The first step to all bootblacking is recognising the type of leather you have! The most common boots are Oil Tans and High Shines in black. If you’re unsure about what type of leather you have, ask a bootblack!
Oil Tan – An oil tan is usually an expensive working boot characterised by a matte finish and supple feel. The first step is always cleaning the boot with a trusted saddle soap or scent/color free glycerin soap. To do this, lather the soap to full foam with a horse hair brush, apply to boot, wipe away. These boots do not take polish well. Instead use a grease or oil (such as Huberd’s grease) to re-moisturise the boots and heal any cracking or discoloration. Do this every season change.
Shines – A shiney boot is a shiney boot, they are also characterized by being hardier, glossier, or more of a dress/military design! The first step is always cleaning the boot with a trusted saddle soap or scent/color free glycerin soap. To do this, lather the soap to full foam with a horse hair brush, apply to boot, wipe away. Then thinly apply the polish of your choice (Angelus is beloved) using a soft cloth, sprinkle with cold water, and shine with a horse hair brush. Repeat until the shine is to your liking.
Color – Boots with color, or color stitching can be sexy and challenging. Your best bet is to clean with saddle soap (see above), and thinly apply a cream polish in a matching color tone. For any light colors, this may darken your finish. For stitching, clean thoroughly (with a soft toothbrush and saddle soap), and then draw stitching back on with a China Pencil. Boots with a ‘shiney color’ (such as the back panel of a Dayton driver) can be repainted on with Angelus Acrylic Leather Paints, using thin layers.
Salt – This means CUM! Clean with saddle soap. Wipe down with 50% vinegar solution (1:vinegar 1:water). Repeat until salt stain disappears. Reapply polish or grease, depending on leather type.
For all other questions ask your local bootblack! We’re often at VML socials, East Side ReRides or MVK play parties. Want products? East Side ReRides carries the best at a 10% discount to VML members. Want to drop your boots off for some love? BoundAries leather works out of East Side ReRides and does advanced bootblacking from restoration to recoloring to repairs. Just ask!
With love for leather,
Leatherworker & Bootblack
Coast Salish / Vancouver