5 Easy Tricks to Make Stained Winter Boots Look New Again

I used to buy expensive boots because I thought they'd keep better, but I've learned just a few maintenance tips can make any of your shoes, even the cheap ones, look better and last longer.
Publish date:
January 9, 2015
fashion, shoes, boots, trends, booties

I have a love-hate relationship with New York City. I love slices of pizza for a dollar, going to Prospect Park on the weekends, and being able to get nearly anything and everything delivered at a moment’s notice in the Big Apple; but what I hate is enduring the winters here (and that’s coming from a girl who grew up in Wisconsin).

I find myself having the repair or replace debate about my boots every season.

Though the winters are harsh in Wisconsin, since I had to drive everywhere my shoes didn’t get the wear and tear that they’ve gotten from walking around Manhattan. And with the weather getting colder by the day, I knew I had to come up with a solution.

The past couple of winters I made the same mistake, mainly because I assumed that if I bought high-quality boots I wouldn’t have to do any maintenance.

Right after Fashion Week in September, I make sure to go to sample sales to purchase designer boots at 50 percent off — $400 boots for $200 are a steal, no?

I’m a huge fan of Tibi because its designs are always simple and can be worn in various ways, so it has taken me a while to realize that they aren’t worth repairing anymore. I've had their four-inch heels patched up at the upscale repair shop Leather Spa, and then polished twice (at $75 a pop, no less). When I realized I spent $325 on (purchasing and maintaining) boots that were supposed to be a steal, I felt silly.

So from then on I decided that I would purchase moderately priced boots, but invest in upkeep.

After a bit of research on RealSimple.com, I started cleaning them every weekend with a concoction of vinegar and water in equal parts, and shining with Fiebing’s boot creme polish for $4. All signs of salt have vanished and the leather has stayed shiny.

These Diane von Furstenberg leopard-print, calf-hair booties are somewhat of a keepsake since a close friend bought them for me, and so I have always hesitated to wear them in fear that rain would ruin the material. After a little trial and error, I started busting them out even in bad weather and stuffing them with crumpled-up newspaper to keep their shape as they dry.

For major stains like mud and sludge from the snow I’ve found that cornmeal (not cornstarch, read the label!) works best to clean these, using a shake-and-bake technique: Put about two cups of cornmeal in a bag with your boots, seal it, and shake for about a minute.

And then keeping the shoes in the bag with the cornmeal for one hour after shaking can get rid of any residual dirt.

Still, after cleaning calf-hair and also suede shoes, I noticed the hairs didn't quite fall in the right direction afterward. So I purchased this $6 slicker brush to smooth everything down. And it works wonders!

Finding white boots that don’t look like they are part of a Halloween costume can be a bit of challenge, so when I found these for $50 at Buffalo Exchange, I had to get them.

For these I purchased Kiwi Protect All Stain Repellant for $10 from Amazon, and I have to say that it’s really helped keep these boots intact. All I had to do to clean them was spray this and then rinse the shoes with cold water to get dirt to come off.

Though the maintenance has taken a little more effort, my boots have never looked better. I've definitely saved money, as I haven’t had to get any of these boots professionally repaired yet.

Do you have any tricks to keep your shoes looking good?