Wet weather ahead? Don’t sacrifice style or comfort just yet. Waterproofing your favorite kicks is simple with these easy techniques using household items. Whether leather boots, canvas sneaks, or suede Oxfords, you can protect your shoes from the elements.
Read on to learn how to effectively waterproof shoes and boots to withstand all types of wet conditions.
Prep Your Shoes Properly
Before beginning any waterproofing method, prep your shoes for success:
- Clean Thoroughly: Remove all dirt, debris, salt stains or existing waterproofing products from shoes using mild soap and water. Allow to dry fully.
- Check Insoles/Inserts: Take out any removable insoles or inserts, which can also be cleaned and dried fully.
- Work in a Well-Ventilated Area: Waterproofing sprays and oils need proper ventilation to allow fumes to dissipate. Work outside if possible.
- Test Solutions: Try waterproofing products in an inconspicuous spot first to check for any damage or discolouration.
- Stuff Toes: Loosely stuff socks or paper in the toes so shoes hold shape during the drying process.
With shoes prepped, it’s time to start waterproofing! Here are 8 methods to seal and protect your shoes from the wet elements:
1) Use a Waterproof Spray
Waterproofing spray is easy to apply and provides great protection for all shoe materials. Look for sprays made specifically for shoes/boots or outdoor apparel use. These contain durable water repellents while avoiding potentially damaging silicone-based ingredients found in household waterproofing sprays.
Here’s how to apply waterproofing spray:
- Hold the can 6 to 8 inches from the shoe upper and apply light, even coats across the entire exterior surface.
- Spray seams and stitching thoroughly as these are vulnerable points for water entry.
- Let dry for 10 minutes between coats, adding 2-3 applications for optimal protection. Too much liquid will take longer to dry and seep into materials.
- Once fully dry, the durable water-repellent coating will cause water to bead up and roll right off while maintaining breathability.
- Reapply spray every 1 to 2 months or after heavy use.
2) Rub On Wax or Beeswax
Wax has been used for centuries to waterproof leather boots and shoes while conditioning the material. Beeswax, paraffin wax, or leather wax pastes work well.
Follow these tips for waxing shoes:
- Apply a thin, even layer of wax across the exterior using a clean cloth. Rub firmly but avoid over-saturating leather.
- Pay extra attention to seams, stitches, eyelets and perforations where water can enter.
- Let the wax fully absorb for 24 hours until barely visible, then buff gently with a horsehair brush to remove any excess.
- The wax will penetrate the leather, creating a water barrier while nourishing the hide fibres to prevent cracks.
- Re-wax whenever water absorption occurs and maintain leather suppleness.
3) Slather On Petroleum Jelly
Thinly coating canvas, suede or nubuck shoes with petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is an easy waterproofing solution, albeit temporary.
To use Vaseline:
- Clean and dry shoes first. Apply a very thin layer of jelly across uppers using a soft cloth or old toothbrush.
- distributing evenly, taking care not saturate materials. Excess jelly is hard to remove fully from suede or fabric.
- Let soak in 10 minutes then gently buff with a lint-free cloth to wipe away any remaining jelly on the surface while leaving water protection intact.
- The jelly’s oily composition repels moisture while allowing breathability. However, it may darken some shoe materials. Test first.
- Reapply Vaseline whenever water absorption occurs for continued protection.
4) Coat with Cooking Spray
Another budget-friendly waterproofer for canvas shoes is cooking oil spray. The oils create a barrier against moisture penetrating the fabric fibres.
When using cooking spray:
- Clean shoes first and apply a light, even coat of canola or vegetable oil spray across the upper exterior.
- Spot-treat seams and stitches thoroughly where water could enter. Don’t saturate canvas to avoid discoloration.
- Let dry fully. The oil will absorb into the fabric weave while providing water resistance.
- Reapply after heavy use. Cooking spray alone provides only moderate water protection compared to commercial sprays. But it’s usable in a pinch.
Seal the Deal With Hairspray
The fixative polymers in hairspray can form an invisible barrier on shoes that repels water while still allowing breathability. It works on leather, suede, canvas – almost anything but patent leather.
To use hairspray:
- Clean shoes first and allow to fully dry. Work in a well-ventilated area or outside.
- Holding the can 6 to 8 inches away, apply 2 to 3 light coats of hairspray all over the exterior upper, allowing 10 minutes of drying time between coats.
- Mist seams thoroughly and any eyelets or stitching holes where moisture could enter.
- Let fully dry before wearing. The hairspray will soak in while sealing the outer fabric.
- Reapply after heavy use and whenever water absorption occurs. Hairspray washes away easier than wax or petroleum.
6) Apply Mink Oil
Mink oil has long been used to deeply condition leather while providing natural water resistance. It’s ideal for boots but can darken some leathers.
Follow these mink oil tips:
- Clean and dry shoes first. Apply a light layer of mink oil, working it thoroughly into the leather using a cloth or brush.
- Focus on seams, perforations and stitches. Don’t saturate leather; excess oil is hard to remove.
- Let absorb in a well-ventilated area for 24 hours. Wipe away any remaining oil on the surface.
- The oil nourishes the hide while providing water protection. Reapply whenever moisture absorption occurs.
- Use caution and test on inconspicuous spot first, as mink oil could discolor light leathers.
7) Whip Up DIY Beeswax Cream
Make your own natural waterproofing formula using beeswax, coconut oil and pine resin. The homemade cream deeply seals and conditions leather.
Mix up this easy recipe:
- In a small pan over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons beeswax with 2 tablespoons coconut oil and 1 tablespoon pine resin until blended.
- Let cool until creamy texture forms. Apply to clean, dry shoes using a brush or cloth. Focus on seams and stitching.
- Allow to fully absorb for 24 hours. Reheat in 10 second bursts to soften wax and reapply if needed.
- The wax and resins lock out moisture. Coconut oil maintains flexibility. Store unused cream sealed in a jar.
8) Rub On Paraffin Wax
Finally, plain paraffin wax from the grocery store is great for sealing stitching. Just rub the wax stick along seams to fill holes where water could sneak in. The wax solidifies to create a barrier.
When using paraffin wax:
- Clean shoes thoroughly first and allow them to dry.
- Rub paraffin wax along seams in a back-and-forth motion to work the wax into stitch holes.
- Apply a thin layer for protection without buildup.
- Use the flat edge of the wax to press the wax deeper into the seams.
With the right products and techniques, you can easily waterproof all your footwear. Prepping properly and applying treatments correctly allows moisture resistance while maintaining breathability and flexibility.
Just be sure to reapply waterproofing frequently for continued protection. Get ready to stomp through those puddles while keeping feet.