How to clean leather boots with saddle soap
Brush off all dust and dirt from your boots with a rag. Fill the top of your saddle soap tin with warm water. Wet a dauber brush with the water and create suds in the saddle soap by working the dauber in a circular motion. Brush your entire boot in a circular motion until the upper is entirely covered in suds. Wipe off excess soap with a microfiber towel. Let your boots dry and condition.
Tough day at work, right?
Now your boots are covered in mud. You’re not the kind of guy who mistreats your tools, and your boots are no different.
So how do you get them clean and refreshed? Saddle soap.
In this guide, I’ll show you exactly how to use saddle soap on boots, plus the tools you’ll need, and how to condition the leather so it doesn’t crack.
What You’ll Need to Use Saddle Soap
Before you start using saddle soap, you’ll need a few essential items:
- Saddle soap. I like Kiwi and Fiebing’s, though whatever you have on hand is fine.
- A dauber brush. With this small circular brush, it’s a little easier to get into the welt and seams.
- A microfiber towel. An old t-shirt or even paper towels will work as well.
- Leather conditioner. Bick 4 or Venetian Shoe Cream are two of my favorites.
How to Use Saddle Soap on Boots
Step 1: Knock all dirt and dust off your boots
Use your microfiber towel and knock off any stray dirt or mud. Get your boots as clean as you can before you start using the saddle soap.
If you leave any dirt on the boot, you run the risk of scratching the leather and pushing dirt further into the seams.
Also, if you haven’t already, remove the laces. This makes the cleaning process much easier.
Step 2: Fill the tin with water and create suds
Pop open your saddle soap. Fill the top of the tin with warm water.
Get your dauber brush wet and create suds in the saddle soap disk by working it in a circular motion. Continue to add water as necessary to get a nice, rich lather going.
Step 3: Apply the saddle soap to your boots
Focusing on one boot at a time, apply the lather to your boots. I always work in circular motions as I spread the suds across the entire upper.
Make sure you brush up and down the welt and around the eyelets—these are trouble areas that leftover dirt can degrade, so you want to make sure you’ve cleaned them well.
Cover the entire boot with suds before moving on to the next step.
Step 4: Wipe off the suds
Use your microfiber towel to wipe off all the suds. Spend extra time drying out the welt area as you don’t want to leave any excess moisture.
You may want to have a few microfiber towels on hand for this step to ensure you’re not just reapplying the soap due to a saturated towel.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 on the other boot and let dry
Suds up your other boot by repeating steps three and four.
You should now let your boots dry for at least eight hours, but 24 hours is best if you can be patient.
Step 6: Condition your boots
Like any other soap, saddle soap strips oils and waxes from your leather. So you’ll want to have some conditioner on hand to treat the leather after your boots have dried from their spa day.
Bick 4 is a fantastic option—it’s inexpensive and doesn’t darken the leather at all. On the downside, it also doesn’t penetrate very deep into the leather.
Bick 4 is an outstanding addition to your leather conditioner collection. It’s inexpensive and perfect for giving your boots a pick-me-up without changing the color at all. It doesn’t penetrate deep into the leather, so you should use a liberal amount, and you may want to do several layers, but the price is right.
I also like Venetian Shoe Cream. It’s a bit pricier than Bick 4, but it works deeper into the leather grain and also doesn’t affect the color.
If you’re not concerned with darkening the leather and you’re conditioning a pair of work boots, you may want to try mink oil. It’ll drop your boots several shades darker, but it’ll also add some waterproofing effect which can significantly increase the lifetime of your boots.
Remember how supple and gorgeous that boot leather was when you first saw it out of the box? You can thank the leather’s natural oils for that, a lot of which is lost after a few months of wear. Restore these oils by conditioning your boots with a quality mink oil conditioner like this one.
What is the Best Saddle Soap for Boots?
Nearly every saddle soap is a little different in its formulation, but whatever you have on hand should work just fine.
But if you’re looking to get the best saddle soap on the market, these are my top three recommendations:
Best Overall: Fiebings Saddle Soap
My favorite saddle soap. This stuff does a great job at cleaning and reviving any type of leather back to glory---including boots. It's easy to apply and you should see instant results after just one treatment.
From boots to saddles to leather couches, Fiebing’s Saddle Soap is general held up as the best saddle soap you can buy.
This soap has a powerful sudsing effect, which makes it easier to apply to your boots and you end up using less product. That means that you’re leaving less soap on your boots, which is helpful for the conditioning phase.
Fiebing’s leaves a nice amount of tack on the leather, so even if you skipped conditioning, your boots will stay decently hydrated (though I always recommend conditioning your boots after using any saddle soap).
Runner Up: Kiwi Saddle Soap
This is the saddle soap I use, mainly because I bought it several years ago and still haven’t run out.
Kiwi Saddle Soap is readily available, and there’s a good chance it’s in stock at your local supermarket right now.
It does the job just as well as Fiebings, though it’s a bit more expensive (only by a few bucks).
Best Liquid: OAKWOOD Liquid Saddle Soap
Using liquid saddle soap is different than using the solid variety. For liquid, you just add a quarter sized amount of soap to a rag and work into the leather, no water necessary.
Once you’ve covered the boot, use a dry part of the rag to wipe off as much soap as possible.
I think this method is a little tougher on the leather and doesn’t remove as much dirt and oil as using a solid saddle soap.
But if you’re determined to keep the process as simple as possible, then go with OAKWOOD.
This formulation is PH balance, and scent free, meaning that the leftover soap won’t damage the leather.
You’ve got your dauber at the ready and it’s time to get cleaning.
If you’d like to watch the process from start to finish, check out my video on how to use saddle soap.
And while you’ve got all your supplies out, you might as well clean a few things: boots, purses, wallets—it’s all fair game.
What is saddle soap good for?
Saddle soap is great for cleaning leather. You’ll still want to condition the leather after using saddle soap, but if you have oil, salt, or mud stains on your leather, saddle soap will do a fantastic job removing those.
Do you wash off saddle soap?
No, you don’t use water to wash off saddle soap. Instead, use a microfiber towel or old t-shirt and wipe off the suds as best you can before applying conditioner.
What can you clean with saddle soap?
You can clean any leather with saddle soap. Boots, purses, saddles, wallets, couches, etc. Don’t use saddle soap on suede.