Can Leather Boots Get Wet? (Case Study)

case study on leather boots get wet

We conducted a case study on 20 leather boots as to what happens when we wear them in water.

First, we found out the shocking results when we wore them in rain and water over 30 days and jotted down every minute detail.

Then, to treat those wet leather boots, we looked at how to fix those gross problems. 

After wearing the leather boots in water (rain) for the first day, they got fixed just by drying them under the fan. But we had to condition them and add a waterproofing coating to the boots after a course of 7 days which lasted for 2 weeks straight thereafter. In a nutshell, leather boots can get wet but there is a way to prevent it from getting wet by applying a waterproofing coating over it.

Here is a Summary of our Key Findings:

Can you Wear Leather Boots in the Rain?

can you wear leather boots in rainYou are bound to experience rain throughout the year whether you live in the east coast, west coast or somewhere in between. Our team wore 20 different leather boots in the rain for about 30 days and this is what we found out:

1.) Leather is unique to other materials in the sense that it is more durable and susceptible to damage caused by moisture.

2.) When the leather boots were exposed to small amounts of moisture, it did not cause any major issues with the leather. However, when the leather was exposed to significant amount of moisture over a prolonged period of time it caused some changes in the texture of the leather. 

3.) Actually, rather than the leather it were the other parts of the boots like glues, embellishments, insoles, metal zips, etc that gave away once fully wet.

The first thing that we noticed after a few days of continuous wear in the rain was that the leather fibers started to get off from some portions in some of the shoes but not in the ones which had waterproof coating above the leather layer. We also noticed some amount of discoloration in some of the boots.

However, to your relief we found out some useful precautions and measures to treat these wet leathers.

Therefore you can definitely wear leather boots in the rain keeping in mind certain points that we are going to discuss further down below because it’s not the rain drops that cause the damage but the stagnant water that does the job. But yes, rain drops strip the layer of oil from over the leather layer taking away some of the shine from it.

Does Water Ruin Leather Boots?

Does Water Ruin Leather BootsBy now you have known that water does damage leather fibers to some extent.

But our research was to what extent is the damage caused?

Due to its permeability, leather can never be 100% waterproof but yes, it has got some water resistance properties.

When the leather boots were exposed to drizzle and small period of time they dried out completely fine without any damage.

But the problem arose when we continuously tested them against heavy rain and dipped them in water for a prolonged amount of time.

      • This time they showed some changes in the leather texture and color.
      • The drenched leather when dried up turned to be a bit harder losing its flexibility and shine.
      • The color also seemed to change, in some it became quite lighter and in some a shade darker.

leather shoes dripped in water for long accumulated fungus and moles

And when 5 of the pairs of boots which we continuously dipped in water for 1 month were taken out, they accumulated fungus and moles and few were rotten. This is particularly because leather is generally dead animal skin. When animal skin is emerged in water for a long duration of time, it will obviously get rot and will ruin the fibers of the leather.

Why is Water Bad for Leather?

water stains on leather bootsThough leather can withstand some amount of moisture, but a lot of amount and stagnant water can certainly cause some damages to the leather boots including leaving behind water stains, fading the dyes and stretching out the leather fibers.

If the leather is made with thick part of the hide and is vat dyed, it can get wet without causing any damage. But smoother and thin leathers definitely caused some changes as follows:

With light moisture:

It caused just a small mark on the leather that could be got off easily.

With wet-damp moisture:

It caused water marks and color fading.

With heavy moisture:

It caused puffing up, shrinking, warping, and fungal onset, becoming limp, and tearing off.

Does Leather Shrink When Wet?

Does Leather Shrink When WetIn our study we found out that leather is made up of fibers that are held together by proteins.

Wet leather shrinks because water bonds with the tanning oils above the leather layer and displaces them leaving behind its fibers and proteins completely exposed to the air as it dries gradually.

Our conclusion was that some of the leather boots shrunk when they had hardened after drying. But it didn’t however become small in size leaving just the fact that they were now uncomfortable to wear because of the hardened texture.

Are Leather Shoes Water Resistant?

Different qualities of leather:

Different qualities of leather

Aniline Leather:

                            Aniline leather is the smoothest and the lightest. It is the most original one. It is of the most fragile type and has a natural color and odor.

Semi-aniline Leather:

                             Semi-aniline leather is smooth but not like that of the aniline one. It receives a coating on its surface which alters its color and texture and even the odor.

Pigmented Leather:

                              Pigmented leather is the most treated one. It is coated with a strong layer that makes it durable, but takes away the original color of the leather. 

Full grain leather:

                                 Full grain leather uses only the top most layer of the animal skin closest to the air, which is the toughest, most durable and most beloved. It has creases, and unique color. It’s the most expensive one. This is the most water-resistant form of leather.

Top grain leather:

                                     Top grain leathers use the next layer of the animal skin and works on it to remove imperfections. This type of leather is also water-resistant.

Bonded leather:

                                In bonded leathers, the shavings from all other leather grades are collected, grounded up and mixed with an adhesive liquid to make a piece of leather.

Faux leather:

                        This type of leather is made from a type of plastic, polyurethane which has a very different waterproofing needs. Therefore, this type of leather is waterproof.

Synthetic leather:

                                 This type of leather is usually lighter and cheaper than real leather and also absorbs water. Therefore, they are not waterproof.

NUBUCK leather:

                               This is a buffed down version of full grain leather that resembles durable suede. Like leather, NUBUCK  is naturally resistant to only a small amount of water but needs further waterproofing.

In general, leather is only waterproof to a certain extent. But if you want to wear them in continuous rain and dip then in stagnant water, you need different waterproofing methods.

How do you Protect Leather Boots from Rain?

Well, after witnessing all the damages that had been caused to our leather boots due to rain and water, we decided to invest our time in searching for protection against them.

And we found out that following some of the easy hacks mentioned below our jobs were done!

1.) Wear a waterproof cover over your leather boots:

waterproof cover over your leather boots

Neither does a waterproof cover for your boots cost much nor are they hard to find out. We recommend using USHTH Black Waterproof Rain Boot Shoe Cover with reflector.

If you stay in a marshy place where it rains 24*7, it is advisable to wear a waterproof cover for your shoes. This will prevent rain water touching your leather boots and thus prevent it from getting damaged.

2.) Try coating your leather with wax:

Granger's Waterproofing Wax / 3.4 oz / The Ultimate Boot Waterproofer / Made in England


Wax coats a preventive layer over your leather thus creating a barrier for rain water to touch the fibers of your leather boots. We recommend using Granger’s Waterproofing Wax.

Take a brush and a tin of hot wax. Brush a layer or two of hot wax over your leather layer and set them to dry.

Rain water will slip down the boots touching the waxed layer.  

3.) Cover your feet with plastic bags:

Cover your feet with plastic bags

Plastic bags are readily available and you can grab one of them over your boots to keep your boots safe from the rain water.

4.) Add a water-repellant barrier over your leather boots:

Applying Sno Seal Waterproofing ( Fast and Effective Method )

We applied heavy duty leather preservatives and leather conditioners as well as Sno-seal weather protectants to seal out moisture from the leather boots.

They worked the best in protecting our leather boots from the rain and caused no damage in severe weather conditions.

5.) Do not get them dirty in the mud:

Do not get them dirty in the mudWhat we found out was when we got our leather boots dirty in the mud, the dirt got accumulated in the pores of the leather and later made it hard to clean them after being drenched in water.

Actually, dirt gets into the pores and clogs them and after the boots is wet, it is even more difficult to get rid of the dirt and it damages the fabric of the leather and leaves behind dark scars on the leather.

6.) Do not overexpose to heat:

dry our boots by a fire place and under constant sun

Water does not do such damage to your boots as will heat do. Excessive heat damages the fibers, color and texture of the boots. 

When we tried to dry our boots by a fire place and under constant sun, it dried out the leather and cracked it. Actually, heat causes steam and vapor to develop inside the leather thus, attacking the leather fibers. And once the boots cooled, they became brittle and hardened.

How do you Fix Leather that has got Wet?

Now, this was the end part of our survey where we sought out means to recover our wet boots and treated them using certain substances and method:

Step 1: (dry the boots)

stuffed some newspapers inside the bootsFirst of all, we gently wiped off any standing water and allowed the boots to dry naturally, without applying extra heat through hairdryer or blow dryer.

Next, we stuffed some newspapers inside the boots to allow them soak any moisture in the boots and also to hold back the original shape of the boots.

Step 2: (condition the boots)

While the boots were still damp, not wet, we applied a generous amount of leather conditioner making a thick coat over it.

Then we allowed the conditioner to soak in overnight and replenish the naturals oils in the leather that were stripped off by the water.

condition the boots

Step 3: (protection of the leather boots)

We found that some leather boots still felt dry. To those we once again applied a second coating of conditioner and continued the same process.

At last, we applied a coating of water repellant sprays over our boots to further prevent them against any damage by the water.

Case Study (Can Leather Boots Get Wet?)

I wore a pair of Timberland Boots over a period of 1 month and tested them over a period of 1 month for their waterproofing feature!

The very first day I wore them and dipped it in water, they were not thoroughly wet, I just let them dry under the fan overnight and they were great to be worn for the next day.

I kept on wearing them in the water for 7 days and then what I noticed is that they started to get hardened after repeated getting wet and drying.

So, I decided to just clean my boots and apply mink oil on them to condition them. Note that mink oil has a bit of waterproofing effect to it. So, after applying the mink oil, my boots were back to life and became quite soft again, and they were able to repel water for the next 3 to 4 days.

After a period of 2 weeks, my boots lost the water repellant capacity and that is when I decided to go with the age old waterproofing treatment on them that is applying a coat of wax sealant on them. I applied 2 coats of the wax sealant on my boots and let them rest the entire night. The next day, I just used a horsehair brush to polish my boots and give it a shine.

Believe me, workgearz fam; this waterproofing coating on my boots lasted for more than a month after which I had to again redo the coating and it’s been almost 2 years, my boots are serving well in the water.

How to Waterproof Leather Boots?

Why get your boots wet in the water when you can easily waterproof your boots with our super easy tricks?

      • Start by cleaning your boots with a clean rag to get off the loose dirt.
      • You can then use a damp rag to take off the settled dirt from the boots.
      • Dry the boots under the fan.
      • The next step has got two options for waterproofing: you can either use a silicone spray or wax sealants.
      • If you use the silicone spray, you will just have to spray your boots with 2 to 3 coats of the silicone spray and then leave the boots to dry naturally overnight. We recommend using KIWI Camp Dry Water Repellent Spray.
      • If you choose the wax sealants, you will have to massage the wax in the boots using your fingers in gentle circular motions. You can apply 2 coats but not more than that or else the wax will start to crack after a few days.

Check out the complete boot waterproofing guide.

How to Protect Leather Boots from Rain?

If you want to save your leather boots from the rain, the only option you have is to waterproof your boots. Just follow the steps mentioned in the above section (how to waterproof leather boots?):

      • Cleaning of the leather boots using a rag
      • Waterproofing the boots using silicone spray or wax sealants

Can Cowboy Boots Get Wet?

Cowboy boots generally come in water-resistant options and they are very durable. But if you are hell bent to dip them in water for the entire day, they will obviously get wet once the waterproofing coating starts to fade away and that won’t take long in this situation.

If this is the case, you can do only two things to save your cowboy boots from the damage:

      • Dry your boots instantly
      • Add a waterproofing coating to them

Dry your boots instantly:

It’s just like nip the vice in the bud; the moment your boots get wet in the water, take them off and keep them aside to dry them naturally under the sun. But be sure not to keep them in the direct heat for a long time or else the leather will get hardened. Once they are dry, you again wear them ad keep on working.

Note: You need an extra pair of boots for this purpose! While you let the wet boots to get dry, you wear the second pair.

Add a waterproofing coating to them:

Even if your boots are waterproof, it’s always better to be double sure and extra protective and thus add a coating of silicone spray on the boots.

How to Dry Leather Boots?

You can dry your leather boots using any one of the following methods:

      • You can dry them using a hair dryer
      • You can simply dry them under the fan
      • Or you can just keep them in the shade and let the sir dry them naturally

Can you wear Chelsea Boots in the Rain?

Chelsea boots are generally made of two materials: leather or suede.

If your Chelsea boots are made of suede, you should definitely avoid wearing them in the rain because the suede material will completely get damaged in water.

But if your Chelsea boost are made of leather, you can definitely wear them in the rain with prior waterproofing them using a silicone spray or wax sealant and drying them thoroughly as soon as possible after they have got wet.

Will leather stretch when wet?

Using water to stretch leather boot is an age-old method. What happens when leather is wet is that the water softens the leather fibers and then when you wear it, the leather fibers stretch to take the shape of your feet.

But, if you think that the size of your leather boots will go up or the boots will get loose for being wet, then its not true. This is because leather will stretch to an extent when wet and while they are on your feet, once dry, the leather will be back to normal its normal state.

In case, you want to increase the length of the leather, you need to stretch it with your hand while wet or use the shoe stretcher while the leather is wet and then condition the leather to retain the stretched shape of the leather as leather will shrink back to its original state when dry as it becomes stiff due to the loss of natural oils with exposure to water.

What we concluded?

It’s impossible to do without leather boots and that too when you are choosing one as your work pair. 

So, taking into consideration the rain, we advise you to go for the leather boots that are waterproof.

And still if you have already bought a normal leather pair, we hope that our survey have come to your use.

So, don’t for get to write us back in the comment section below regarding your struggles with the wet leather boots and solutions that you have come up with!

Till then take care…


Keep walking!

Stephen Luettgen
I have 12+ years of experience in construction, inspections, handy work, and currently working as a Construction Site Manager. In today’s day we spent a significant part of our time at workplace and a right work gear can have significant impact not only on your safety but also work quality.

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