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Can Leather Cowboy Boots Get Wet? 5 Tips to Protect Boots

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My friend wears his cowboy boots every day, and since we live in south Louisiana, that means his cowboy boots get wet. He recently complained about some of his boots losing their shape and finesse. After explaining to him how to take care of his boots, I realized this is something others can benefit from as well.

Leather cowboy boots get wet, and it’s typically not a problem if they’ve been treated with a water-resistant conditioner. It’s necessary to protect your boots from moisture damage before and after they’ve been exposed to water if you want them to last.

While leather offers a lot of resilience to moisture, it needs to be handled with care if you want your cowboy boots to last. With proper care, your cowboy boots can look as good as new for years. Read on to learn about how to take care of those boots.

Can Leather Cowboy Boots Get Wet?

Yes, leather cowboy boots can get wet, and they do, whether it is because of the rainy season or stepping in a pile of mud. Leather naturally offers some moisture resistance, but it will still absorb and retain water.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t wear leather boots to your barn in the rain or avoid walking on a muddy trail. You just need to take care of your cowboy boots properly to protect them. Before we go into those details, let us look at two types of cowboy boots.

Cowboy Boots Types

Cowboy boots can be broadly categorized into two types: functional boots and fashion boots.

  • Functional cowboy boots are your riding and working boots. They are made from sturdy, durable leather and are meant to be worn in the saddle, fields, construction sites, and all horse-related disciplines. They are also more practical, with lower heels and a comfortable fitting.
  • Fashionable cowboy boots are made from fancy materials and worn more for show than functionality. These boots are often made from snakeskin or ostrich hide, meaning that they look great but are less resistant to harsh weather or moisture. They can also have higher heels and may not be as comfortable.

But why do we need to make the distinction between these cowboy boots?

The distinction between the two types is important because it is relatively easy to care for functional kinds of cowboy boots and wear them in wet conditions.

However, the fashionable type of cowboy boots usually can’t survive wet conditions because they are made from delicate leathers easily ruined by excessive moisture, even one made out of suede can be damaged.

But don’t lose hope, there are steps you can take to care for designer leather shoes and boots in your home!

Picture of a pair of ostrich skin ropers, cowboy boots.
Ostrich Skin Ropers

So, it is best to wear your fashionable boots on special occasions and in dry conditions.

5 Tips to Protect Your Cowboy Boots

To get the best use out of your cowboy boots, you should follow the steps detailed below to take care of them.

Condition Your Boots

Conditioning your cowboy boots provides numerous benefits. It keeps the leather firm, soft, and supple, and it also acts as a barrier against moisture. Before you can condition your boots, you have to make sure they are clean and dry.

Picture comparing my boots before and after conditioning them.
Before and after conditioner

Clean your boots.

If your boots aren’t clean, take a soft cotton t-shirt and a horsehair brush or toothbrush and get to work. First, scrape off all the dry bits of dirt with the brush. Then, using a wet cotton cloth, wipe the boots clean. Let them dry naturally.

Apply conditioner

After that, take a boot conditioner (ideally, one without any color) and apply a small amount onto the boots. Help the boots absorb the conditioner by rubbing it gently with the circular motion of your thumb.

There are many different types of leather boot conditioners on the market. I’ve used mink oil on my boots for as long as I can remember. It comes in an easy-to-use container, works well, and lasts a long time.

I haven’t noticed a difference between the brands of mink oils, recently I’ve been using Feibing’s mink oil because I can pick it up at the local tack store, but it’s also available online from Amazon. You can click this link to check out available mink oils.

Picture of a can of fiebing's mink oil, I used on my cowboy boots.

Let the boots rest

Leave the boots overnight so the conditioner is absorbed fully. When a thin sheen of conditioner starts to show on the leather surface, it means the boots are well moisturized. This sheen will act as a barrier to water.

Apply Polish

After applying conditioner to your boots, you can also polish them. While this step is optional, it further increases your boots’ moisture barrier and gives them extra shine.

All you need to do is apply a coat of shoe cream (in a color that matches your cowboy boots) and rub it into the boots. Allow the cream a few minutes to dry, and then you can use a horsehair brush or cotton rag to brush or buff the boots to a shine.

There are a few different types of boot polishes, liquid, solid, and some that are multipurpose, cleaner conditioner, and polish in one. I prefer to use the stand-alone solid wax type of polish.

I find the cream or wax style polishes provide a good barrier and are easy to apply. I’ll like to stick with what works and use the old-fashioned Kiwi polish in a can.

Dry Naturally

Now let us say you went out when it was raining pretty hard, or you stepped into some puddle, and your boots absorbed a lot of water.

With the conditioning you have done, your boots will avoid the damage sustained if left unprotected, but you still need to clean your boots and let them dry. And, of course, apply conditioner again.

Slow dry leather boots

The mistake my friend was making was drying his boots in front of his fireplace! This is the worst thing you can do because intense heat from artificial sources like fireplaces can quickly cause your cowboy boots to dry up from within.

Intense heat will make your boots wrinkle up, lose their shape, color, and texture. The proper way to dry your boots is to leave them in an airy, dry place so they can dry naturally.

The process will be slower, but it will keep the boots intact and maintain their quality. Another option is to use a boot dryer, these work well and dry your boots from the inside.

I like these dryers because they keep the shape of your boots and they’re easy to use. The one in the picture below is the original PEET 2-Shoe Electric Shoe and Boot Dryer and Warmer.

We keep this one by the back door to the house and often put our boots on it even when they aren’t wet.

Picture of a boot dryer.
Peet Boot Dryer

Store Properly

When your boots are wet and left out to dry, it is also necessary to ensure that they are appropriately stored. They should be in an airy place so the leather can properly. And ideally, you should keep them upright with a cedar boot tree inside.

Cedar boot tree will help maintain the shape of your boots and allow air to naturally and easily flow into the boots. You can also use electric boot dryers.

My son-in-law keeps a Peet boot dryer, shown above, outside the back door of his house. These type of boot dryers circulate air inside your boots and can typically dry them overnight.

Don’t Wear the Same Pair of Boots Every Day

Cowboy boots need to breathe air. When you wear them for a whole day, they absorb moisture from your feet. This moisture will only evaporate if you leave them in a nice airy place for a day or two.

If you wear them every day, then over time, the small quantity of moisture will build up and seep through into the leather and affect its shape.

What Happens If Leather Boots Get Wet?

When leather boots get wet, moisture seeps into the leather. Even when they are allowed to dry naturally, the tannins and oils inside the leather are affected. The leather becomes drier than before, and over time, this dryness can lead to cracking and wrinkling.

So, if your boots get wet, it is important to repeat all of the steps involved in cleaning, conditioning, and polishing boots after they have naturally dried.

Can You Use Vaseline on Leather Boots?

You do not need to buy fancy products for conditioning leather cowboy boots if you do not want to. Vaseline works as well as any other conditioner.

You just need to apply a coat of petroleum jelly on the boots and gently rub it in with a soft cotton cloth. You should, however, avoid using petroleum jelly on rawhide leather.

If you want, you can also protect and condition your cowboy boots by using cowboy boot toolkits.

Leather cowboy boots are durable and can withstand wet weather conditions easily, given that you take good care of them by letting them dry naturally and periodically conditioning and polishing them.


Here is a helpful YouTube video about how to clean and condition cowboy boots.


Can snakes bite through leather cowboy boots?

Yes, some snakes can bite through leather cowboy boots; however, most can’t. Read this article: Can Snakes Bite Through Leather Cowboy Boots? Let’s Find to learn more about the biting power of snakes and about boots designed to protect your feet from them?

How do you break in cowboy boots?

Wearing your boots is the best way to break them in but if you have a pair that’s too tight to get on or is extremely uncomfortable hold them over a pot of boiling water and let the steam rise into the shaft, then put the boots on and walk around in them. You can learn some more ideas here:
How to Break In Cowboy Boots to Ride and Walk-in Comfort?