Clarks Desert Boot in Bees Wax Cleaned with Saddle Soap. Purchase: Boots $125, Saddle Soap $4, Leather Lotion $9 or Leather Preservative $20.

I’ve had these boots for a year and have worn them hard; daily in NYC, as well as on short hikes in Austin, TX and Portland, OR. They’re not the ideal hiking boot, but when traveling, they are so light and versatile it’s too easy to wear them to work, the airport, and have them as the only shoe on a trip. During this year of abuse, the only care they’ve received was a new pair of laces after the original pair gave out on my walk to the office. With winter approaching, it was time to clean and restore them before the salt water puddles begin their assault on the dried, porous leather. The technique used here is quite simple and successfully brought my boots back to life. As visible in the photos they were thoroughly scuffed, but after a quick clean are, once again, presentable. Saddle soap was used because of the amount and type of dirt caked onto the shoes and the length of time gone without cleaning. It’s great because it both cleans and oils the leather, similar in concept to a moisturizing soap you’d use on yourself during the dry winter months. However, similar to such soap, it doesn’t always prevent dry skin, and sometimes additional lotions/oils are required. This was certainly the case for me, as these boots have been worn frequently in the rain, which pulls oils from the leather. So in addition to saddle soap, I’ve used Allen Edmonds Leather Lotion to add oils back into the leather and prevent drying or cracking. All it takes is a damp cloth, saddle soap, a dry cloth, leather lotion, and a bit of elbow grease.

Step 1.
Remove laces and use a damp cloth to gently wipe off surface debris. Gently, because you don’t want to scratch the surface of the leather with the dirt currently on the shoe. This is the same concept as when you’re washing a car, so

wipe in a direction where the small scratches that inevitably do occur won’t be noticeable (this is usually parallel with the existing scratches).

Step 2.
Thoroughly rinse the cloth of debris and give a good squeeze to return to damp status. Rub the rag in saddle soap and apply a thin film to the leather uppers. The saddle soap is a translucent whitish color, you want to put on enough to let the leather soak up some of the soap, but not so much as to have clumps of the translucent soap visible. It won’t hurt if you over do it, but it’s wasteful. Let it soak in for a few minutes and wipe off any excess along with this second round of surface debris.

Step 3.
Apply more saddle soap as needed and buff it into the shoe. This is also the time to scrub away any serious build up of dirt or dye. I’d worn a new pair of dark blue chinos, which deposited dye onto the leather, but with a bit of scrubbing it was possible to remove the blue from the shoe.

Step 4.
With your shoe clean and lightly oiled from the saddle soap, it’s time to add the lotion that will condition and penetrate into the leather to maintain the leather’s flexibility and prevent water from being able to soak into the leather. Do this with a clean, dry, cotton cloth. Lightly buff the shoe to a dull sheen, aware that the color will be darker than it was originally.

Clarks Desert Boot w Saddle Soap 1Clarks Desert Boot w Saddle Soap 3Clarks Desert Boot w Saddle Soap 4

Note (140214): Below I’ve added a new photo in which I swapped out AE’s Leather Lotion for Obenauf’s Leather Preservative in step 4. It’s a little harder to apply since it’s solid at room temperature, but I’ve read it lasts longer and

offers superior water repellency. I’m currently testing, but right off the bat I do prefer the surface finish to the lotion as it returns the leather closer to the original sheen. It also smells deliciously of honey. I will update this post with my findings.

Clarks Desert Boots with Obenauf



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