Waterproof Boots With Beeswax

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Introduction: Waterproof Boots With Beeswax

In part using a propane torch, I added a layer of beeswax to make dually sure that my new workboots (already advertised as waterproof) would keep the water out.

Working in a butcher shop, your boots are always wet. This wreaks havoc on leather boots - they never get a chance to dry out and the leather rots. Plus you pick up all kinds of...foreign materials... that probably don't help anything.

I've added some pics of my old boots, there are big holes where the leather meets the sole. The sole itself and where the boot is covered by my pantleg look nearly new, but the toe and seam are shot.

For those of you who are going to say "if you buy expensive boots they'll last longer," well, my colleague got $250 made in America name-brand boots, and the seams blew out in 6 months (in the same places as mine), he returned them, had the same thing happen a second time. More butchers in my shop wear these Sears brand boots than anything else.

Two years ago when they were new I used liberal amounts of silicone sealer on the now old boots. The efficacy of that is debatable, so this time I thought I'd try beeswax and see if the life of the boot is extended. Plus, if I get stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean and end up gnawing on my boots, they'll taste faintly of honey.

Step 1: Melt the Beeswax

Not wanting to scald the wax I made a double boiler with an appropriately sized and pan and metal mixing bowl.

I got the beeswax a long time ago at the hardware store, it's a hunk about the size and shape of a hockey puck. You can see it's picked up a lot of crap on the outside over the years, but when the wax melts in the double boiler the impurities settle to the bottom. Moreover, I'd imagine impurities are inconsequential in this application. I'm not exactly waterproofing a NASA spacesuit.

I used a knife to cut some off and drop it in the pan to melt.

Step 2: Apply the Beeswax

I used a clean towel to apply the beeswax onto the boot. You can see that as I'm applying it, the wax is solidifying and turning white. I did my best to rub it into the seems during the brief molten state.

Step 3: Further Melt the Beeswax Into the Leather (and Repeat)

For maximal water protection I wanted the leather to really absorb the beeswax. To achieve this the wax clearly needs to be as liquid as possible - a job for a propane torch.

I started with the torch quite a ways away from the wax laden leather, figuring that the wax could smoke if it got too hot. After a while I realized that this didn't seem to be the case - at times I had the flame right on the boot, to the point where the synthetic sole discolored a bit. Despite this the leather seemed fine, and the wax soaked into the boot.

From the pictures, it's apparent that the wax 'disappears' into the leather, which I'm betting makes a good waterproof seal. There was a little wax left on the surface of the boot, which I buffed out.

I repeated this process a number of times: apply the wax, hit it with the torch, do the other boot, repeat. I did the entire boot once (per boot) and the toe and "exposed areas" and especially the seams that aren't covered by my pantleg an additional two times.

Step 4: Leave Excess Wax Around the Seams

It seemed prudent to leave a bead of wax on the most problematic parts of the boot. I figured that this would give a heck-of-a waterproofing seal.

Step 5: The Finished Product

Here's what the boots looked like after the procedure, pretty much like new boots - which is good! You can see that the water beads right off of the leather (and the seams too).

A few footnotes are in order:

Although I've heard of using wax to waterproof canvas, I've never heard of waterproofing leather in this manor. It probably would have been a good idea for me to google it. But I didn't. It seemed like a good idea so I did it with absolutely no research. We'll see if it works or not. Although I know leather is quite heat / flame resistant, for all I know the heat from the torch may have damaged the leather more than the wax helped it - who knows!?

That bead of wax around the seam almost immediately came off. There was glue adhering the sole to the leather that I didn't see; it was kinda like there was a small bead of caulking sealing the sole to the leather - exactly where I put this bead of wax. Unlike the porous leather, the wax didn't soak into this glue and didn't really bond to the glue. Consequently the bead of wax came right off during the first day wearing the boots. Moreover, the torch may have damaged this glue / seal.

Because the laces are synthetic, I didn't want to get the flame too close to them. In the final picture you can see that the water beads up nicely where I put the wax on, but there isn't a visible seam differentiating where I waxed and where I didn't, and the water is beading up nicely from the factory waterproofing seal. This fact begs the question: did this procedure actually do anything?

Who knows, we'll just have to wait and see!

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    32 Discussions

    0
    VailK
    VailK

    1 year ago on Step 5

    Leather boots are hardened by applying several layers of paraffin wax. Bees wax will work well too. The wax creates a moisture-proof seal on the leather and stiffens the hide when it dries. Since leather is a natural fabric made from animal skin, it is soft and needs to be hardened to prevent damage. hardening leather boots makes them waterproof and also protects them from scratches, scuffs and irreparable damage. The more layers of wax you add to the boots, the harder and more waterproof they become.

    Remove the shoelaces from each boot, if your boots have laces rather than zippers. This makes cleaning and waxing the boots easier, and prevents getting wax on the laces.
    Clean the boots to remove soil, dirt and grime. To prevent water from getting inside the boot, hold the boot upside down under warm running water, and wipe off any mud or dirt with a sponge or clean rag. Once they're clean, turn off the water, keep the boot upside down and wipe the leather surface with a dry cloth.
    Allow the boots to dry thoroughly before applying the wax. Since heat dries out leather and causes it to crack, avoid placing the boots in direct sunlight or near a heat source. Instead, place the boots in a cool, well-ventilated area and allow them to dry overnight.
    Apply a thin layer of wax to the surface of the boot, with a clean rag. Work the wax into the surface of the leather using a small circular motion. Then apply a coat of wax to the seams on the boot, to make them more stable and prevent water from seeping into them.
    Allow the first coat of wax to dry for 15 minutes. Apply a second layer of wax with the rag, using the same circular motion. Wipe off any excess wax with a clean rag.
    Allow the wax to dry for another 15 minutes. Then apply the final layer of wax with the rag, using the same circular motion. Wipe off any excess wax with a clean rag.
    Allow the boots to dry thoroughly before wearing them.

    0
    Craigo.
    Craigo.

    Tip 1 year ago

    use a hairdryer to heat the wax only. Do not use direct hear on the leather as it will dry out and crack

    0
    Craigo.
    Craigo.

    1 year ago on Step 3

    Applying heat to the leather causes it to crack!

    0
    RobTurrentine
    RobTurrentine

    4 years ago

    So, you. Live. In. A. Manor?? My new. Apple keyboard. Appears to be adding random punctuation. Sweet.. If it weren''t for the leather. And meat.. The animals Would never have. Existed.. Everyone dies.. Is it better. To have never. Been??

    0
    TaraC13
    TaraC13

    Reply 4 years ago

    Excuse me, but I cannot follow your train of thought here. NO need to try to be a philosopher with: "which came first? the chicken or the egg?" Be kind, be compassionate, be on the side of humane animal husbandry, be an advocate for animal wildlife conservation & protection of our ecosystem, be someone who protects all animals from cruelty & abuse. Yes, it is true we are all in the process of dying from the moment we are born. What will be our legacy? Gandi said that we can judge a society by the way it treats the animals.

    0
    MarkS875
    MarkS875

    Reply 2 years ago

    I think you are missing the point that Rob was trying to make. It's not a chicken and egg situation: if we all stopped eating cows, farmers would stop breeding them and the ones that are bred, reared and eaten today would never exist. So, the point you should consider is whether it is better for these cows never to exist in the first place or to exist then be slaughtered and eaten, because those are the only two alternatives. Vegetarians, in my experience, have a tendency to allow emotion to dictate their thoughts rather than considering the simple facts that stand before them.

    0
    TaraC13
    TaraC13

    4 years ago

    Please join me in pledging to not wear fur or leather. You do not know whose skin you are wearing.

    0
    crazyeric
    crazyeric

    Reply 4 years ago

    Why not take it one step further and pledge not to use bees wax?

    0
    MadhATTER6
    MadhATTER6

    Reply 3 years ago

    Actually, using beeswax supports bees! The relationship between beekeepers and beehives is a symbiotic one (assuming the beekeeper is competent). A strong, well cared-for hive produces excess honey, beeswax, and even collects excess pollen. Considering that bees are critical to our nation's food production, consumption of bee products is especially ethical under capitalism.

    0
    ILykMakin
    ILykMakin

    Reply 4 years ago

    PETA.

    People Eating Tasting Animals.

    I have incisors. Those are not evolutionary leftovers from eating just plants alone.

    0
    TaraC13
    TaraC13

    Reply 4 years ago

    Ha Ha Ha, did U "A.S.U.M.E." never said anything about Peta, just asking people to be kind, considerate, compassionate & not support the brutality, cruelty & inhumane commercial fur & leather industries. Glad that you are taking care of those old boots, no need to purchase any new ones!

    0
    ILykMakin
    ILykMakin

    Reply 4 years ago

    "I'm not with PETA, I just pretend to be." :\

    PS: "a-s-s-u-m-e".

    1
    vincent.nylin
    vincent.nylin

    Reply 4 years ago

    Please, join me in a barbeque. I do know what kind of flesh I am eating. Get a life.

    0
    TaraC13
    TaraC13

    Reply 4 years ago

    Hope you are serving grilled veggies at your BBQ! I have a life, now I would like the animals to have a life too.

    0
    whopoder
    whopoder

    4 years ago

    Nice idea! I will try. Thank you.

    0
    nusti
    nusti

    4 years ago

    to melt the wax , you can try with a hair dryer !

    less dangerous :)

    0
    John Sphar
    John Sphar

    4 years ago

    Nice! My father, in the 1950's, would seal the stitched leather seams of our ski boots every years with melted bees wax! I, too, have used "Sno-Seal" and other silicone based leather treatments of boots, snow boots, cross-country boots, etc. But as a beekeeper, I like your idea of using natural produts! Checkout your local beekeepers for beeswax. Some might not even charge for their wax.

    0
    KenC7
    KenC7

    4 years ago

    Look into "Snow Seal". It's bees wax and some oil, pre-mixed. Works very well.

    0
    kudzu63
    kudzu63

    5 years ago on Introduction

    When I worked and was buying work boots, I used to buy Snow Seal. It was applied as a soft paste and heated with a hair dryer to make it soak in. Al it was is bees wax. It worked great. I went one step further and tried it on some moccasins that didn't have a sole on them, just leather bottomed. It worked great on them unless you stepped in a deep puddle. I used them for hunting. I would always put my boots and shoes in an oven at around 200 or 250 degrees to get them heated through and through. Good "able though.

    0
    KenC7
    KenC7

    Reply 4 years ago

    We use Snow Seal too. It's more than just bees wax. Don't know what oil is in it, but it's a mix of bees wax and some oil. But we usually put the boots in the oven, at the lowest setting (somewhere around 110F). I clean the boots thoroughly first with saddle soap, let them dry for a week or more, then apply the Snow Seal. "Apply the Snow Seal" means put the boots in the oven until they're warmed up, then take them out, one at a time, quickly apply Snow Seal to about 1/3 of the boot, stick the boot back into the oven to warm back up, and move on to the next boot. I usually do two pairs at at time this way, so after 12 rounds of this, I've applied the Snow Seal everywhere on the two pairs of boots.

    I do this once a year, usually for our heavy backpacking boots and the work boots we use at the farm. We do a lot of slogging through snow and muck in the winter, and our usually last a couple of years this way. The backpacking boots are going on 20 years now, but we only use them for backpacking trips every other year. But cleaning and mink oiling or Snow Sealing really help the boots last. It's always the soles or rands that fail first on our boots - the leather is usually still good at the end.