Waterproofing Boots with Sno-Seal

Sno-Seal is a brand named, beeswax based, waterproofing for boots and other leather goods. It actually does several good things for leather including making it water resistant, lubricating, and protecting the leather. I treat my boots with it every fall.

That said, in my experience, Sno-Seal enhances the water resistance of leather but rarely actually “waterproofs” it. It also tends to darken leather and is not recommended for use on suede or split leather.

Now, for how to apply Sno-Seal. First you must clean your boots thoroughly. The next step is warming your boots. This is just warming the leather enough to draw in the Sno-Seal as it is applied, you DO NOT want to “bake” your boots as this could damage the leather or other materials. I warn of this because I have seen people place their boots in a heated oven in an effort to warm them prior to applying waterproofing. An oven may be used but you want to turn the oven to low heat and cut it off BEFORE you place the boots inside. Only leave them long enough for the boots to become warm. They should never be too hot to handle comfortably in your bare hands.

Personally, I have always favored the simple use of a hair dryer. Turn it to high heat, and go over your boots completely several times, until they are nice and warm. Keep the hair dryer a good distance from the boot, too close and you might spot burn the leather.

Once the boot is warm, you should take a soft cloth, get a small dollop of Sno-Seal on the cloth and begin working it into the leather. I usually start with the seams, since this is the first place water will come in, making certain to work in generous amounts of the waterproofing. Then move to putting a good coat of Sno-Seal on the rest of the leather, rubbing it in good.

Once the whole boot is coated and I have rubbed the Sno-Seal in, I then go back over the boot, lightly, with the hair dryer. This melts in any left over wax. I will generally put three to four coats on a pair of boots at a time. Let the boots dry over night and they should be ready to go the next day.

A couple of notes about Sno-Seal. It tends to darken leather. If you are using it on light colored leather, and you are worried about darkening, test it on a small, out of sight spot first. Second, NEVER use Sno-Seal, or any other “waterproofing” on Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex is a breathable fabric which is waterproof from one side already. Adding a wax sealant will clog the pores and destroy its breathability. This only applies to exposed Gore-Tex, many boots have a Gore-Tex liner on the inside. I have used Sno-Seal on Cordura on boots with mixed leather and Cordura. It seems to work just fine.

Lastly, if your boots were not rated as “waterproof” before you treated them, they probably will not be 100% waterproof after treating. It will just greatly enhance the boots water resistance. While the product may make leather waterproof, you are probably not going to get it into every seam and crack where water might get in.

If you are going to be relying on leather goods, in an environment where they may become wet, Sno-Seal is a very good product and well worth the money, time and effort it takes to apply it. Always check the instructions on the can since they could change the formula.

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