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How to Use Saddle Soap on Boots: Clean Leather in 10 Minutes

William Barton
Expertise:

Boots, Leather, Heritage Fashion, Denim, Workwear

William founded BootSpy in 2020 with a simple mission: test and review popular men’s boots and give a real, honest opinion. Since then, we've welcomed over 5 million readers on our boot reviews and boot care guides. Reach out to him for your own personalized boot recommendation at william@bootspy.com. Or join 50,000+ subscribers on the BootSpy YouTube channel, or send him a message on the BootSpy Instagram. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Mar 15, 2024
8 min read
Key Takeaways
  1. Brush off all dust and dirt from your boots with a rag.
  2. Fill the top of your saddle soap tin with warm water.
  3. Wet a dauber brush with the water and create suds in the saddle soap by working the dauber in a circular motion.
  4. Brush your entire boot in a circular motion until the upper is entirely covered in suds.
  5. Wipe off excess soap with a microfiber towel.
  6. Let your boots dry and condition.

Saddle soap is a great way to clean your leather boots, but it’s not the only step you need to properly care for your leather.

In this guide, I’ll show you exactly how to use saddle soap, my favorite saddle soaps, plus how to condition the leather afterwards so it doesn’t crack. 

Why You Should Be Using Saddle Soap

You should only use saddle soap on your leather if it’s extremely dirty.

Saddle soap is more like shampoo than conditioner. It removes dirt, oils, and waxes. Leather needs oils and waxes to stay supple and flexible, so removing too much can cause your boots to look dry and even start to crack.

Most of the time, your boots will just need a brushing-down with a horsehair brush to get them clean enough.

I recommend using saddle soap only if you’ve submerged your boots in mud or they have a sticky substance on them that needs to get completely removed. It’s like stripping the top layer off of your boots, and you’ll want to recondition well afterward.

You should use saddle soap no more than once per year.

The benefits of using saddle soap are that it’s a true leather cleaner, which is helpful in some situations (like extreme mud, street salt, or spilling oil, sauce, or beer onto your boots).

4 Things You’ll Need for Saddle Soaping Your Boots

kiwi saddle soap on thorogood boots

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.

My Easy Cleaning Method

How to Clean Saddle Soap Infographic
Here’s a quick video on how to saddle soap 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. 

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Step 2: Fill the tin with water and create suds

horse hair dauber brush with suds saddle soap

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

cleaning leather boot with saddle soap

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. 

Kiwi Saddle Soap

Kiwi saddle soap is great for removing dirt and grime from leather products, leaving the leather with a supple texture, a soft luster, and a nice clean finish.

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Step 4: Wipe off the suds

wiping saddle soap from boot

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

using bick 4 leather conditioner

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. 

I tested 10 of the most popular leather conditioners in this video.

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.

Bickmore Bick 4 Leather Conditioner

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.

Check Price Read Our Review

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. 

Venetian Shoe Cream

Fine oils, gentle cleaners and imported waxes formulated to clean, condition, preserve and polish all smooth leather footwear and articles, this Venetian shoe cream is perfect for Red wings. A time-tested formula, it's been a favorite since 1907, designed to deep clean leather pores while nourishing and moisturizing leather fibers to protect and restore.

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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. 

Does saddle soap condition leather?

Saddle soaps often have some conditioning agents in them. But as a soap, it’s primary action is removing dirt, oils, and waxes. Because of that, it’s best to use a leather conditioner after you’ve used saddle soap and your boots are dry.

Can You Use Saddle Soap on Roughout or Suede?

I don’t recommend using saddle soap on roughout or suede leather.

If your roughout leather is really dirty and oily and you don’t care much about the appearance of the boots, using saddle soap won’t damage the leather, but it’ll affect the knap.

You can read my full guide on how to clean suede and roughout, but here’s the short version:

  • Use a suede brush across the entirely of the boot
  • Spray the roughout or suede with Saphir Renovateur spray
spraying renovatuer suede conditioner on Thursday President boot
Spray in short bursts like this

That’s it. That’s how you condition roughout.

What is the Best Saddle Soap for Boots?

kiwi saddle soap how to use

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

Fiebing's 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.

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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

Kiwi Saddle Soap

Kiwi saddle soap is great for removing dirt and grime from leather products, leaving the leather with a supple texture, a soft luster, and a nice clean finish.

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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

OAKWOOD Liquid Saddle Soap
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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. 

Cleaning Time

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. 

FAQs

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.

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