This is why I can't have nice things.
February 13, 2010 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Are my boots ruined? Please help me figure out how to restore them to their former glory. More than you ever wanted to know about my boots follows.

I was given an incredibly generous gift: expensive leather boots. I love them and they are amazing. Here they are.

I immediately took them to be waterproofed because I wanted to take care of them and keep them nice for as long as possible. I did not realize that waterproofing them would not... saltproof them. It's been snowing in NY, so there's salt on the streets, and salt got on my boots and stained them.

Someone recommended a shoe place to me. I took the boots there to be cleaned. They fucked them up. I have no idea what they did to the boots but it stripped out the color from the leather. They guy told me he would just re-dye it and that it was somehow my fault because I... should have known that salt doesn't come out. OK, he re-dyed it, they were closer to the original color (which is still visible on the tongue, and is gorgeous) but the bottom of the boot where he did the most "work" was definitely ashy and off. I failed life's assertiveness test and just paid him.

Then I took the boots to a different shoe place, the one where they did the waterproofing originally (which they accomplished without damaging the boots or altering the color at all). I asked the guy there if there was anything he could do about the color and the salt stains, and he said maybe not but he could try using some kind of cream on the boots. Now I am a hardened skeptic, so I made him show me what the cream would do on a little test patch. It seemed to make the color a touch darker and that was it. OK! Great! When I picked them up today, the part he had rubbed with the cream was shining like a mirror. It feels hard to the touch. The top part of the boot is as soft and matte as ever. Fuck!

I don't know what to do. I feel like the combination of my ineptitude, and the apparently inappropriate products used by these two shoe guys, have completely ruined these amazing boots which I could never afford on my own and which looked fantastic.

Is there anything I can do? What should I have done or asked for in the first place?
posted by prefpara to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: In case it helps, here is a low-quality picture of the boots now. My 1994 webcam failed to capture the difference in color between the bottom of the boot and the tongue, but you can see how shiny it is as compared to the tongue, which has survived these depredations unharmed.
posted by prefpara at 6:15 PM on February 13, 2010

A similar thing (with not-as-amazing shoes, but still! I loved them...) happened to me. I ended up just having a shoe guy try and make the whole shoe match the lowest common denominator (for lack of a better term) and then (seriously) massaged them a LOT with a chamois cloth. I hate to say, they were never the same but...they were ok.

Good luck. I feel your pain.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 6:25 PM on February 13, 2010

Former shoe manufacturing executive here.

Sorry to say, many kinds of leather, used in shoes, preferentially love water. If they didn't, leather shoes wouldn't "breathe" to absorb and slowly release foot moisture, and frankly, leather vamps and foxings on boots would not be held in such high esteem, therefore, by wearers of leather boots in northern climes.

The answer to your heartfelt conundrum, too late, however, for you, is to protect your pretty leather boots, in rain, sleet, snow, and slush, in vinyl boot covers, or overshoes. Once top grain tanned and treated leathers are thoroughly wet, much less attacked by salt solutions, all bets, in so far as restoring their finish, are off. I'm truly sorry that you are learning this the hardest way.

But, frankly, even overshoes have their problems, and I'd be remiss to suggest that in the future, with your next pair of lovely leather boots, you didn't plan and carefully execute, a daily snow/precipitation plan, that has you changing your pretty leather boots, in warm, dry surroundings, for vinyl/rubber snow boots that won't care about snow/sleet/rain/puddles while your pretty boots come, and go, from home, comfortably, dryly, ensconced in your day bag...
posted by paulsc at 9:15 PM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

And in the future, if you're trying to remove salt stains from leather shoes, mix one tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of water, and use a sponge or paper towl to clean the salty area. You might have to do it two or three times in order to get it all cleaned, but it works great.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:57 AM on February 14, 2010 [5 favorites]

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