How to Protect Your Leather Boots & Shoes From Being Ruined by Salt Stains This Winter

Walking around with salt stains on your boots is like walking around naked with black socks – totally cool in my books. But if you want to switch things up this year (and keep your boots for longer than a season) then it’s time to take some preventative measures. If your shoes are already stained, you still have hope…unless of course your shoes already look like this. Inside I’ll show you how to prevent permanent salt stains as well as removing them.

Clean The Boot

The first step is to clean the boot. If your boot is brand new, you can skip to the last step. Grab a cloth and dampen it with some fresh water. I cut a lemon in half and squeezed the juices into the cloth. Press down on the salt stains to remove them. You’ll probably need to rinse the cloth a few times and add more lemon. Once the salt stains are all gone, grab another cloth that is dry and press down on the boot and dry all the areas. If lemon isn’t strong enough for you, you can buy special stuff for salt stains from a shoe repair shop. When you’re done, let the boots dry for a while before moving on to polish them. If salt isn’t your problem, you can use an old toothbrush to brush dirt off or use leather soap if it’s really filthy.

Polish The Shoe If Worn

The boot should now look like the one below – clean of any salt stains and dirt. Grab some decent shoe polish that matches the boot and a crappy rag. Dip into the polish and start applying it to the boot in circular motions. If your shoe is a different colour than your soles, take some time to be careful to not to ruin those details and be careful with the polish around the edges. Details make the man.

The shoe polish should fill in some scuffs from wear and tear and discoloration from previous salt stains (if there are any). Polishing your shoes from time to time will keep filling those imperfections in keeping the boots looking sharp. Leather cream is also good to apply once in awhile to keep your boots from drying out and cracking. Once you’re done polishing the boots, let the polish sit for a bit and dry.

Brush or Buff

The boots are looking pretty good now (see below). Once the polish has set in, it’s time to either brush or buff them. I have a brush made of horsehair and it does the trick pretty good. If you want them to be extra shiny, buy a nylon shine cloth. The photo below has shoe polish applied and is now ready to brush.

Seal The Shoe From Water/Dirt/Salt

So now that the shoe has been cleaned of salt stains, polished, and brushed. It’s time to seal them properly from dirt, water, and salt stains. If your shoes are brand new, this is the only step you need to do. Below is the brushed shoe that is ready to be sealed.

I’ve tried ‘dubbin’ made of beeswax and I’ve tried silicone spray. Personally, I prefer the beeswax because I can see exactly where it’s been applied and how much of it has worn off and I don’t mind the aesthetic. No treatments last forever and will need to be reapplied depending on how hard you wear your shoes. The silicone spray is real easy to apply, seemed to work well enough, and didn’t make my boots look ‘waxy’ if that look turns you off. Some friends of mine who live in Montreal have recommended Snoseal as king though I haven’t personally tried it. So long as the dubbin is made of beeswax, you’re pretty safe.

The final product! For all those curious, Shane wore these shoes pretty hard over the years so they’re looking a little beat up – perfectly worn if you ask me…and they were never previously treated. If you get salt stains on your boots from slush or the sidewalks, don’t freak out too much. I hear the salt doesn’t start tearing away at the leather until it reaches room temperature. So make sure not to walk indoors or stay lingering inside too much. Window shopping is good on the wallet and good on the shoes. For real though, don’t let salt stains stay on your boots or the damage will be as permanent as my love for Taylor Swift.


  1. Bear Kid on January 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    This is definitely a great way to bring a shoe back to life. It also adds that character you just can’t buy from a store. Although, I think I’d just buy some new kicks. You boys are keeping it classy. I like it.

  2. Vivi on January 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    “Walking around with salt stains on your boots is like walking around naked with black socks – totally cool in my books.”

    I wish I could facebook like this. Awesome.

  3. Jared Polowick on January 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Hey BK. Recently I’ve started buying less but spending more (not just with shoes) and I find if you treat whatever it is well, they’ll last a long time making it a good investment. Though I have bought second hand shoes and wore them hard through the winter without caring much about them and got rid of them the next season.

    Glad you enjoyed the read Vivi!

  4. Breonna on February 2, 2011 at 8:49 am

    fabulous…I actually recently did something super similar to my winter leather boots. they looked great for like a day. I swear they need to start putting sand down in the city or something. Salt is such a fashion killer in the winter! …tastes good on corn though.

  5. Jared Polowick on February 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I know what you mean. Up north they use sand and it’s so much better. Also the idea of treating your shoes means they’ll still be around when you get to cleaning them every few weeks or at the end of the year…the aesthetics don’t last that long if you’re still in the season. I’ve heard stories about women grabbing all the little vinegar packets at restaurants and then jetting into the washroom with them to get the salt off of their expensive shoes instantly – but that seems like too much worrying for me.

  6. frances on February 23, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    This is just what I was looking for Jared! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Zane on August 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    hey i was just wondering where those boots are from?
    great job by the way!

    • W. Shane Duquette on August 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      The trashed ones are from Penny Arcade — a vintage store here in Toronto. I wore them hard for a year and they ended up looking like that.
      I’m guessing you’re asking about the nicer looking shoes though! Those are from Sydney’s, one of our favourite menswear stores. Great stuff. Great staff. Check ’em out! The shoes are Rokin’s.

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