The great thing about authentic leather boots is how durable they are. It’s tough to damage them, but if you somehow manage it, there’s no reason to panic. There are plenty of ways to fix tears in boot leather.
Take Your Boots to a Leather Shop
If you don’t want to fix the boots yourself or think the damage is beyond your skill set, take your boots to a leather shop. Shoemakers and cobblers are well versed in leathercraft—the before and after results they can do with damaged shoes are almost miraculous.
Potential repairs in their wheelhouse can include polishing the leather, replacing the soles, and even expanding the boot. Depending on the damage, these repairs can be pricey, but they’re not nearly as expensive as replacing the boots. You’ll also save your favorite pair of boots from the landfill.
If you don’t mind doing the work yourself and would like to save yourself a bit of cash, leather repair is absolutely something that can be DIY-ed. Below, we’ll describe what you need and how to fix the most common leather boot damage.
Buff out Scuffs
What You’ll Need:
- Leather cleaner
- A hair dryer
- Unscented, clear petroleum jelly
- A clean, undyed cloth or towel
- Recoloring balm in the same color as your boots
What To Do:
Step One: Clean the shoe. You’ll need to ensure your boot is clear of dirt and grime before you start working to repair the surface. Use your leather cleaner to scrub away any dust. First, however, it’s a good idea to test it in an inconspicuous spot to ensure it doesn’t stain or damage the leather.
Step Two: Heat the area. Use the hair dryer to apply gentle heat to the scuffed surface of the shoe. This will make the leather more malleable, making it easier to blend the polish evenly.
Make sure the hair dryer isn’t too hot!
Step Three: Massage with a clean cloth. Move in circular motions and apply a bit of pressure. Ideally, this will cause the dye to spread and blur, making the scuff unnoticeable! If it’s still there, move on to step four.
Step Four: Apply petroleum jelly. It serves to moisturize the leather and make the color more vibrant. This can make blending the scuff into the rest of the leather easier.
Step Five: Apply leather balm. Choose one in the same color as the leather of your boot. If you can still see the scuff after applying the petroleum jelly, clean the boot again with the leather cleaner. Then, apply the leather balm to the scuff with circular motions. Feather the balm over the edges of the scuff to blend it into the undamaged leather.
After it’s dry, apply leather conditioner, and voila! Good as new. If the damage to your boot is a bit more severe, the fix will be a bit more labor-intensive than this.
Fix Up Gouges
What You’ll Need:
- Leather cleaner
- Color-match leather dye kit
- Leather sealant in either matte or glossy, whichever matches your boot
- Clean foam brushes or sponges
- Sandpaper: 1200-2000 grit
- Disposable mixing cups
- Disposable plastic knife
- Heavy leather filler
What To Do:
Step One: Clean the surface, just like before. It’s essential to have a clean surface to work on so that you don’t embed any dirt or grime into the leather as you attempt to fix it. Be sure to do a test spot of your leather cleaner before applying it all over.
Step Two: Apply dye to the gouged area. First, you’ll need to color-match your boot. Leather dye kits will come with a base color and a tint color. The most common base color is black or brown; the tint should match your boots' undertone.
Once you’ve mixed the dye up and matched it to the original color of your boot, use a foam sponge or brush to dab the color to the scuffed area. Be sure to dab, not brush. Brushing will leave streaks on the leather.
Allow the leather to air dry, or use a hair dryer to speed up the process. Save any leftover dye for later; you’ll need it again!
Step Three: Fill in the gouge. With the plastic knife, fill in the gouge with leather filler. This will fill the hole, ensuring no texture differences in the final result. Apply generously, as it is important to fill in all the little crevices. Smooth out the filler as much as possible and let it air dry.
Step Four: Sand the filler. Now that the filled area is dry, you’ll need to sand it with low-grit sandpaper. It should be smooth and blend seamlessly into the rest of the shoe. If there are scratches in the filler from the lower-grit sandpaper, use higher-grit sandpaper afterward to polish those away.
Once you’re happy with the result, clean it again with your leather cleaner.
Step Five: Apply the color. Now that there are no noticeable texture differences in your boot, apply the dye. You should have some color-matched dye left over from step two—dab that onto the repair area, starting from the center and working outwards.
Starting from the middle allows you to blend the color more easily. Allow to dry, then apply at least one more coat.
Step Six: Add leather sealer. You’ll need to match this to the finish of your boots. You can buy leather sealers in glossy and matte finishes. If your boots have a different finish, such as satin, you’ll need to mix the two together to match it to your existing finish. Start with a ratio of 1:1 and adjust as needed.
Apply a coat of sealer with a clean foam brush or sponge. Allow it to dry, then add a second coat. Once the sealer is completely dry, apply generous amounts of your preferred leather cleaner to moisturize the leather.
The Worst-Case Scenario
We hate to say it, but sometimes tears in boot leather are too severe to repair. If the damage is worse than a gouge—for example, a hole clean through the leather—bring it straight to the leather repair professionals. They might be able to save it.
But depending on the extent of the damage, unfortunately, sometimes there’s only so much even the leather wizards can do. We know it’s heartbreaking, but it may be time to say goodbye to your boots.
That doesn’t mean trash them, however. If they’re particularly sentimental, clean them up as best as possible and set them up as a display piece in your home. You can add a pair of boots onto a shelf or bookcase as a statement piece. For a little extra flair, try adding dried flowers into one of the boots.
Once you decide you’re ready for a new pair of everyday boots, Country View Western Store has your back. We have plenty of great men’s and ladies’ country boots. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite pair of boots here.