Since cowboy boots are an essential part of our daily outfits, they are likely to come into contact with any bad liquid we encounter on the road, most commonly rain, water puddles, water spills, or even melting salt sidewalks.
These will leave varying degrees of water stains, effectively limiting your ability to wear your beloved cowboy boots every day.
Although water stains are the most common and easiest leather stain to appear on the surface of genuine cowboy boots, damaged water stains make this process more burdensome.
They contribute to the structural deterioration of the leather very badly, leading to a rapid reduction in the life of your boots.
I used to look down on these water stains because I thought they could easily be treated at any time.
That’s when the nightmare started after I soaked my lovely real goat cowboy boots in some heavy puddles of rain on Ponce De Leon Avenue, Atlanta when I was outside looking for some good food for dinner and unfortunately caught a bad thunderstorm for hours.
I sort of forgot to dry my boots as soon as I got home and left them in a corner of the shoe cabinet for weeks afterward. Unfortunately, my boots appeared full of stains from mold, patchy deep water stains, and even the soles were soaked.
It was kind of a down-in-the-mouth thing, but I had to spend dozens of dollars on replacing soles and insoles, and repairing my boots.
Well, at this moment, I just want to say that if I had immediately dried my pricy cowboy boots, I could have saved some great bucks for my cat’s food.
Now is the time to do something immediately to save your water-damaged cowboy boots. I’ve got some good ways for you!
Let’s check them out!
- How To Fix Water Damaged Cowboy Boots?
- 1. Cleaning wide moldy spots on leather cowboy boots
- 2. Cleaning heavy rain water stains on leather cowboy boots
- 3. Fix peeled-off leather cowboy boots due to water
- 4. Fix heavily water-soaked leather cowboy boots
- Cleaning water-damaged suede/nubuck/split leather cowboy boots
- Some last words
How To Fix Water Damaged Cowboy Boots?
Water-damaged cowboy boots can cause a variety of symptoms on the surface of the boots. Sometimes, we don’t have a single cure for all of these symptoms.
Therefore, I will break down the problems of a pair of water-damaged cowboy boots and come up with a good solution for each problem.
1. Cleaning wide moldy spots on leather cowboy boots
Cowboy boots that are heavily wetted by water and not dried immediately will lead to mold and mildew growth rapidly in the fibers of the fabric.
If the leather boots are in dark shades such as dark black or very dark brown, you may not notice microscopic mildew stains on the surface. Instead, you can see patchy white mycelium on the black leather background.
If the boots are lighter in color, you’ll see both mildew and patchy white mycelium covering the entire surface of the cowboy boots.
They have a very unmistakably unpleasant, fishy smell. Molds and their spores grow very quickly in humid and dimly lit environments. If you do not promptly handle them, they will invade the entire surface of your leather cowboy boots.
What you need to prepare:
- Medical alcohol
- Empty spray bottle
- 1 bowl of warm water
- Leather cleaner
- Leather polish (with or without color)
- Soft cloth
- Soft sponge or a soft-bristled brush
Step 1: Clean the dirt on the leather
This is a pretty important step. This ensures that no dust particles remain on the leather surface. As a result, when you rub the leather, there will be no significant scratches due to the sharp edge of the dust.
You use the corner of a soft cloth and proceed to rub the entire surface of the leather cowboy boots. If there is mud on it, you may need to add more water to soften the stain. Make sure that no dust remains on the leather upper afterward.
Step 2: Kill mold spores
You need to mix a solution between warm water and alcohol in a ratio of 3:1. Then, pour this solution into an empty spray bottle.
Alcohol has an effective antibacterial and mildew-removal effect. They also have the ability to kill fungal spores, reducing the chance of mold and mildew growing back later. Alcohol also helps reduce the musty odors of mold.
You spray the solution directly on the areas with mold stains. You need to both spray and use another corner of the soft cloth and rub the water on the leather immediately afterward.
Keep in mind to not let the solution stay on the leather for too long. If not, chances are these will form visible dark watermarks later on. You only need to repeat this process once per mold area.
Otherwise, alcohol can break the leather fibers due to dryness. You may need to wait 1 hour for your cowboy boots to dry completely before proceeding to step 3.
Step 3: Clean the mold
You take a generous amount of leather cleaner onto a soft sponge and start rubbing the duo over visible mold spots.
Most of the mold stains have visibly faded. But if mold stains are piling up on your boots, you may need to color the boots to completely cover the ugly marks.
Step 4: Polish the leather surface
This polishing step is the best way to make your boots look like new. This process also aids in the better maintenance of the leather material.
Finally, you have a pair of leather cowboy boots that appear way healthier and more brilliant.
2. Cleaning heavy rain water stains on leather cowboy boots
When wearing any pair of regular leather cowboy boots and walking for hours in the rain, the boots have almost no immunity to water and high humidity.
Rainwater not only contains water, but it can also contain acids and industrial chemicals that accumulate in the clouds.
This will cause your cowboy boots to corrode and fade faster than usual.
With heavily water-damaged leather, you will not only see small water stains but instead large patches of dark-colored water stains, usually in the vamps, toes, and heels-the areas that come into direct contact with rain water.
If you use your finger and squeeze a corner of this wet leather, you will see water coming out, and that is a sign that your leather has absorbed too much water.
After they have dried (either naturally in the air or with a boot dryer), you will see patches of white and dark streaks in areas where the water has previously resided.
Your leather cowboy boots will also deform due to water and high humidity.
What you need to prepare:
- 1 soft cloth
- 1 leather brush
- 1 bottle of saddle soap
- 1 bowl of warm water
- 1 bottle of leather condition
- Boot tree
Step 1: Clean the dirt
I am assuming that your leather cowboy boots are completely dry after being soaked in water, no matter if they are air-dried or dried with a boot dryer. Now you need to use a soft cloth and rub it on the entire leather surface so that the remaining dust falls out.
You won’t be able to do this effectively when your leather boots are wet or soaked. You will need to wait for the material to dry completely. Then the dust and dirt can easily be taken away.
Step 2: Remove water stains
Dark water stains on the surface of cowboy boots cannot be completely treated with normal cleaning (even with a mild leather cleaner). You will probably need saddle soap – a cleaning mixture containing soap and oils.
You need to take a small amount of saddle soap on a corner of the leather brush and quickly dip it in warm water. Keep in mind that warm water will be a good start and a small amount of saddle soap should be appropriate.
Otherwise, your leather boots will be dehydrated due to the concentrated alkaline active ingredients from the saddle soap.
Then, immediately apply the duo of leather brush and wet saddle soap to the leather boots and rub them in a circular motion. Remember that you should not scrub vertically or horizontally; they will create visible scratches.
You need to rub the entire cowboy boot’s upper surface instead of just the areas containing water stains. This will ensure no discoloration occurs afterward.
At the end of this step, you do not need to rinse with water, even if the saddle soap is actually a cleaning soap. You need to wipe all the nooks and crannies of the boot’s upper containing the bubble layer with a clean towel.
Finally, you may need to wait 24–48 hours until the cowboy boots are completely dry before proceeding to step 3.
Drying with a boot dryer is the best way and you can shorten the process by up to 80% as the boot dryer often takes 8-10 hours to drain all the dampness and water out of your boots.
Step 3: Moisturize leather
An important thing to remember when using saddle soap to clean deep stains on the surface of leather boots is that you need to moisturize the leather right after.
This is due to the fact that the alkaline chemicals in the saddle soap will corrode and absorb the water and oil inside the leather. The surface of the skin will look pretty dry and wrinkled afterward.
You just need to take a small amount of the condition and rub it on the entire leather surface. This can be done entirely by hand or with a soft cloth or soft sponge.
Let the cowboy boots dry in the air for about 1-3 hours.
Step 4: Re-shape the boots
Your leather cowboy boots, after being soaked in water for a long time, will encounter some deformation in some places.
This can happen with toes or heels. You may need the boot tree to re-shape the boots to their original shape.
You just need to put the boot tree inside your cowboy boots and leave them for 2 days or more.
After all, your cowboy boots can completely get back to their youthful look like before.
Note that this method is also ideal for treating heavy-colored salt stains that happen on sleek leather cowboy boots due to soaking on the melting salt sidewalk.
3. Fix peeled-off leather cowboy boots due to water
Most of us are passionate about real leather cowboy boots. But not everyone can afford such expensive footwear for use in their daily lives. These faux cowboy boot choices will turn out to be more optimal and fitting.
For some people, wearing faux products is for moral reasons. This will make them feel dedicated to protecting wildlife while reducing the risk of these animals being killed and used for leather boots.
Faux is called leatherettes by a friend of mine who is a boot maker because of their low durability. Most faux fur only has a lifespan of about 5 years or less. When you soak faux cowboy boots in water for too long, especially rainwater, their fibers will quickly corrode and dehydrate.
For that reason, you’ll notice just a few months later that the faux upper will automatically have layers of peeling to varying degrees. Some of the higher-end faux varieties only peel off the thin, shallow top cover. You can still treat these stains.
Others may peel so deeply that the fabric underneath can be seen. You have no choice but to buy a new pair of boots.
What you need to prepare:
- 1 soft cloth
- 1 soft sponge
- 1 piece of sandpaper
- 1 bottle of leather cleaner
- 1 bottle of leather filler
- 1 bottle of colored leather polish (or shoe cream)
- 1 sharp scissors
Step 1: Clean the dirt
This is always an important step in any leather treatment process. They ensure that no significant potential scratches appear on the surface of the material afterward.
You need to use a soft cloth and rub it vigorously all over the cowboy boots. Make sure that no dust particles are left behind afterward.
Step 2: Remove tearing or peeling
When your faux cowboy boots start to peel, you may see crumbs of leather fall off every time you run your fingers over those areas.
Besides, you can also see thin patches that are partially peeled off but still stuck on the surface of cowboy boots. These flakes can be treated effectively.
You need to use scissors to cut all the peeling and tearing layers on the surface of the material. The more thoroughly you remove them, the better the final treatment of the material will be.
You can also use sandpaper to smooth out rough areas that appear due to peeling material. You need to smooth the area and make sure that no more flakes fall off afterward. You should only deal with damaged leather areas.
Step 3: Fill in the peeling leather
If the surface treatment of the material in Step 2 creates some small, large, or tiny gaps, you need to completely fill these gaps. You can use leather filler as the best solution to do this at home.
A leather filler kit can contain many colors. Choose the color closest to your leather cowboy boots. This device acts as a traction agent to fill in the gaps in the faux surface.
You take a small amount of leather filler and put it in the holes. Keep in mind to only take a sufficient amount to avoid spilling the glue.
Wait a few hours for the glue to dry. This process depends on the type of glue you use. Please read the user manual carefully before doing so.
Step 4: Smooth the leather surface
Holes in faux fur may still look rough or bumpy even when filled. You will need to use sandpaper to smooth them.
Use light force to smooth out visible protrusions.
At the end of this step, you need to take a soft cloth to wipe away the dust created during the process of grinding the surface of the material with sandpaper.
Step 5: Shine the faux cowboy boots
This step is the final step to complete the entire process. When boots are polished with colored polish, they will regain their original beauty and perfection. You need to put a sufficient amount of polish on the soft sponge.
Then, rub the sponge containing the polish over the entire surface of the cowboy boots.
You should choose colored polish in the same color as your cowboy boots. This ensures your boots won’t have overlapping layers of mixed colors.
4. Fix heavily water-soaked leather cowboy boots
This is the worst case of water-damaged leather cowboy boots. Your price boots not only have deep water stains on the entire upper surface, but the leather soles when submerged in water also become soft and no longer function well.
You really can’t keep wearing them. This is the condition of my goat cowboy boots mentioned above. There is also nothing you can do to repair them at home, because you may need to do more than just clean the stains.
You need to replace the insoles and also need to re-sole the boots. I highly recommend you see an expert or cowboy boot maker. They can fix these failures perfectly, after all.
Cleaning water-damaged suede/nubuck/split leather cowboy boots
When your suede, nubuck, or split leather cowboy boots are left in water for a long time without drying afterward, they show all the same problems as with leather cowboy boots, from moldy spots, musty smells, colored salt stains, and heavy water stains.
The good news is that you can handle one or all of these issues at once with just a process. Suede, nubuck, and split leather materials are all quite similar.
They have a quite obvious napped finish, like the fabric. Therefore, they absorb water quickly and also dry faster due to the easy evaporation of their hair.
However, after being soaked and dried, these materials may leave colored, oily, or patchy stains in areas exposed to water. They will likely shrink, resulting in a deformed boot shape.
In addition, the hairs on the surface of suede, nubuck, or split leather cowboy boots will also get lumpy and unsightly due to water or chemicals mixed in the water.
What you need to prepare:
- 1 Suede brush
- 1 jar of suede cleaner
- 1 amount of medical alcohol
- 1 small, empty spray bottle
- 1 amount of warm water
- 1 soft sponge
- 1 amount of warm water
- 1 bottle of suede conditioner
- Boot tree
Step 1: Dry wet suede cowboy boots
The first and most important step of the whole process is to dry the suede cowboy boots completely. Otherwise, you will not be able to continue to the next cleaning steps.
You can either dry your boots in the sun and let them dry naturally, or you can also use a boot dryer.
Personally, I recommend using a boot dryer as it will evaporate the moisture evenly without over-drying the yarn like in direct sunlight.
Step 2: Clean the dirt
Dirt stuck in the fibers of suede or nubuck fabrics will be dried hard after being completely dried. You just need to use a soft sponge and rub vigorously over the entire upper surface of the boot.
You will see layers of dust, dirt, or dried mud particles falling out. Make sure no dust particles are left behind.
Step 3: Remove mold, its spores and its fishy smell
This is an optional step if your suede cowboy boots are moldy. If not, you can skip this step.
You need to mix a solution of warm water and alcohol in a ratio of 2:1 and pour it into an empty spray bottle, then shake the bottle a few times.
You need to estimate the position to spray the solution on suede boots at about 10-15 cm from the surface. This ensures that the solution will not remain too long in the fibers afterward.
You should spray the entire boot upper to reduce the chance of fungal spores remaining in unsprayed areas. They will still grow back after that.
Alcohol has a bactericidal effect, killing fungus spores and cleaning musty odors very effectively. Rest assured that this solution will dry very quickly, about 30 minutes after application.
Step 4: Remove the stains
In this step, you need to use suede cleaner to clean colored salt stains, deep colors, or mildew stains.
You need to put a small amount of cleaner on one corner of the brush. Then, rub the duo all over the stained areas. Areas with heavy and overlapping stains should be treated more deeply.
You can repeat the cleaning process a few times until you get the desired effect.
At the end of this step, you need to let your boots air dry for 3 hours.
Step 5: Conditioning the materials
You may notice uneven colors on suede or nubuck surfaces. That’s why you need suede conditioner.
You take a small amount on the brush and rub it over the entire surface of the suede boot upper. You only need to do it once.
Step 6: Dry the boots in the boot tree
Your suede cowboy boots must have been deformed more or less after being submerged in water. You need to use a boot tree to re-shape the boots while you wait for them to dry completely.
After applying the suede conditioner to the entire surface of the boots, fill the space with the boot tree to reshape the toes, vamps, and heels.
It may take 24–48 hours for the boots to dry completely. In the process, your boots are also reshaped.
This will be more effective at aligning boots than waiting to re-shape them after they have completely dried.
Once your suede boots are completely dry, you need to use a suede brush to brush over the entire upper surface. This ensures the hairs won’t stick together while helping to even out the entire surface of the material better.
Some last words
After all, I understand that we can be careless or forgetful sometimes.
However, your cowboy boots do not deserve serious water damage stains since they can serve us for years and more with proper care and maintenance.
Howdy y’all, and welcome to From The Guest Room, your ultimate guide to all things Western! I’m Jay Gatz, a lifelong cowboy boot enthusiast with over 5 years of experience in the Western style world. I’m excited to share my knowledge with you and help you discover the perfect cowboy boots and western gear to elevate your style. Let’s explore the rich history and timeless appeal of Western fashion together!