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Clean Cowboy Boots with Just Water: Is It Okay?

Clean Cowboy Boots with Just Water: Is It Okay?

There are quite a few different ways to clean cowboy boots, some use a leather cleaner, others utilize saddle soap, and the rest even only use water.

In fact, just water can do a good job of cleaning your cowboy boots, but in the long run, that might not be good anymore. Using water cannot remove stubborn stains or may lead to cowboy boots drying out.

Today’s article will talk about using water to clean cowboy boots and point out its good and bad sides.

Shall we?

Key takeaways

  • Cowboy boots can be completely cleaned with water, but you’ll need to be aware of a few things to keep them from getting damaged.
  • Cowboy boots should be dried as soon as possible, and periodically moisturized. As water will wash away the natural oils and waxes of the leather over time.
  • Suede, nubuck, or rough-out leather are often vulnerable to water damage, so you should apply a thin layer of water to moisten them and use a suede brush to clean them. Don’t use too much water!
  • Either way, you still have to use saddle soap or leather cleaner to clean cowboy boots. Because water alone can’t give a deep clean to the nooks and crannies of cowboy boots, especially stitches.

Is it okay to clean cowboy boots just with water?

In fact, many people often choose water as the fastest and most convenient solution for cleaning cowboy boots. And it works indeed but not very effectively, a little dirt can still be washed away with the water spray.

Those who prioritize using only water to clean cowboy boots are outdoor workers, usually ranchers or construction site workers. Because this is a quick way to clean large amounts of mud and dust out of cowboy boots.

Besides, cowboy boots, especially for outdoor work, often don’t necessarily have a glossy look, a little dirt on the surface creates a great distressed and wild style for them.

Cowboy boots for outdoor work are rarely perfectly clean because the nature of the job makes them so, you just can’t meticulously clean every nook and cranny of your boots every day. Therefore, using a high-pressure water hose to clean them is not a bad idea.

In particular, waterproof cowboy boots often come with an easy-to-clean feature. The stains will be easily washed away with water.

Even so, you should still periodically thoroughly clean your outdoor work cowboy boots with a leather cleaner (or saddle soap) and brush (we have instructions below).

Clean boots will definitely last longer than dirty ones, so don’t be lazy. Water is only a temporary solution, it’s not good in the long run.

Cowboy boot under water tap and the advice

It is a different story for cowboy boots for the office or for the elegant look. Water will not be able to solve all problems.

It cannot completely remove stubborn stains located in welts or stitches. These smudges will affect the elegant look you want to build.

In this case, you should not just use water to clean cowboy boots, let’s combine it with saddle soap or leather cleaner. Water can only help in cleaning small stains only.

Saddle soap or leather cleaner often includes ingredients that help nourish and protect cowboy boots (like neatsfoot oil, and beeswax).

Therefore, after cleaning with saddle soap or leather cleaner, the boots will become more beautiful, shine and last longer. Water can’t do that! Again, water should only be a short-term solution!

Many pairs of cowboy boots on the wooden floor

To clean cowboy boots completely, a leather cleaner or saddle soap combined with a horsehair brush and a little warm water should do the trick.

What you need to do is pre-clean your boots, then apply leather cleaner or saddle soap to the horsehair brush (you may need to moisten the brush) and scrub every nook and cranny of cowboy boots. Finally, use a clean towel to wipe away the excess.

A bag of Tecovas leather cleaner and leather conditioner with a cloth

Leather Cleaner and Conditioner | Image copyright Tecovas Boot Company | #CommissionEarned | Click image for more info

The steps above are essential and should be done periodically, whether it’s cowboy boots for outdoor work or cowboy boots that need an elegant look.

a piar of cowboy boots and cowboy hat on the rock in the ranch

For leathers like rough out, nubuck or suede, they are often more susceptible to water damage than smooth full grain leather.

Therefore, you should only spray a small amount of water to moisten the surface of their fur, then use a suede brush to clean them. Don’t pour too much water on these leathers!

To give your suede boots the best protection, you should consider using a specialized suede cleaner when cleaning them.

Tecovas suede cleaner, brush and eraser

Tecovas suede cleaner, brush and eraser | Image copyright Tecovas Boot Company | #CommissionEarned | Click image for more info

Some notes when using water to clean boots

In fact, using water to clean cowboy boots has some risks, but luckily you can control those risks.

One thing to keep in mind is that you need to dry your cowboy boots after cleaning them with water. They should be dried from the inside out as soon as possible.

There are quite a few ways to dry the boots, I like to use a boot dryer to dry the boots, it is quick and completely dry. Also, I usually stuff boot trees into my boots before going to bed to make sure all the moisture is absorbed into the boot trees.

Mens boot tree from Tecovas

Image copyright Tecovas Boot Company | #CommissionEarned | Click image for more info

The above ensures cowboy boots are not damaged by water! You can read some more basic methods for drying boots here!

You need to remember that although water can clean boots. If they get wet or damp for a long time, they will quickly deteriorate, or develop mold, or mildew.

Normally, I avoid submerging the entire cowboy boots in water, as it risks your boot life and is also extremely difficult to dry them. Instead, I usually just use a water bottle or hose and apply a certain amount of water to clean the outside.

Cowboy boots are usually made from full-grain leather, which retains a lot of natural oils and waxes so they mold to the feet and provide a very high degree of softness and comfort (they change a little after the tanning process).

full grain leather

When using water to clean cowboy boots, these natural oils and waxes can be washed away over time. Then, the boots will quickly dry out and crack, leading to wrinkles on the surface.

Actually, this is a common occurrence. Even if you use saddle soap, you still need to provide more moisture for the boots. Saddle soap’s oils are not enough to compensate for the natural oils and waxes that the boots have lost during cleaning.

To prevent that from happening, after drying cowboy boots, apply a leather conditioner or oil to moisturize them. Cowboy boots with the right moisture will last longer, be soft, and comfortable, and avoid wrinkles or cracks in the long run.

Before you go

In general, you can just use water to clean cowboy boots, but the results will certainly not be able to clean thoroughly.

Water will be an urgent solution for convenience and ease, but in the long run, you should still clean cowboy boots properly with a leather cleaner, and saddle soap with a brush to ensure a deep clean.

After cleaning the boots with water, make sure the boots are dried as quickly as possible using the right methods. Cowboy boots being wet for a long time is one of the big causes of their deterioration.

It will also be a necessary recommendation that you only spray water on the outside of cowboy boots to clean them, do not immerse them all in water, as it is very risky.

Also, you need to provide extra moisture to your cowboy boots because water over time can blow away natural oils and waxes over time.

For cowboy boots made from suede, nubuck, or rough out, you should apply just enough water to moisturize their fuzzy surface, then use a suede brush to clean. These leathers are quite vulnerable to water compared to smooth leather.