Taking care of boots

As the price of good leather boots increases, it becomes especially important to care for them properly. Consider the following tips: Polish: Have lots of clean rags, a sponge, saddle soap, and clear paste polish ready and set yourself up near a sink. Don't soak the leather, but wash it well with water and a rag. Let the boot dry.

Make a thick lather with saddle soap and a sponge. Rub it into the leather, working one section at a time. Wipe off the excess with a damp cloth and dry the boot with another clean, dry rag.

You can polish the boot with a horsehair brush at this point, or add a clear paste polish. Don't bother with colored polishes; they rub off on everything.

Apply the polish with a round brush (usually sold next to the polish in markets, shoe stores, and cobblers' shops) or the applicator included with smaller polish cans. Let the polish dry a little and then work away at it with a good shoeshine brush. That nice zigzag of a shoeshiner's polishing cloth is hard to do yourself, so a bristle brush is best.

Repair: Cobblers can work wonders by replacing zippers, soles, heels, and even parts of the leather uppers.

Brass zippers are usually best. They last longer, are more reliable in the cold, and will darken with age.

Soles should be leather. Plastic soles seem to slip more easily, and they do not absorb perspiration. Leather heels feel sturdier, and a good cobbler can craft one slightly lower or slightly higher than the one the manufacturer gave you.

Storage: Boot trees that keep the uppers upright are nice, but ``the flops'' can be avoided simply by storing boots on their side. More important are good cedar shoe trees, which keep the toes from curling and wrinkling. Leave them in when polishing and during out-of-season storage. Cover boots loosely to keep off the summer's dust, but not with plastic -- it encourages mold.

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