The Polar Vortex ate my shoes
January 10, 2014 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Please help me save my beloved boots from what may be some serious salt damage!

I went to Chicago for a conference this weekend, fully prepared to be inside 99% of the time and outside only for getting into and out of cabs maybe four times, tops. Instead I got stuck in Chicago for three extra days, owing to the bad roads, and I ended up walking outside quite a lot in my dressy-ish black leather knee-high boots, which were the only shoes I'd brought that could even begin to stand up to the weather. Despite having treated the boots with a waterproofing spray before leaving, I could not keep up with the extreme amount of salt that covered my poor, faithful boots. I washed the salt off as best as I could every time I came indoors, though it seemed to be a losing proposition. Now that I'm home, and not only is the weather milder but I also have access to appropriate footwear (*sob*), the leather on said pair of boots is puckered all the way around the soles. Is there any saving these shoes? If so, is there something I can do myself, or should I take them to a ... cobbler? Dry cleaner? etc?

Thanks, MeFi!
posted by AthenaPolias to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Step 1: Brush off the excess salt as best you can. Not with water, but just abrasion.
Step 2: Dip a soft cloth in a 1:1 mixture of vinegar:water and rub down the salty parts. Let dry and repeat as necessary.
Step 4: Rub down entire boot leather with neatsfoot oil until it can't take any more in. The leather will be thirsty, so stock up.

(Step 3 is to procure neatsfoot oil, and test the stuff on an inconspicuous part of your boot to be sure it plays nice with your leather)
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:16 PM on January 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

What Cold Lurkey said, I'd also look into getting old fashioned shoe polish and polishing up the boots when you are done to help keep them better protected. The waxes in the polish help protect the leather and will also help condition it. Neatsfoot oil has a wonderful tendency to darken leather so make sure to do Step 3 above first, it might be worth the colour change to you to have your boots back.
posted by wwax at 7:46 PM on January 10, 2014

It might help to post a photograph or two showing the damage.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:19 PM on January 10, 2014

I live in Toronto, land of heavy of salting, and i walk a lot. My own research has told me there is nothing you can do, beyond keep them polished to minimize the look of the damage.

Unfortunately, once salt damage is done it can't be undone. That's why pretty much all the advice you're going to get is going to be about how to clean salt off of your shoes, not how to fix the damaged leather that has already been cleared of salt.

Sorry :(
posted by Kololo at 8:22 PM on January 10, 2014

Get them shined. Like, old-fashioned shoe shine. Or at least, take them to a cobbler.

I have a pair of cowboy boots that went through four years of college sometimes in ankle-deep brine. At times the rime was incredible. A good, classic shoe shine once a month fixed them right up. (My dad used to shine his shoes on Sundays while watching football...I usually connived him to shine my boots.)
posted by notsnot at 10:15 PM on January 10, 2014

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