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Ever since UGG boots hit the market, sheepskin boots have become a comfort icon. Made from real animal hides that have been tanned to create a softly-napped outer finish and finely sheared wool for the lining, they must be hand-cleaned and treated with care just like suede shoes and jackets.
Some brands state that their shoes are machine-washable, but that probably means they're made from synthetic materials and not natural sheepskin. Whether you've just purchased new boots, or you're looking to get a favorite pair back in good shape again, here's everything you need to know about caring for sheepskin.
What to do first when you get a new pair of boots:
Most wearers begin to see signs of soil and staining after wearing the boots for just a few weeks, and the interior can develop some strong odors as well. To help prevent problems, here are three tips to keep the boots fresh longer.
- Use a stain-resistant and waterproof spray like Moneysworth & Best Suede and NuBuck Protector to coat the exterior before you wear the boots. Spray the sheepskin lightly and in layers, allowing each to dry before you apply the next coat.
- Wear moisture-absorbing tights or socks each time you wear the boots. This will keep the interior cleaner and smelling better.
- After each wearing, gently brush the suede with the Shacke Suede & Nubuck 4-Way Leather Brush to remove accumulated surface dust and soil.
How to clean the outer surface of sheepskin boots:
Eventually, your boots are going to need a thorough cleaning. To prevent spotting, you need a gentle leather and wool cleaner like Outback Gold Wool Wash and at least 24 hours to allow the boots to dry slowly.
- Begin the cleaning process by giving the exterior of the boots a good brushing to remove loose dust and soil.
- Wipe away any excess mud from the soles with a wet paper towel.
- Following the leather cleaner label directions (Outback Gold recommends one teaspoon per gallon of water), mix a cleaning solution with warm water.
- Dip a sponge or microfiber cloth into the cleaning solution and wring so that most of the water is removed.
- Starting at the top of the boot, wipe down the entire surface using gentle circular motions. Rinse the cloth or sponge frequently, as soil is transferred.
- Be sure to evenly wet the boot so that no streaking or water-spotting occurs.
How to remove difficult stains from sheepskin boots:
Even brand-new or freshly cleaned boots can get stains. Fortunately, you don't have to throw them out — there are a few things you can do if your boots become a victim of oily foods or salted sidewalks.
- Oily stains: Cover the oily stain with a layer of baby powder or cornstarch and let it remain on the stain for at least 24 hours. Brush away the powder and repeat until the stain is gone.
- Scuff Marks: Use an artist gum eraser to gently buff away the scuff. Take care not to rub too hard and always follow the nap of the sheepskin. Finish by brushing with a suede brush to lift the nap.
- Salt Stains: Mix one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar and one cup of warm water in a small bowl. Dip a cloth in the solution and gently wipe the salt-stained area. Finish by dipping the cloth in plain warm water and wipe down the entire boot evenly to prevent watermarks. When the boots are dry, brush with the suede brush to lift the nap.
How to clean the wool inside of sheepskin boots:
Now it's time to clean and disinfect the interior shearling of the boot to get rid of bacteria and fungus that cause odor. For this, you will need a phenolic disinfectant (Lysol; currently out of stock) or pine oil disinfectant (Pine-Sol). Even though chlorine bleach is an excellent disinfectant, do not use it because it will cause the hide to stiffen and if too strong, the sheared wool will disintegrate.
- Mix a solution of the disinfecting cleaner and warm water following the label directions.
- Dip a sponge or microfiber cloth in the solution and wring until only damp.
- Wipe down the inside of each boot.
- If concerned about athlete's foot fungus, spray the interior with an anti-fungal spray.
- Now that your boots are cleaned inside and out, allow them to air-dry away from direct heat for at least 24 hours. Allowing them to dry slowly — that means no clothes dryer or hot hair dryer — will prevent cracking and damage to the hide.