Leather boots care and maintenance

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Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by Johnny » Wed Aug 05, 2015 9:06 am

What are you guys using?

I remember Lilcliffy mentionned using Zamberlan Hydrobloc on his Alaskas... (There is one hydrobloc (cream) for full leathers and a different one (spray) for splits...) Anything else to keep those boots like new for the next 50 years?

I am looking for split leather stuff... (read: my 3 pairs of Alaskas...) The Zamberlan Spray is quite hard to find around here...

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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by bgregoire » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:54 pm

I live for the Telemark arc....The feeeeeeel.....I ski miles to get to a place where there is guaranteed snow to do the deal....TM

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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by Johnny » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:57 am

Thanks for the info!

But Mec is only carrying the Zamberlan cream for full leathers... They say to use the spray for split leather...

The Toko stuff is for full leather too... Does it matter?

Teleman told me he was using mink oil... And our local shoe maker told me to use Neatsfood oil... Not the best vegan choice... Another skier told me to use silicon...

:? :roll:
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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by connyro » Thu Aug 27, 2015 10:13 am

Considering leather ski boots are NOT vegan -friendly to start with, the options that you mentioned should not really be a problem! Anyhow, neatsfoot oil is great for reconditioning dried out and cracked leather but not so great for ski boots. It softens the leather and that's most likely not what you want to do to ski boots. I use shoe polish (good luck finding some that match the orange Alaska boots) so they look good and then just do multiple layers of CampDry or some other silicon spray.

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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by Johnny » Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:18 am

Yeah I guess the best thing for animal skin would be animal oil... 8-)
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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by lowangle al » Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:36 am

I agree with Connyro, oils may soften the leather. I've used sno seal and my feet stay dry and the leather is in good shape after 30 years. I have more than one pair so it wasn't 30 years skiing the same pair.

The soles soften from use and even though the pin holes may be fine and they don't show signs of wear, a resole may be needed to restore their performance.

The worst thing I have found to damage the boots, besides wild crashes, is ice crust. Once I was out and there was a thin ice crust on top of about 3 inches of powder that scraped off a layer of leather on the toes of both boots. In one day they got more wear than in the previous 20 years.

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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by connyro » Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:50 am

lowangle al wrote:The worst thing I have found to damage the boots, besides wild crashes, is ice crust. Once I was out and there was a thin ice crust on top of about 3 inches of powder that scraped off a layer of leather on the toes of both boots. In one day they got more wear than in the previous 20 years.
I had a similar experience a few seasons ago. Shiny, thick ice crust that we broke through while touring in plastic boots ended up ripping/abrading almost all the way through the bellow! Another time with thick crust, on NNN-bc setup, the cheap Rossi NNNbc boots got worn all the way through the boot and started abrading my sock! No amount of waterproofing helped restore those boots!

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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by lilcliffy » Fri Aug 28, 2015 7:42 am

Hey man,

Sorry for not responding to this sooner- my mind has been deep in plants, animals and manure (and unfortunately returning to my "real" job").

That Zamberlan cream is the exact stuff that I use religiously on all of my leather boots. I cannot say enough good stuff about it. It is water-based, designed to both condition and maintain leather- as well as keep it waterproof. There are a number of other manufacturers of similar products including Scarpa, Nikwax, etc. The only reason I prefer the Zamberlan product is because I have been able to get it easily (MEC), and at a good price.

To get maximum absorption you actually need to get the leather soaking wet. I do a thorough saturation about 2-3 times a season (the last one being before I store them). I wrap my boots in soaking wet towels and leave them in a utility sink/bath for a few hours. The absorption of the cream is amazing- when the leather is wet. Other than that- I spot treat the flex points of my boots every time I take them off- just to prevent eventual weakening and cracking of the leather. The full-saturation of the leather will make them completely waterproof and protect the leather from drying, cracking, and abrasion (even the typical abrasion caused by crust and vegetation).

The fact that it is water-based is important and confusing. The water-based products have at least two key attributes. One (as others have pointed out): it doesn't over-condition the leather and undermine its strength (i.e. the boot will maintain its stability). Two: it doesn't alter the characteristics of the boot's inner liner. On the second attribute- if your leather boots have an inner, non-leather liner (i.e. designed to improve comfort; wick moisture; insulate; water-proof; etc., etc.)- a water-based treatment will not damage the liner. For example- the Alpina Alaska has multiple inner liners and foam designed to: insulate; provide support and stability; a custom fit; moisture-wicking; and waterproof. Of course other manufactures have similar designs. An oil-based product will saturate these inner layers and they will fail to insulate properly; they will no longer be waterproof; and they won't breathe. In other words- your feet will be wet and cold.

Getting to your comments about the cream versus spray. The spray products are designed to waterproof suede, split leathers, nubuck, etc.- with a focus on preserving the aesthetic or cosmetic qualities of the leather (i.e. look and feel). The spray products will "waterproof" the leather (only temporarily)- but they will not condition the leather, nor protect it. I have never gotten more than a few hours of waterproofness out of a spray product. However- a cream product will completely change the aesthetic of a split leather- it will darken and become smooth (and your Alaskas will become red). To be honest- I am somewhat convinced that the split leather of a boot like the Alaska is actually purposely designed to encourage absorption of cream treatments (many mountaineering boots have a split-leather outer as well). As alternate example- my current pair of heavy-duty backpacking boots are thick nubuck. Although the nubuck is beautiful and tough- I find it frustratingly difficult to treat (if the boot didn't have a GTX liner I kinda doubt I would be able to keep it waterproof). Unconditioned full-grain leather (i.e. not nubuck), and split leather is much more absorbent.

Oil-based products will over-condition the leather (as others have said) making it soft and weaker (this may be desirable in an extreme boot like a heavy-duty leather logger's boot). For a ski boot it would turn it into a floppy slipper.

Products like "sno-seal" are made from beeswax. Beeswax is an excellent waterproof treatment- but it will not maintain and condition leather. Another note- and this is important: if you plan on re-soling your boots don't use a beeswax product. According to the manufactures and the cobblers- beeswax will prevent proper adhesion of glues, when putting on a new sole. And apparently- once you have applied beeswax- it is impossible to get rid of the residue. So if you've got a boot with a traditional welted sole- I would not recommend a beeswax-based treatment.
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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by connyro » Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:59 am

WOW LC, That's a good read! I've never been satisfied with the spray-on water proof stuff. Like you point out, in wet conditions, it only lasts an hour or two at best. I had never heard about soaking boots before applying water-based creams. Thanks for the great information.

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Re: Leather boots care and maintenance

Post by lilcliffy » Fri Aug 28, 2015 3:25 pm

Yeah- at first it seems counter-intuitive to apply leather waterproofing treatment to wet leather...for years I used to make sure the leather was as dry as possible- with mediocre results. Then I got instructions for applying to wet leather (from the manufacturer)- and the improvement in absorption was like night and day. Not only is the absorption more effective (i.e. it penetrates deeper)- I also found that I end up consuming less cream, and doing less applications per season.

With the leather wet- the water-based creams fully penentrate deep into the leather.

Oil-based treatments are equally effective, but have all the negative side effects.
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