How to clean red-wing boots

Red Wing boots are iconic footwear beloved by workers and fashionistas alike for their distinctive styling and durability. However, any boots get dirty with regular wear. Learning how to properly clean your Red Wings helps maintain the condition of the leather and extends the life of your boots. Follow this comprehensive guide to keep your Red Wings looking like new for years of reliable wear.

clean red wing boots

Why Proper Cleaning Matters for Your Red Wings

Red Wing uses high-quality leathers for their boots that develop a lustrous patina over time. However, dirt, oil, salt, and other grime that accumulates on leather boots can lead to accelerated deterioration if not removed. A good cleaning regimen removes debris that breaks down leather fibers, stains the finish, and traps moisture that damages stitching.

Keeping your Red Wings cleaned:

  • Nourishes the leather to prevent cracking
  • Preserves water resistance
  • Retains structural integrity
  • Maintains comfort and traction
  • Keeps the boots looking great

Making boot cleaning part of your regular care routine helps your boots last for years while avoiding common issues like:

  • Brittle, dried out leather
  • Loss of weatherproofing
  • Sagging linings
  • Worn outsoles with reduced grip

By properly cleaning your boots every 2-4 weeks, you can keep them in like-new condition for longer.

Gather the Proper Red Wing Boot Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning Red Wings starts with gathering the appropriate supplies to suit the leather type and conditions. Top-quality shoe care products are always a sound investment to protect the lifespan of expensive leather boots.

Supplies for Smooth-Finished or Lightly Oiled Leathers

For smooth leathers or lighter oil-tanned Red Wings, have these basic supplies on hand:

  • Saddle soap or leather cleaner like Bickmore Bick 4 Leather Cleaner
  • A cleaning brush with both stiff and soft bristles like this shoe brush kit
  • Microfiber towels
  • Leather conditioner like Bickmore Bick 4 Conditioner
  • A horsehair shoe polishing brush
  • A multi-use shoe cloth for buffing

Supplies for Heavily Waxed or Oil-Tanned Leathers

For heavyweight oiled leather Red Wing styles like the Classic Moc Toe, substitute:

  • A suede/nubuck cleaning block for the saddle soap

Supplies for Weatherproof Leather Boots

For boots with a waxed flesh side or waterproof leather like GoreTex, also have on hand:

  • Weatherproofing wax like Otter Wax Leather Salve
  • Heat source like a hair dryer to melt wax into leather

Additional Handy Cleaning Solutions

Round out your cleaning kit with specialty solutions to handle specific grime issues:

  • Degreaser or dish soap for oil and grease stains
  • Leather deglazer to strip wax or conditioner buildup
  • Leather filler balm to heal minor scrapes and nicks
  • Stain remover stick for scuffs

With a properly stocked cleaning kit, you can keep your Red Wings looking like new for longer.

Tips for Effective Cleaning Sessions

Follow these tips whenever you undertake a cleaning session for the best care and results:

  • Clean regularly – Never allow heavy grime or salt residue to build up. A quick wipe down after each wear prevents needing heavy duty cleaning later.
  • Work outdoors if possible – Boot cleaning products have chemicals that can irritate airways. Working near open windows or outside prevents buildup of fumes.
  • Disassemble boots completely – Always remove the laces and footbed insoles prior to cleaning to access all leather surfaces and linings. Stuff boots with old cloths or tubes to retain shape while cleaning and drying.
  • Use appropriate tools – Stiff nylon or boar bristle brushes lift stubborn grime. Softer brushes then smooth down leather fibers to prevent marring smooth finishes.
  • Limit moisture – Excess water leads to cracking and deterioration once leather goods dry. Minimize water exposure and always thoroughly dry boots with towels and natural air drying. Never force dry with external heat.
  • Condition and polish once dry – Nourish the leather fibers and provide extra protection by conditioning and polishing once boots are fully dry.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Smooth-Finished Leather Red Wings

From well-worn work boots caked with job site grime to favorite hiking companions splattered in mud season after season, keep your smooth leather Red Wings renewed with this thorough cleaning tutorial:

1. Remove Laces and Footbed

Pull out the laces as well as any removable cushioned insoles. Removing all interior components allows full access to clean the leather lining and provides airflow to dry faster.

2. Wipe Away Loose Debris

Use a microfiber cloth or soft brush to gently wipe away any caked on dirt or mud. Removing debris first prevents it grinding into the leather while scrubbing.

3. Create Saddle Soap Mixture

Work up a cleaning solution by dissolving saddle soap flakes or liquid cleaner into warm water per product instructions. Frothy, soapy water around 1-to-1 soap-to-water ratio typically works best. Alternatively, premixed saddle soap solutions are handy for convenience.

4. Scrub Soap Solution into Boots

Dip a handheld cleaning brush into the soap mixture then scrub across all exterior and interior leather using small, firm circular motions. Push the bristles firmly against the grain to lift grime lodged deep in the leather texture. Periodically dip brush back into solution to rewet and prevent redepositing grit back onto boots.

Pay special attention to these extra dirty areas:

  • Welt joints
  • Stitching crevices
  • Tongue and collar linings
  • Eyelets and speed hooks
  • Heels and ankle padding

5. Rinse Residue Away

Use a clean, damp microfiber cloth to wipe away all sudsy residue after scrubbing. Frequently rinse out cloth to remove all lifted dirt. Target crevices and stitching to eliminate any lingering debris. Tip: Stuff a clean rag or paper towels into boots before rinsing exteriors to absorb excess moisture.

6. Towel Dry

Use fresh, absorbent microfiber cloths to gently blot moisture from all interior and exterior boot surfaces after rinsing clean. If boots are very wet inside, stuff with additional paper towels to wick away excess moisture.

7. Air Dry

Remove any interior absorbent materials then set boots aside to fully air dry for several hours, or overnight if very wet. Stuffing interior with cedar shoe trees, tube socks, or crumpled paper while drying retains the proper boot shape. Caution: Never force dry leather boots using external heat sources.

8. Condition the Leather

Once boots are completely dried, the final step is to nourish and moisturize the leather. Use a soft horsehair shoe polish dauber or clean rag to gently massage leather conditioner into the toe box, heels, seams, and flex points. Buff lightly with a shoe shine cloth to remove any excess conditioner.

And just like that – those beloved boots are revived to comfortably carry many more miles to come!

Cleaning Roughout and Suede Red Wings

Red Wing’s signature leathers range from smooth finished Chromo to traction enhancing Vibram outsoles, but also branch out to include softer suede and roughout textures. These napped leathers hide everyday scuffs well but require a specialized approach to clean.

Supplies Needed

  • Nubuck, suede, or roughout leather cleaning solution
  • Soft cleaning brush
  • Terry cloth rags
  • Suede brush for refreshing nap

Steps to Clean Roughout Red Wings

  1. Brush away loose debris – Use a suede cleaning brush to whisk away any dried mud or surface level dirt if present. Avoid aggressive back-and-forth rubbing.
  2. Apply leather cleaner – Select a cleaning product specifically formulated for suede, nubuck or roughout textures. Use a just a small amount on a suede cleaning block or soft cloth.
  3. Gently blot stains – Dip the corner of a clean terry cloth rag into the soap mixture, then dab onto stubborn stains. Switch to fresh sections of the rag frequently to prevent redepositing grime.
  4. Rejuvenate nap – Once boots are fully dry, use a suede brush to refresh the nap of the roughout leather, brushing against the grain direction first. Then brush with the grain to lift fibers.
  5. Waterproof – Lightly spray suede waterproofer evenly across the leather uppers to restore water resistance to the suede. Test first in an inconspicuous area to evaluate color change.

With the right gentle approach, specialty care products, and simple maintenance, scuffs and stains don’t stand a chance against your rugged Red Wing roughouts.

Heavy Duty Cleaning for Badly Soiled Boots

Over countless miles the grime clinging to well-loved boots turns into a thick, greasy film requiring periodic heavy duty revival. Whip extremely dirty Red Wings back into respectable shape with these intensive cleaning steps:

1. Remove Stubborn Grime and Oils

Create a degreasing solution of equal parts warm water and dish detergent or degreasing cleaner. Use a small nail brush, toothbrush, or cleaning brush to firmly scrub solution onto badly soiled areas and stains. The bristles must contact the pores of the leather to lift grime lodged deep. Rinse clean. Repeat if needed on oil-caked areas.

2. Condition the Leather

Inspect boots closely once dirt removed to identify any deeper damage, scuffs or wear needing repair. Use a leather filler balm on any knicks or porous spots. For cracking or brittle leather, apply two coats of heavier conditioner after cleaning, allowing each application to soak in for an hour before applying polish or weatherproofing products.

3. Remove Built Up Product Residue

If dealing with waxy buildup or excessive layers of old conditioners impacting leather breathability, use a leather deglazing solution first per the instructions. This removes the gunked residue so fresh conditioners absorb better in the next steps.

4. Clean with Saddle Soap

Create a saddle soap solution then clean boots as typical from top to bottom. Pay special attention to flex points and lining. Let boots fully air dry with shoe trees or stuffing inside.

5. Condition and Seal

With boots fully clean, condition by massaging two light coats of boot cream or oil into the leather, allowing it to absorb between applications. Then protect your efforts by applying wax, weatherproofing balm, or protective spray using small, circular motions to distribute evenly into the leather’s pores.

A little extra love and elbow grease periodically does wonder keeping longtime footwear companions looking and feeling fresh.

Maintaining Clean Boots Between Full Cleans

Prevention is the most powerful tool between full cleaning sessions. Just a few minutes attention after each wear maintains like-new boots in the long run:

  • Brush away debris – Quickly whisk away any dirt or dust with a horsehair shoe brush before it settles into the leather.
  • Wipe down exteriors – Use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to spot clean salt stains, splashes, or marks after each wear once boots removed.
  • Stuff interiors – Lightly stuff boots with rags or paper towels after each wear to wick away moisture and retain shape as they dry.
  • Apply protectants occasionally – Every 1-2 months refresh waterproofing sprays or balms per the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Nourish leather – Every 3-4 months apply additional conditioner or oil to flex points, heels, and seams to maintain suppleness.

With consistent care, those dependable boots only get better with age. The scuffs tell stories and customized patina reflects adventures happening in a pair well suited to many more.

Sharing Is Caring:

As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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