I own a pair of Redwing leather boots. I really like these boots. They’re formal enough to be worn with dress clothes, but sturdy enough that I can grub around fixing cars and installing drywall. Good boots take care, especially to keep them waterproof and looking clean. This is what I’ve been doing.

I start with some dirty boots. Look at that dirt!

We gotta get rid of all that dirt. I use an old microfiber towel. I normally wipe the dirt off every few days, but for a deep clean I’ll remove the laces and really go at it.

It looks okay, but you can see the dust stuck in some of the natural wrinkles of the leather, as well as the boot’s seams. To get that, I go at it with a stiff plastic brush.

I brush against the grain, sometimes stretching the boots to get into the wrinkles. I also brush inside all the seams, and around the base of the upper.

I follow up with Saddle Soap and a toothbrush. I put a sliver of saddle soap into an old coffee mug that’s 1/4 full of hot water, stir that up well, and go to town. I get all the seams, re-touch all the wrinkles, and really scrub wherever I’ve scuffed the leather. The saddle soap contains glycerin (so I’m told) that helps to protect the leather. I scrub one shoe, then the other, then I rub them both dry with the same microfiber towel.

Dried on the left, still wet on the right. We’re already doing pretty well, but we could do better.

I pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees (the lowest it will go), remove the top rack, and put aluminum foil on the bottom rack. I stick the shoes in the oven for 20 minutes or so. This dries the shoes out, gets them nice and warm, and opens up the pores in the leather. Then I rub the shoes with mink oil.

The mink oil makes the leather more supple, it hides scratches and scuffs, and it adds water resistance. I smear it on heavily, especially the scuffed areas on the toes. Those areas seem to drink up mink oil, so I add more and more until they stop.

The shoes go back in the oven for another few minutes to let the mink oil really soak in, then I pull them out and turn the oven off. I take a clean rag (or old tee shirt, or old sock) and buff the shoes to a medium luster.

Shoe polish? I don’t use it on these shoes. I like the look of the natural leather, and I’m going to keep caring for these boots in this way as they wear in.