Boot Maintenance Made Simple.
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Last Updated: Aug 6, 2010 – 1:11:39 PM
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Boot Maintenance Made Simple.

By Jerry Bush

Jul 9, 2007 – 8:34:29 AM

Assuming you have purchased a good quality, waterproof, leather boot, you should be able to cut across streams season after season and expect to have dry feet.  However, regular maintenance will maximize performance and greatly increase the life of your footwear while guaranteeing their performance.  

The key is to take care of your boots now, long before the approaching hunting season.  Bowhunters are often procrastinators when it comes to caring for garments.  The false impression is there’s lots of time but data suggests boots should be treated right after the end of the previous season.  This assures most odor-causing agents in silicone and polishes will evaporate before the season begins.  It also allows the silicone and leather treatments to soak into the pores better.  Additional coatings may then be applied in the following weeks, adding further protection.

I recently interviewed six bowhunters and asked if they’d taken care of their footwear.  To a man, they fessed up and admitted they hadn’t lifted a finger to care for them so far.  A couple guys insisted this wasn’t an issue for them because they always wear LaCrosse Burley®, neoprene boots.  However, as I pressed them further they admitted occasionally wearing leather boots when hunting on those days we sometimes endure that are just too warm for comfort.

Boot care is important, but it is possible to over-treat leather hunting boots if using certain waterproofing agents.  It is very important to understand how leather will react to the application chosen.

Atsko, the makers of Sno-Seal, offer boot care advice to thousands of hunters every year.  “Before waterproofing or water repellent is applied the boot should be clean and dry”, advises Mike Jordan of Atsko.    “Dirt should be scrubbed off with a wet brush and the footwear must be permitted to air dry.”

Leather on footwear becomes scraped and worn during hunting trips. Left untreated, these boots are destined to be replaced

Mike knows all the tricks.  “The ancient Egyptians used Beeswax if they could get it, and even today it is a premium product.  Other fill materials are Goose Grease, Bear Grease, Mink Oil, Neat’s-foot Oil, Lanolin, Petrolatum (petroleum jelly), silicone oil, mineral oil, or pitch and pine tar.  They simply aim to occupy all space in the surface of the leather so that water can not enter. This is bad for leather and you feet sweat”

It takes time to properly care for boots, and that may be the best reason of all to get a jump start on the process.  You’re in the minority if you are the type individual who will take the time to air dry your boots, heat the leather, heat the waterproofing substance, and introduce the waterproofing in a professional manner during season.  Most of us throw the boots in the back of our pickup and slip our feet back into them the very next day.  

“It’s best to use a fluid substance”, says Jordan.  “After you apply a coating to the outer surface it will soon soak in.  The problem is that you must frequently reapply most waterproofing to maintain waterproof capability.  If you coat them too often it fills all the spaces thru the entire thickness of the leather, and begins to show up on your socks.  The leather can actually become mushy and will no longer absorb perspiration produced by your feet.” 

The same boots after treated with Sno-Seal polish.

This is why quality waxes with little or no oil are ideal treatments for boots.  They remain fixed in the surface of the leather, but do not soak through and ruin the hide.  Beeswax is perfect for repelling water, and offers durability for smooth full-grain leather.  Thus Sno-Seal is so darn tough to beat ( )

The superiority of Beeswax results from the combination of its ability to remain fixed in the outer layer of the leather and its ability to repel water.  “Beeswax has a melt point of about 146o F, and while that may not mean a lot to hunters initially, we know it to be quite important”, adds Mr. Jordan.  “Beeswax is very dry and oil free.  Thus once applied it is not only waterproof but extremely durable.  It also provides just enough lubrication to prevent hardening of leather in typical use.”   

Now here’s a flash of long overdue brilliance.  The makers of Sno-Seal have combined the miracle waterproofing with colored polishes.  So not only is it simple to keep valuable hunting boots performing well, but they can have that next-to-new look as well.  The new polish provides a perfect treatment for boots that have performed while transporting you through briars and brush.  

Many modern hunting boots combine leather with Gore-Tex material.  Thanks to Mr. Jordan, I found that silicones provide a perfect touch-up to Gore-Tex fabrics.  I learned that Fluoropolymers reduce surface tension further so that even oil and some solvents can’t wet it, and that is why Fluoropolymer provides superior stain resistance.  However Mike Jordan tells me Fluoropolymers are generally superior to silicone for oil and stain repellency, but generally inferior to silicones and waxes for water repellency.

The Gore-Tex fabric used to manufacture these boots continues to bead water after being treated with Atsko’s Silicone Rain-Guard.

“Silicone Rain-Guard®” is a permanent waterproofing and stain repellent that has proved itself to me thus far.  That is to say I sprayed the Gore-Tex fabric of my boots last season, and so far they are still beading water.  (I also sprayed a hunting parka that kept me warm and dry last season, and it still beads water.)


Now one thing is for certain; silicone sprays have a definite odor that a even a lowly human can detect from 50-yards.  That is because most of them are mixed with solvents and other petroleum distillates to provide quick drying abilities. 

Now just imagine how far away a wily buck can be standing and detect your presence.  The trick is to treat them now because within a week or two the boots will be nearly odorless, especially if permitted to dry outdoors in the soothing summer air?All the more reason to treat footwear during the off-season.  

Seriously, we spend a tiny fortune every year trying to outmaneuver a buck’s nose.  Bowhunters cannot afford to introduce waterproofing odors into the hunting area in the fall.  Dedicate an evening now to take care of your hunting footwear.

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