View Full Version : So, why, really, can't I oil my tall boots?

Mar. 24, 2012, 05:23 PM
I have a pair of new (bought used but never worn) tall boots,
(Ariat Crown Pros, no zipper). I now know that you all say not to oil or condition them. I always have boot trees in them, so they won't drop down.

All my old boots, I've oiled (I love Tanners) and had nice soft boots, no dropping problems (but I buy super tall).

They did loose their shine from the oil but no big deal. It made them soft and easy to deal with.

Please stop me from getting this pair with the oil, also.

With a more stiff boot, do you get a more stable leg? (That idea Might stop me from oiling.)

Mar. 24, 2012, 06:05 PM
You can't oil them because I will beat you upside the head with them if you do!!! :) But seriously, I think it's mostly because it takes the shine out of them.

Just wipe them down with a VERY damp sponge to clean them. Are they really stiff? I have a pair that broke in quite easily--and I don't ride in them everyday either. Regularly applying a thin layer of a good quality polish will not only make then look better but it will also protect the leather.

If you do want to condition them I would use Vogel's.

Mar. 24, 2012, 07:12 PM
Oil will prevent the boots from ever having a good shine. I wipe mine off with a damp cloth or sponge first, and never use anything but Meltonian boot cream to polish and condition them. The polish adds a protective coating and helps repel dirt and moisture I think. I have 40 year old custom Dehners that are still gorgous and supple.

Mar. 24, 2012, 07:12 PM
Thanks Herbie, BAC.

Shine - eh, no big deal to me. Actually, less shiny hides any scratches better. I don't know, do we really need/like shine?

If a stiffer boot gives me a more steady, secure type leg - that may keep me away from the oil.

My old boots were (as you know) rather oiled. Someone once remarked, "Oh, a matte finish. Hmm . . . , but that's rather cool." They were just matte because of being oiled and a bit used.

I haven't had new boots in eons. These are pretty stiff, imo, but I'm just a soft, oiled leather kind of person and I'm used to half-chaps and old soft boots. (They probably not that stiff to you all. They are a good quality - the older Ariat Crowne Pros).

I guess I better try not oiling this time (and see how they turn out, at least). Must go hide Tanners and sit on hands.

Tx again.

Mar. 24, 2012, 07:44 PM
This has me curious now too... as I've been using conditioner on my boots since I got them as a teenager. I admit, no one ever really sat me down and taught how to properly clean and polish boots.

I normally wipe off any dried mud with a wet cloth (or papertowel if I'm being super ghetto), apply a light layer Lexol leather condition, and then apply black polish. The polish I use recommends sprinkling some water on the item and then buffing to add more shine. I've done this, but I'm honestly not sure if they really loook that much more shiny. But they are shiny... not that wet shine, but definitely reflecting light.

So I guess my question is, should I not be applying conditioner? And also, is there any different between black polish sold as "shoe polish" and black polish from a tack store labeled as "boot polish"?

Mar. 24, 2012, 07:53 PM
The lexol conditioner to me is too greasy, which is why I prefer the Vogel conditioner, but to be honest with you I've never used it on my Ariats, only on my Vogels (that I can sadly no longer wear since I fractured my heel).

IMO the most important thing to maintaining a good shine is to never get them wet. If they are muddy take a barely damp sponge to get the mud off--do not use glycerine either! You can also let the mud dry and brush it off.

I've never used shoe polish to do my boots, but I think it is more of a wax rather than a creme. I use URAD cream polish and think it works great. I polish my boots almost every time I wear them but applying just a thin layer, letting it dry and buffing it with a soft brush.

But what we actually need is for someone with Military experience to chime in and tell us how it's really done!

Mar. 24, 2012, 08:11 PM
*shrug* LE, not military here, and I apply a thick layer of Kiwi and use a brush. Some people use the flick-water-on-the-wax and polish with a rag method, which is more of the mirror shine you guys might be thinking of...

SO (military) and I both like the buffed look for our work boots. I would never dream of doing more than cleaning my riding boots with something other than water, maybe buffing the toe if there was a scratch on them. But I just don't care about my boots that much, never have. My horse is shiny though!

Mar. 24, 2012, 08:13 PM
I read recently on COTH that Vogel no longer makes their conditioner, so they recommend Lexol conditioner instead. So it must be OK to use Lexol, which I do. I only use it on the insides, though, and not every time I polish. Mostly I just wipe off with a damp wash cloth. So far, so good on my much loved pull on Vogels!

Mar. 24, 2012, 08:18 PM
My husband was in the Army, and I just asked him what they did. He said they rubbed on the boot polish, let it dry, buffed it up, and then took cotton balls moistened with rubbing alcohol and rubbed the boots with the cotton ball in tiny circles. He said you could see your face in the boots. He also said that it could potentially dry out the leather....but that's what they did...everyday. That was in the early 70's, and he still has his boots.

Mar. 24, 2012, 08:44 PM
More stupid questions from me. lol How do you know when polish is dry (I also use the solid Kiwi stuff)? And what are these brushes everyone's talking about?

Mar. 24, 2012, 08:58 PM
:lol::lol: My old Dad taught me literally to spit and polish.

Take a damp cloth to wipe clean, then first of all brush on Kiwi black polish, apply with stiff (ish) brush, then buff with a soft brush, then polish with a soft cloth.


Take cloth, wrap it around your forefinger, dip it on the polish, then literally spit on the boot, and work it in well with your finger, wrapped in it's kiwi dipped cloth. Work it in small circles until all the polish is absorbed and a shine appears, then repeat in a small spot next to the first.

Being as I usually lack a lot of patience, I only give the full 'spit and polish' treatment to toe and heel caps, but you can get them to shine like a mirror this way.

Mar. 24, 2012, 09:23 PM
Oh, dear Herbie, you'd never let me in the same room as your boots.

<IMO the most important thing to maintaining a good shine is to never get them wet.>

So, I used to Murphys soap them once a week to get the mud/sweat/grime off, rinse under sink, dry w. paper towels, let dry overnight. Oil when needed. And polish - what's that?

They stayed in pretty good shape; just have a matte finish.

I guess the water/oil breaks down the finish the company puts on them?

Mar. 24, 2012, 09:49 PM
Oh, dear Herbie, you'd never let me in the same room as your boots.

Haha you're probably right! I'm so crazy that I don't even give baths in my PADDOCK boots--they are perfectly polished as well. Even my horse's eskadrons are polished for that matter. What can I say, I have issues. :)

That being said, if you don't care about shine, I think what you're doing us just fine!

And I guess I'd better save my Vogel's conditioner for a rainy (lilerally!) day if they've stopped making it!

Mar. 24, 2012, 10:05 PM
I agree with everybody who uses Kiwi. The only shoepolish which works. It makes them shiny and IMO also exactly as soft as required.
Only water to remove dirt and afterward you have to dry them before you put on Kiwi.

After I found out you even get it in Publix over here I got really happy. In Germany its more tricky to get it....

Mar. 24, 2012, 10:47 PM
Here is a good article in Practical Horseman regarding tall boot care.


NO: saddle soap, Murphy's Oil soap, oil, Lederbalsam.

YES: damp cloth, castile soap (rarely and sparingly), Lexol conditioner, Leather CPR, Leather Therapy conditioner, Kiwi Parade polish, yes other high quality wax based polishes.


Mar. 24, 2012, 11:02 PM
I'm breaking in new (brown :)) dressage boots at the moment.

If the ankles are biting you, saddle soap or conditioner or mineral oil on the INSIDE of the boot, not the outside. Apart from anything else, if the boots are lined, the softening agent is never going to get there if you put it on the outside.

Oh, and remember not to polish the inner calf of the boot unless you want to listen to it squeak against your saddle...

Mar. 24, 2012, 11:39 PM
Those Crowne Pros are super thick and stiff. I have a pair I got off eBay super cheap and a year later (besides the broken zipper, GRRR!), they are still pretty stiff, but I have decided I kind of like that. My ancient, only for shows Vogels feel really strange to me, now, as do the brand new Ariat Heritage Selects(way thinner leather) I've been wearing since my Crowne Pro zipper broke.
I made a pilgrimmage to Vogel in NYC after the boot conditioner and was told the company they got it from no longer made it and they recommended Lexol. I haven't done that, yet. I only use their polish, too, but find that it NEVER seems to dry. I always end up getting it on my pants.

Mar. 24, 2012, 11:58 PM
Military here, they taught us how to polish our boots using a slightly more sanitary version of spit and polish. Basically rub regular kiwi wax (not the parade gloss) in small circles on the toe and heel cap. Let dry and then wet a cotton ball with water (just a little, not soaking wet) then buff in small circles. The water helps push the wax into the grain, rather than scraping it off.

You have to rinse and repeat this process until you finally fill in the grain of the leather and can get a nice smooth surface. It can take hours at first, but once you have a good base you just have to add a single layer and buff unless you get a really nasty scuff.

This method can only be used on the toe and heel because it creates a hard "shell" of wax that completely fills in the grain of the leather. If used on areas of the boot that flex it will crack and fall off.

For the rest of the boot a light layer of wax buffed with a brush or, better yet, with an old pair of panty hose works to get a nice soft glow over the rest of the boot. Was humerous to see our ex-fireman drill seargent pull out a pair of knee highs and tell us they were his secret weapon for a good pair of boots.

Mar. 25, 2012, 12:09 AM
Aw, Twisting, your post reminds me of my Marine father, who took great pride in the polish of his shoes and taught me as a kid how to take care of my own. Thanks for the sweet reminder of someone I miss every day. :yes:

Mar. 25, 2012, 10:26 AM
I don't think I've ever seen a soft pair of Ariat's to be honest.

Mar. 25, 2012, 01:47 PM
Oh, and remember not to polish the inner calf of the boot unless you want to listen to it squeak against your saddle...

It's not a good noise, believe me, I polished my boots to take to a tack sale, they didn't sell, and I decided I could force my feet into them for one more show.

Yup, lots of squeaking going on there

Mar. 26, 2012, 01:02 PM
My DH (active duty Navy) polishes my boots for me. Pre-DH, I had my original pair I first started showing in. I used conditioner on them...especially early on when I thought I was 'softening them up' a little to help break them in. I also used the bathtub method at the outset.

I eventually treated myself to a new pair (Der Daus). When they came, DH took them away from me and said "I am taking over their care and polishing - don't ever let me catch you putting that conditioner on them or deliberately soaking them!" He told me that if I needed to put something on them to help me break them in (I did, they were PAINFUL at first) to put the conditioner on the inside of them and let it soak in. (it helped a little...but I'm not gonna lie, it was a more painful breaking-in than the bathtub method.)

But, now not only do they retain their beautiful luster but they are very comfortable - and they are stiff in the right places and broken in in the right places (as opposed to just being softer everywhere, and the finish being dull). I actually get a lot of compliments on the boots, sometime from total strangers, who ask me how I polished them. The boot toes look like patent leather, and I love it. I know these boots will last so much longer than the ones I dunked and conditioned, and they look so much nicer.

DH starts off with regular black kiwi polish (with a soft cotton rag. He says old T-shirts are the best.) Then, to get that sharp, patent-leather deep shine, he uses PURPLE polish stuff called Cordovan, that he says adds "depth" to the color. (You'd never know that he used something purple - it looks very black.) And then he puts Kiwi Parade Gloss on at the end, and buffs that with a spit-shine. It takes several 'polishings' before it gets quick and routine, but now in 10 minutes with a few basic touch-ups they look sparkling.

I should note, he does not apply ANYTHING to the inside calves of my boots, and the farther up from the foot he goes on the outside, he just uses the soft rag (T-shirt) with minimal kiwi polish. All the shiny stuff is on the toes.

Mar. 26, 2012, 01:18 PM
The Tack Box in Middleburg, last time I was there, had something they were touting as the "new substitute for Vogel conditioner." For those of you who worship at your vogel conditioner (like me) I'd give them a call.

Apply it to the inside of your boots - literally, the inside, where it touches your leg.

Mar. 29, 2012, 10:36 PM
The Tack Box in Middleburg, last time I was there, had something they were touting as the "new substitute for Vogel conditioner." For those of you who worship at your vogel conditioner (like me) I'd give them a call.

Apply it to the inside of your boots - literally, the inside, where it touches your leg.

Trixie- was the substitute Bickmore Bick 4 leather conditioner? The ladies at my local tack shop said it is the same as Vogel. I picked some up - honestly, it looks the same, the consistency is the same, do think Vogel's smelled better IMO.

Mar. 30, 2012, 08:11 AM
I don't think I've ever seen a soft pair of Ariat's to be honest.

My old (coming 14 years old) Ariats, from the days they were still made in Italy, are like butter. I dread the day they give up the ghost. I need to get them resoled, bit I'm a bit worried who can do that well.

For the longest time, I wondered why neither I nor my dad (20 years Navy) could never get a shine on those boots. Then I found an article on why you shouldn't oil your boots! Stopped oiling, kicked up the polishing, and voila, much shinier boots. Castile to clean, Urad to polish.

Mar. 30, 2012, 10:00 AM
Is lederbalsam and other oil products okay to put on the inside? Like around the ankle? I'm getting my first pair of custom sergios next week and I have only a week to break them in before I show. So I have to break them in quickly but of course I want to preserve the shine on the outside.

Mar. 30, 2012, 10:01 AM
I oiled my first pair of boots obsessively and they still shone like a mirror. I'll dig up a picture if I can find it. My current boots don't shine as much (despite having never oiled them) even when I polish them, but I don't do that often. My new boots, though, shine no matter what. *shrug*

Mar. 30, 2012, 10:13 AM
Judysmom, I don't recall exactly but I'm sure they could tell you if you called. It was very inexpensive though, I remember that.

Mar. 30, 2012, 10:14 AM
Is lederbalsam and other oil products okay to put on the inside? Like around the ankle?

Yes - you can put any kind of conditioner you want to try on the inside of the boot.

It helped mine some, but I also needed to wear mine around inside the house for a while in between 'interior' conditioner applications.

Mar. 30, 2012, 11:36 AM
I have an ancient pair of effinghams and have always oiled them, inside the ankle as well. The boots are quite old and still in great shape. I like my boots to feel like a conditioned saddle not a patent leather pair of shoes.

Midwest girl in an East coast world
Mar. 30, 2012, 04:05 PM
From a relative newbie still on her first pair of tall boots (I ride in paddock boots and half chaps at home):

How do you all keep the polish from wearing off onto fleece and sheepskin girths? It looks awful, and is near impossible to get off fleece and the stretchy part of the buckles. Do you only use the polish on the toes and the lateral part of the boot?

I apologize in advance if this seems to a be a silly question, but I've actually wondered this for a long time!!

Mar. 30, 2012, 04:12 PM
How do you all keep the polish from wearing off onto fleece and sheepskin girths? It looks awful, and is near impossible to get off fleece and the stretchy part of the buckles. Do you only use the polish on the toes and the lateral part of the boot?

I only use neutral polish on the inside of my boot, so there is no stain to worry about, and I hate fleece girths and use leather with a girth sock instead. I don't have stains on my girth's elastic either. On the rest of my boot I use black polish though.

Mar. 30, 2012, 05:36 PM
OP here. To those of you who say - oil/condition the inside of the boot - the inside is lined with that soft leather & if I oil it, it may help some but won't get to the outer leather which is the stiff part.

Now, I'm not sure if I've even got my thinking right in my mind. Probably a stiffer (less oiled) boot will give you a bit of a more stable leg than a softer one. I like a stiffer boot feeling, or I figure I would as riding in half chaps, your leg is certainly not as tight as in boots. So, why do I feel a compulsive need to oil - oh, just cause they are kinda hard and (confession time) I sometimes have an over oiling problem. I never had shiny boots due to my oiling habit, so I'm not even feeling the need for shine. My old boots were so nice and soft to touch. Still, I feel, this time, I want to do it the right way.

So far, I'm behaving and not doing anything to them.

I'd better go back to my Oilers Anonymous meetings, perhaps.

Mar. 30, 2012, 05:38 PM
Midwest "Do you only use the polish on the toes and the lateral part of the boot?"


I would only polish parts but even with that, still have saddle pads that are stained at the bottom. I've learned to live with the stains that show up sometimes.

Mar. 31, 2012, 05:01 AM
I have noticed that the no-oil/conditioner edict originates from areas where they have humidity above single digits. I have always lived in the dry West, and if I did not condition (and occasionally oil) all leather, boots included, with Lexol or similar, it would be hard, stiff and cracking.

I let boots dry completely after conditioning, wipe any residue off, and then use the good polish in the little jars.

Mar. 31, 2012, 11:58 AM
I will join Oilers Anonymous! But I have refrained from using any oil on my Vogels (that I got on a tip from COTH for $75 on ebay, perfect fit! Sorry to those who have read this before, more than once). My only concern is to make them last forever. I use a damp washcloth to get the dirt off and polish with Kiwi on the outside and foot only. When I first got them (yes, they were almost new, just broken in, and I promise this is the last time I will brag about my ebay Vogels!) I used Lexol on the inside of the ankles. That's it, besides running a toothbrush frequently around where the sole meets the uppers.

Mar. 31, 2012, 02:10 PM
I acquired my tall boots in 1978, and used them a lot before they spent many years in the back of a closet while I wasn't riding. Guess what? When I pulled them out back in 2000 for a show they were FINE, just needed resoling. The cobbler complimented me on them, in fact. My secret? Lexol. Only thing I've ever used on them besides a damp cloth to get off mud. Now, granted, I don't want to wear them now since they look hopelessly out-of-fashion (end a good 2" below the knee and cut straight across) but I'm not showing, so it doesn't matter. They are still supple, still fit, and still have a soft shine. Not mirror-like but not bad! Lexol for all leather, as far as I'm concerned.