When you buy a pair of cowboy boots, you're buying more than just a shoe. Despite the fact that many cowboy boots are designed to be fashionable, they're also designed to be useful. Western boots are designed with specific activities in mind. For example, pointy-toed boots are ideal for horseback riding, and low heels are useful for roping. A good pair of cowboy boots is an investment, so it's important to take care of them so that they remain both fashionable and useful. If you've just purchased your first pair of cowboy boots, you may be surprised to learn that they require considerably more care than your average pair of sneakers. Take a look at some of the most important boot-care tips that you need to know.

Cleaning

Dirt, dust, and moisture can seriously damage the leather on your boots. Often, that comes as a surprise, because cowboy boots are made for dirty work – it's certainly tough to avoid dust and dirt when you're riding a horse! It's true that your boots can withstand some tough conditions, but they won't hold up forever. Get your boots as dirty as you need to, but once you're home and you take the boots off, it's time to clean them up.

You can remove dust and dirt with a soft, dry cloth. Wipe the boots until they look as clean as possible, then add a dab of boot conditioner and swipe it gently over the leather surfaces of your boots. If your boots are wet, allow them to air dry before cleaning them. Air-drying is the only safe way to dry your boots. If you attempt to force dry them by putting them near heat or blow-drying them, you run the risk of cracking your leather.

Conditioning

Using a small amount of leather conditioner when cleaning your boots isn't enough – you need to deep condition your boots periodically. How often you need to condition them varies. If you wear the boots every day, you may need to condition them as often as once a week. If you wear them more sporadically, once a month might be enough. If you only break them out once in a blue moon, you should still condition them once every few months. Conditioning is the key to making your boots last as long as they possibly can.

Before you get started on conditioning your boots, clean them thoroughly. If you've never used leather conditioner before, do a spot test before you condition the boot – conditioner can darken the leather. The more neglected your boot is, the more conditioner it will need – if you regularly use a small amount when cleaning, you won't need as much when it's time to do a thorough conditioning. Use a chamois or terrycloth rag to rub in the conditioner, and let the boots sit and absorb the conditioner for 12 to 24 hours. Wipe them off with a dry rag, and then polish if desired.

Storing

Whatever you do, never just toss your boots into the closet carelessly, and certainly don't toss anything on top of them. Storing your boots improperly leads to creases in the leather that are both unsightly and uncomfortable. Your best bet is to stuff the boots with something that will help them maintain their shape. You can buy boot trees for this purpose, but you don't have to. Stiff paper, folded cardboard, and even two-liter bottles can be used to stuff a boot and help it maintain its shape.

Boots should be stored in a place that's neither too moist nor too dry. A moist room, like a basement, should be avoided because the leather can easily grow mold in this kind of environment. On the other hand, a space with no humidity, like a safe, will dry out the leather. If you plan to transport your boots, use a boot bag specifically designed for this purpose – you don't want your boots to crease because they're wedged too tightly in your overstuffed suitcase, nor do you want them damaged if your mouthwash opens and spills during travel.

If you take good care of your boots, they can remain functional and fashionable much longer than the average shoe – boots that are well cared for have been known to last for decades. It's worth putting in the effort to learn how to care for a shoe that will serve you for such a long time. Now that you know how to care for cowboy boots, go to sites of online retailers to find the perfect pair. 

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