Introduction: Waterproof Boots

Picture of Waterproof Boots

My leather work boots have gotten a bit worn over the years and fail to repel water like they did when new. They were starting to absorb more water than they repelled when worn in wet conditions. With the rainy season right around the corner, I figured it was time to do something about it...and cheaply to boot. This is a quick process that can be done on a vast number of items, and it only requires a few things to achieve a very water repellent treatment. This can be used in survival situations as well. You will need

  • the item to be waterproofed
  • candle (or other chunk of wax)
  • a heat source (hair dryer, sunny day, camp fire, etc.)

These boots are real leather, but this process can be applied to just about any surface or material that is porous (cotton, canvas, nylon, wood, etc). I used a small votive candle that I found in my house. For the heat source, I used a standard hair dryer since most people have one in the house. I also tried using a 1500W heat gun, which worked much faster, but the hair dryer got the job done too.

Step 1: Start Rubbing

Picture of Start Rubbing

Just rub the candle on the boot to coat it evenly. In the first pic, you can see that I started with a relatively clean and dry boot. The second pic shows that I have covered just the toe of the boot. I began to rub the candle a bit more aggressively and covered all areas that I wanted treated.

NOTE: These boots were not designed to be waterproof. Real waterproof boots have gussets sewn between the tongue and the sides of the boot to block water from coming in through the laces. These boots don't have that, so it was really only necessary to wax up to the bottom of the tongue, but I did the whole boot regardless. It'll still provide some splash protection.

Step 2: Heat It Up

Picture of Heat It Up

Once the boot was completely covered, I turned the hairdryer on its hottest setting and aimed it at the boot. You will see the wax begin to melt and absorb into the leather. Continue heating the entire boot, ensuring that all the wax has melted. The melted wax provides a water repellent coating to the leather.

Step 3: Test It Out

Picture of Test It Out

I wanted to get a before and after test, so I only treated one boot at a time. I think the results speak for themselves.

I put 2-3 more layers of wax on each boot, melting each layer as I went. This ensures that I got a good even coverage and didn't miss any spots. I did find that applying the wax to a warm boot was much easier and faster than the original application, so you might consider pre-heating your boots before you start.

In the final pic you can see that the boots have a bit more shine to them. When the boots were warm, the leather was very soft and supple. Once they cooled, they stiffened up a bit, but that is to be expected with leather. Keep this in mind if stiffness will affect the item you are applying wax to.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on other applications of this technique, please post them below. As always, I'd appreciate your vote, but even if you don't vote for me make sure you vote for somebody in the contests.


drzcyy (author)2015-02-04

Probably a better material to use is petroleum jelly, or better known as Vaseline. It's easier to apply, doesn't crusts over, or cracks at the creases. And it sure is waterproof!

VictorFreeze (author)drzcyy2015-11-03

I second that. I use Vaseline on my boots every year. Works like a charm. You can even use an old T-shirt to buff it to a really nice shine. I've done this to my daily stomping boots...Doc Martens...and an old pair of leather cowboy boots that have held up for years.

VasilisM2 (author)VictorFreeze2016-01-19

Hello Victor. Saw your comment about vaseline and wanted to ask smthing. Do you apply the petroleum jelly(vaseline) on the show and let it soak for some hours then wipe the excess and thats it? Or you apply the vaseline and heat it so to soak even more? I just applied the vaseline in and let it soak on its own because I've read that you must not heat the leather otherwise it "dies".
Thanks for the help!

VictorFreeze (author)VasilisM22016-01-21

I actually take a big gob of vaseline and put it in a dish and melt it in the microwave. So that it's easier to rub into the leather and buff. Don't apply it right away (it'll be too hot). Let it sit for a minute or put the dish in a larger bowl of water, then apply it generously to a rag and start rubbing your boots! it really does work. Don't do it on suede though, you'll mess it up.

VasilisM2 (author)VictorFreeze2016-01-23

Thanks a lot! I applied it right onto the boots and let it shoak for a couple of hours and then wipe off the excess. Vaseline does makes the leather water repellent but it doesnt seem to give it a shiny protective layer I thought it would give. I think that this layer is only achievable with wax.
My boots are a little bit darker in colour now and they are like mat (not polish) and if I apply some Olive oil on top to give it a shine it seems to soak it at most and become mat again. What do you think?

VictorFreeze (author)VasilisM22016-05-11

Hi sorry for the late reply. `Could be that your boots weren't shiny to begin with. Are they made of polished leather or greasy leather? The greasy leather tends to be matte and won't buff to a shine. Something about how they make it. I don't think that the boots will shine if you put olive oil on them after you've already buffed them with vaseline. The reason for this is that you already applied vaseline and that has created a barrier on the surface of your boots, so the olive oil won't work since it will only sit on top of the vaseline. What you could do is forego the vaseline and just apply oil directly to the untreated boots and maybe that will give you the shine that you are looking for. However you should also know that since olive oil is organic, it won't last long. You could maybe try another type of synthetic oil that might last longer.

NazmiL1 (author)drzcyy2016-04-17

Can I use Vaseline on canvas shoes? Waxing on canvas shoes is quite difficult, and the white candle on white canvas makes it hard to see whether it has been waxed or not.

drzcyy (author)NazmiL12016-04-18

No. At least I don't think so, because honestly I haven't tried it.
I presume if you really were to apply vaseline on canvas, you will need a lot to saturate the canvas fabric to make it really waterproof, and doing so will make your canvas shoes icky and sticky, probably oozing out the vaseline as you walk.
I don't think it will work. No harm trying on some old shoes though, because vaseline is cheap.

paul the maker (author)2015-11-11

whont the wax just falke off

tvazquez2 (author)2015-11-08

I walk a lot; and winter is coming soon. Can't wait to have my boots waxed the same way as you've done with your boots. Thanks for this awesome ible!

Kraplax (author)2015-02-01

I would also recommend prepare a waterproof balm, if it's not some kind of emergency survival situation.

Go ahead and mix about 4 parts of wax and 1 part of vegetable oil (i have used olive oil, but you may as well try lean oil or, what's probably better mink oil or neatsfoot oil). Heat the mixture up in "steam bath" - put a melting pot inside a larger pot of boiling water so that your (highly flammable!) mixture is not heated directly with fire, but the steam in the outer pot.

When it's melted and properly mixed - put it off the fire and let it cool. When cooling - stir it from time to time for quicker and more homogenous mixture.

The result is ready for use - it will 1) waterproof your stuff (new and old, live skin and 'dead' leather) and 2) oil will soften it (also, old and stiff leather and live human skin alike).

Try various proportions of the components to get more liquid or more solid results.

If the wax is clean enough and the oil used is olive or coconut one, then the resulting mixture also can be used as lip balm or hand softening balm.

VictorFreeze (author)Kraplax2015-11-03

Wow. great recipe! I might try this before Winter officially kicks in.

juan manuelM (author)2015-08-16

excelente !

Mindmapper1 (author)2015-01-30

Neatsfoot oil is quicker easier and much longer lasting.

gilbequick (author)Mindmapper12015-03-29

Easier, yes. Cheaper, heck no.

jmatsson (author)Mindmapper12015-01-30

Very nice! This is my favorite kind of instructional, using readily
accessible items for something unexpected and useful. Thank you!

Thanks for the tip. I may have to check that out, but again this was done as an attempt to treat the boots very cheaply ("free").

ptabakaru1 (author)2015-02-24

Nice Instructable...You can use the same method with black shoe polish, to get a spit - shine boot finish, bee's wax works great as well and may not stiffen the leather. When I was in the Army we used to use that method to repair / fill in large scratches in the leather then polish over with Kiwi. (of course we didn't have hair dryers but we had zippo or bic lighters).

ashleyjlong (author)2015-02-22

I love how simple this is. I may give it a try on a pair of my own boots using beeswax (for the few days a year we see rain in Southern CA). Good luck in the finals!

scarecreaux (author)2015-02-20

Good instructable. Thanks. Military personnel have done similar for decades with standard polish, but it's more for the shine than waterproofing.

When I buy a new pair of work boots (typically pull on western boots) I coat them in a thick layer of mink oil and bake them in the oven for about 30 min. Then I let it finish setting/soaking in over night. The next day I spray them down with silicone waterproofing spray like the kind carried at Wally World in the camping section of the sporting goods department. Works pretty darn good for stomping around on construction demolition sites.

Krytenthesmug (author)2015-02-05

Excellent and cheap reproofing method. It also works on waxed cotton coats, but avoid scented/aromatherapy candles... You do get some VERY odd looks in a warm store...

da.ducky.3 (author)Krytenthesmug2015-02-10

Have to say scented candles make me retch. When I.m prime minister, I'll make them illegal.

Krytenthesmug (author)da.ducky.32015-02-11

You'll have my vote then. Now, about those disgusting soap shops...

da.ducky.3 (author)2015-02-10

I like this idea. Wish I.d known about this site and idea last autumn when I reblacked and dubbed my m'bike leathers, which are about 10yrs old and were in need of a good drink of proofing.

BetsyFartBlossom (author)2015-02-06

Speaking of hair dryers on hot setting, if you have some of those cheap plastic garden shoes that are too wide, or any shoes that are too wide or fit horribly, put them on, turn on the hair dryer and let'er rip. When the shoes cool off on your feet, they should fit much better. You may have to do it a couple of times to let your feet cool down:)

oh17krupa (author)2015-02-04

They both seem pretty water resistent.

bhscolleen (author)2015-02-04

Thank you for a wonderful tip. My Redwings aren't repelling anymore and this should keep them pliant as well. And if I use a scented votive I will still smell nicer than the dudes I work with!

TeleDex (author)2015-02-04

Try the Mexican food section of your grocer's dairy case for lard.

heathbar64 (author)2015-02-04

Once I tried rubbing good old lard into my boots. Worked pretty well too, and left them nice and shiny. Of course it's hard to get lard now since everybody prefer's processed shortening to natural products.

dcatalano1 (author)2015-02-02

That is really clever I am going to try this right away, thank you.

harold Paine (author)2015-02-02

Sorry! but if you apply a good polish regularly eg., before you intend to use the boots or simply get into the habit of a daily clean this then makes this instructable redundant. All old soldiers no matter which country they have served would agree if only to keep their superiors off their backs!!!!

danny6114 (author)2015-02-01

I have come to rely on Snowseal a product made from beeswax. Beeswax doesn't go rancid and harm seams in boots. Using candles made of this wax would be more beneficial for footwear.

TSellers22 (author)2015-02-01

If you want to simplify the application of Candle Wax, you can use the liquid paraffin that is sold for lanterns, which is the common component of candles as well. That is petroleum, based on H64 hydrocarbons, and the WHO lists it as being mildly carcinogenic. So, if you're a fire eater, or you're in that survival situation and have to eat your boots, you'll probably end up with a medical condition known as hydrocarbon pneumonitis. To address some of the concerns noted, there is also the option to go with food grade or medicinal liquid paraffin. While it may not make much difference to your boot leather's waterproofness, they will probably taste better after you boil them.

Dustin Rogers (author)TSellers222015-02-01

LOL, good to know.

billbillt (author)2015-02-01

great idea

ToddT (author)2015-02-01

Mink oil and shoe polish works great and I live in a heavy snow belt. The hair dryer helps as well and last a season. Your idea would work good too if out of the shoe polish and mink oil. While growing up I had friends that used bear grease. It is made out of the fat from a bear. It had a distinct odor and attracted dogs but it worked fantastically.

lqdtrance (author)2015-01-29

What about good old Kiwi shoe polish? I treat my combat boots often with it and they are just like new at almost four years old.

cfuse (author)lqdtrance2015-02-01

No good for the canvas shoe.

Dustin Rogers (author)lqdtrance2015-01-29

That may work. I've never used shoe polish so I'm not familiar with the water repellant qualities of it. I know it does have some wax in it. Shoe polish costs much more than a small votive candle. In some cases, the candle wax can be recovered from burned out candles, putting a use to what may end up in the garbage. I was more concerned with function over form, so a free candle was fine for me.

htaylor7 (author)Dustin Rogers2015-02-01

really good cheap method, although I'd rather use beeswax myself (ebay sells it very cheap) as some cheap candles have such poor quality wax, not to mention colourings and chemical smells.

I would highly suggest you use some shoe polish to extend the life of leather shoe though! A small tin of kiwi polish costs a few pounds and lasts years and years!

Good wee instructions for a quick cheap method though :)

seniv.ecyor (author)2015-02-01

What a shame you didn't maintain your boots by regular polishing! That way your boots will stay not only waterproof but supple too. But that takes a bit of elbow grease.

LOL. I probably should have, but I've owned these boots for close at least ten years and they only cost me ~$60. Back then, I was more interested in chasing girls and hanging out with friends. The idea of "taking care" of something hadn't quite sunk into my mindset.

dmadam (author)2015-02-01


charels88 (author)2015-01-30

Obenaufs Heavy Duty LP boot preserver is what I have used and has beeswax to reach the same effect. The temperature of your hand is enough to get the product to soak in. I know Cabela's sells it in their shoe section. However, great instructable and keep those ideas coming!

Dustin Rogers (author)charels882015-01-30

Thanks for checking it out.

lilchumy (author)2015-01-29

This is a great idea! How did u do the gif.

Dustin Rogers (author)lilchumy2015-01-29

Thanks. I used an app called 5secondsApp. It makes gifs from photos or videos on your phone. It has some other features that allow the text and different filters and speeds, etc.

seamster (author)2015-01-29

Love this idea, so nice and simple!

The gifs are a great touch too, documentation-wise. Great work!

Dustin Rogers (author)seamster2015-01-29

Thanks seamster. For some things, I think a gif is better than a video.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a husband and father that loves working in the garage. From sewing to welding to wrenching on engines and everything in between.
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