How To Care For Red Wing Boots

Red Wing boots are handcrafted from the best leathers and soles available, triple-stitched for strength, and sewn together with the Goodyear Welt construction method, which allows for easy resoling. If you take care of them, they will take care of you. In this article, I’ll show you how to care for Red Wing boots based on their different leather types—from oil-tanned and roughout to smooth-finished.

Each Red Wing boot is made from a specific type of leather: oil-tanned leather, roughout leather, or smooth-finished leather. The type of leather deployed in the boot’s construction determines how you should care for it.

For example, oil-tanned and smooth-finished leathers need to be cleaned with warm water, a clean cloth, and a soft-bristled brush.

How To Care For Red Wing Boots

It is absolutely essential to note that not all the leathers used in Red Wing shoes are the same. Different leathers call for different care products and routines.

Oil-Tanned Leathers

These leathers are among the most durable in the world. They’re water, stain, sweat, and odor resistant—making them easy to care for and clean.


The first step in preserving the soft and supple feel of your oil-tanned leather Red Wing boots (e.g., Iron Ranger 8111 and Irish Setter 877) is to clean them.

You will need the following:

  • Warm water
  • Clean cloth
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Red Wing Foam Leather Cleaner

First, remove any dirt from the boot by brushing it with a soft-bristled brush pre-dipped in warm water. Then dry the shoe with a clean cloth.

If the boots are heavily soiled, apply the Red Wing Foam Leather Cleaner to them with a soft bristle brush or clean cloth. Wipe away the residue with a damp cloth. Let the boots air-dry naturally to maintain the leather’s shape.


Conditioning your boots will help preserve their lush finish, extend their lifespan, and prevent cracking and splitting of the oil-tanned leather. Apply the conditioner using your fingers, a cloth, or a sponge.

Type Of LeatherProduct To Be Used
Harness, Oil Slick, Oro-original, and Worksmith LeathersRed Wing Shoes All-Natural Boot Oil
Blackstar, Boomer, Chrome, Mustang, and Portage LeathersRed Wing Shoes All-Natural Leather Conditioner
Mesa and Rough & Tough LeathersRed Wing Shoes Mink Oil


Once you have conditioned your leather, use Red Wing Shoes Leather Protector to lock in the moisture. To apply this product, hold the container at a distance of 6 to 8 inches from the leather and spray it all over the shoe in a sweeping motion.

If you’re worried about whether the Leather Protector will stain your oil-tanned-leather Red Wings, it may surprise you to discover that the Leather Protector does quite the opposite of what you expect. Rather than smudge the boots, it acts as an invisible barrier between them and dirt.

Roughout and Nubuck Leathers

Red Wing Shoe Company uses a method called reverse-suede leatherworking to create its roughout and nubuck leathers. The company does not sacrifice durability by employing this technique, and the result is unquestionably stunning


To achieve the best results when caring for Red Wings made of roughout and nubuck leathers, I recommend purchasing a Red Wing Shoes Roughout/Nubuck cleaner kit. The kit contains:

  • A cleaner bar
  • A nylon-and-brass bristle brush

Use the cleaner bar to rub away any stains on your shoe. Rinse the dirty soapy residue with water and apply another coat of cleaner if necessary. Dry your boots and restore their texture by brushing them with the bristle brush.

If your leather gets water spots on it, you can use a cleaner bar to take care of the problem. Finish off with the bristle brush.


Roughout leathers include Abilene, Mohave, and Muleskinner. If you have purchased a Red Wing boot made from Muleskinner roughout leather, you only need to apply a thin coating of mink oil to the boot after each clean.

Other types of roughout/nubuck leather do not require conditioning. Keep in mind that mink oil may darken nubuck or roughout leather, so use it sparingly.


Apply Red Wing Shoes Leather Protector to only Muleskinner leather boots. The product works best when applied at a distance of 6 to 8 inches from the boot’s surface in a sweeping motion. If you think that it will stain your Muleskinner leather boots, rest assured that it is invisible and helps prevent stains from settling into the leather.

When caring for your roughout leather boots, never use leather cleaner. The chemicals in the cleaner will damage the leather and leave stains on the boots.

Smooth-Finished Leathers

Red Wing’s smooth-finished leather, made from the best quality hides, has a polished surface indicative of its beauty and value. Smooth-finished leather, e.g., Featherstone, is used in premium Red Wing Heritage models (such as the Beckman Collection and Chaparral).

This type of leather requires more extensive care and attention than the others.


If you own this type of Red Wing boot, you should check it every few weeks to know if it needs any special care or cleaning. Use warm water, a clean cloth, and a soft-bristle brush to remove dirt that may have accumulated on the boot’s leather parts.

If your leather boots still have stains, dip the sponge in the Red Wing Shoes Foam Leather Cleaner and apply it to the stained areas. The stains will disappear. Wipe off the cleaner with a damp cloth and allow your boots to dry.


Conditioning smooth finished leather is a crucial part of leather care. There are several options for conditioning, including Red Wing Shoes Leather Cream and Red Wing Shoes Neutral Boot Cream. These creams hydrate the leather and prevent it from darkening.

If scuff marks are ruining the look of your Red Wing boots, simply cover them up with a matching shoe cream. The following creams are available:

  • Black Boot Cream
  • Brown Boot Cream
  • Burgundy Boot Cream


Finally, after cleaning and conditioning your boots, it’s time to protect them from the elements. Mist them with a Red Wing Shoes Leather Protector held six to eight inches away. It will not darken your boots, but it will provide an invisible shield against moisture, mud, oil, and dirt.


Red Wing recommends that you use their care and cleaning products for Red Wing Shoes. They know their shoes better than anyone else, and these products have been specially formulated to work with your footwear.

Need more convincing? Red Wing Shoe Company holds that “actively maintaining leather is the most effective way to ensure integrity and longevity.”

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