How to Make Waterproof Shoes

When you spend a large chunk of change on a new pair of shoes, you expect them to last! While it should be as simple as just stepping into them and enjoying how they look and feel on your feet, there’s a preventative step you should take as soon as you remove them from the box to keep them looking and feeling like new. Shoes get abused every day! They get dirty, stepped on, scuffed, and wet, no matter how careful you are with them. But there is one very effective way to keep your shoes in tip-top shape. Invest in a waterproofing product and apply it when needed. Products range from sprays to waxes and there are different products for different shoe materials. It’s important to know which products are right for your footwear so that you don’t damage them, so let’s take a look at what’s out there.

Tips for the waterproofing process

  • First and foremost, make sure the shoes are clean. If they are brand new, wipe them with a dry, clean cloth to remove dust or particles from the shoes. If the shoes have been worn, clean them before applying the waterproofing spray.
  • Always follow the instructions on the product very carefully and closely so that you don’t damage your shoes.
  • Since the waterproofing product is made to work on the shoe material (and nothing else), cover any accents or embellishments (buckles, flowers, beads, etc.) on your shoes. The waterproofing product could cause damage to parts of your shoes that aren’t made of the shoe material.
  • It’s smart to waterproof your shoes before you wear them for the first time so they’re protected right off the bat. After that, once a year should be good.

Condition Leather Boots and Shoes

Leather can deteriorate over time from water damage that happens from walking in puddles, getting rained on, early-morning dew, and snow. For this reason it’s important to condition your leather boots and other shoes regularly. Leather conditioners work to restore the natural moisture of the material, preventing the shoes from cracking, rotting, and drying out. Clean your leather shoes first. Then use a leather conditioner that will absorb deep into the fibers of your footwear to bring back the shine and health of the leather. As a final step, polish your leather footwear to a nice shine.

Will the Color Change With the Application of the Waterproofing Product?

Before you spray or rub the waterproofing product onto your footwear, read the label on the product to see if it mentions that application might change the color of your footwear. If it doesn’t say, it’s smart to test the product on an inconspicuous area before covering the entire shoe with the product. There are also waterproofing products available in different colors so that you can try to match it to the color of your shoes.

Use a Protective Spray to Waterproof Shoes

Waterproofing sprays serve a dual purpose: they make shoes and boots water repellent to protect them from water damage, and they keep your feet dry during light rain and snow. Sprays are available for leather, suede, and synthetic materials, so make sure you have the right spray for your footwear.

Apply a Waterproofing Wax

Similar to a waterproofing spray, the wax products will make synthetic, leather, and suede boots impermeable to help protect both your shoes and your feet. Whether you choose a spray or a wax product is really just personal preference. The wax is sometimes more difficult to apply than a spray, but it can be applied more thoroughly than a spray.

Petroleum Jelly or Specialty Oil

If you’d rather not spend the money on a waterproofing product or you find yourself in a pinch, there are some household products that can be used to waterproof boots and shoes. Petroleum jelly and oils like mink or lanolin can protect shoes just as well as the products can.

Boot and Shoe Polish

Wax-based polishes – Wax-based polishes serve a different purpose than a shoe paste and cream. Instead of nourish the leather like a paste or cream, the wax-based polishes are made to create a shine and provide a thin layer of protection against water and salt. This type of product is a little high maintenance, as it should be applied after every few wears (or after every wear if the weather is really wet).

Specialty waterproof compounds – Obenauf’s Heavy-Duty Leather Preservative and Sno-Seal Weather Protectant are two examples of excellent waterproofing compounds. These products are designed to protect and seal out moisture, not create a shine. After applying one of these long-lasting compounds, you may wish to follow up with a polish to give your footwear a nice shine.

What to Do When Your Shoes Are Already Wet

  • Use a dry rag or towel to wipe away any excess moisture on the outside and inside of your footwear. To remove water from inside your shoe, bundle up newspaper or a small, dry towel and shove it inside your shoe. Every hour, take out the wet paper or towel and replace it with a dry one. Depending on how wet the inside of your shoe is, this could take a few hours or a day. Also, take out the removable liners and dry them on their own.
  • Resist placing your shoes or boots near a heater! Allow them to dry slowly at room temperature. Heating them over a vent or near a fire you will cause them to dry too quickly and the leather is likely to crack. Cracked leather is not repairable.
  • Once the shoes are completely dry, clean and condition them with a leather balm or cream and polish them like normal. For the next week, clean and polish them after each wear.
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