feels smooth and lustrous. Leather is naturally waterproof, and many leather boots have a permeable membrane to increase waterproofness further.

Synthetic hiking boots are non-leather hiking footwear. The textiles used to manufacture the uppers of the boots are all artificial and vary widely from one brand to the next. Waterproof synthetic boots are not usually available. The fabric is waterproof and breathable thanks to the inclusion of a Gore-tex membrane (or equivalent) and a DWR coating.

Because of the substance of the boots, waterproofing synthetic and leather boots require different methods. The best part about synthetic boots is that they don’t require much care or upkeep. Artificial-material products are less likely to scratch, have high water resistance, and clean up easily. Leather shoes, on the other hand, are significantly pickier. Thus, it’s best to look up the fabric of your boots before starting the waterproofing process.

Waterproofing Fabric Boots

Most synthetic hiking boots will have very few natural waterproofing properties. They rely heavily on a waterproof membrane and a DWR coating which repels water from the surface of the shoes. And because there are often lots of seams, knowing how to waterproof Gore-tex boots well is super important.

Clean the boots thoroughly. You may need to give synthetic boots an extra scrubbing to get dirt and dust out of the seams and joins. As with leather boots, most products for synthetic boots require the boots to be wet when applying treatments, but check the instructions of your waterproofing treatment first.

How Easy is Boot Waterproofing?

Using modern-day products for waterproofing your boots is not necessarily hard. However, it can be a bit time-consuming. Depending on your treatment, the waterproofing process for your boots can be moderate level difficult to pretty easy. It all depends on what level of waterproofing you want and which treatment method you prefer. So choose the techniques wisely, and you won’t be facing any difficulties in your boot waterproofing process.

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