I am happy to share this video with you MooBuzz fans and leather aficionados as it was filmed about a year before I retired from shoe and leather repair and closed my shop in November of 2018.

The video is special to me because it includes rare footage of my beloved repair shop and of (camera shy) me “behind the wheel.”  That is, behind the grinding and finishing wheels of the Sutton 2000.

I believe in fixing things. It’s in my blood.

Honestly, I was sad to leave shoe and leather repair behind. It was my full-time life (and then some!) for over 15 years. And I’ll miss meeting all the wonderful customers who believe in fixing things, too. I am truly honored that they trusted me to fix their stuff.

As much as I love repairing things, though, I also love making things. I’m a maker at heart. Repair captured me for a while. I’m grateful for everything it taught me about why things break and how to properly care for leather goods. But it wasn’t the whole picture for me.

So as 2019 begins I find myself making lots of MooBuzz in my new production space. I have plenty of room to develop more MooBuzz products to help you care for your fine leather goods. Plus, I’m renting a small studio where I continue to make custom and commissioned leather goods (for people who can find me).

“You’re retired?” I get that question A LOT because even though I retired from repair, I’m still really busy. The truth of the matter is that my hands will always be busy. Whether it’s packing up MooBuzz, stitching a custom shoe, or paddling some wide or wild river, I’ll be working with my hands. Just have to.

And this leads me to a weird remembrance: My older brother had a vinyl album by Mason Williams called “Handmade,” circa 1970. I just love “Classical Gas” and must have listened to that piece hundreds of times. Well, Williams made that entire album. The music was handmade, of course, and he drew an outline of his hand on the cover and wrote the liner notes. I remember reading somewhere on that album cover: “Time is handmade love.” Hands and love and time. There you have it.

Not all funky stuff on the surface of your boots is necessarily mold and mildew. It’s a good idea to determine what you’re dealing with so that you know how to handle it.

There are two primary reasons for white stuff to appear on the surface of your leather boots or shoes:

  1. The growth of microorganisms (fungus or bacteria) on the surface of the leather,
    or
  2. Oils or salts migrating from within the leather and crystallizing on the surface.

How can you tell what the funky stuff is on the surface of your leather?

If your boots have been stored in a damp place or were put away wet, and if they smell like mold or mildew, it’s a good bet that you’re dealing with fungus and/or bacteria growing on your leather. In part 1 we discussed how to deal with fungus and bacteria.

If you’re pretty sure moisture hasn’t been an issue and your boots don’t smell moldy, the funky white haze on the surface may be “fatty bloom” or “fatty spue (spew).” This white “bloom” is the result of fats, oils, or waxes used in the tanning process which have begun to migrate through the leather and crystallize on the surface. Changes in temperature or humidity will often make these oils and waxes move to the surface of the leather. If you’ve had your boots in storage for a while you may notice this white haze when you unpack them.

Sometimes this white bloom is a result of the waxes and oils that you may have applied as a dressing on your boots or shoes. Oh, and by the way, we’re talking about boots and shoes here, but any oil tanned leather can potentially reveal this bloom. Your bags, belts, jackets or other leather goods could look white and hazy, too.

Regardless of whether the bloom results from internal oils or external oils, the big thing to remember about fatty bloom is that it’s not harmful to the leather. It just really detracts from the leather’s appearance.

What to do:

Buffing the leather briskly with a soft but sturdy cloth, like an old towel, will often make the bloom disappear. Gently heating the leather with a hair dryer or other low temperature heating device can also help the oils move back into the leather. Don’t use too much heat! It can wreck your leather.

And remember, less is more when it comes to applying leather oils, balms, waxes and polishes. Wipe away excess dressings when you’re caring for your boots or you may be surprised by a white buildup along seams. It’s not harmful, just not particularly attractive.

Another type of bloom called “salty bloom” can result from salts used in the leather tanning process. Sometimes a salt line will appear on the surface of your boots if they get wet from rain or sweat. This salt is coming from inside the leather and moving to the surface. It can usually be wiped away with a damp cloth. Don’t use too much water to remove the salt or you may cause more salt stains to appear. Applying a small amount of MooBuzz after the salt is gone and your boots are dry will make your boots look great.

Note

This “salty bloom” is not the same type of salt stain that appears from salt that is spread on roads and sidewalks in snowy and icy weather. Salt coming from OUTSIDE the leather can permanently scar the surface of your boots or shoes. This “external” salt should be neutralized with a mild solution of vinegar and water (see: How to remove salt stains from leather) and the leather should be allowed to dry thoroughly.


Always remove surface salt and other grit from your boots and shoes before polishing or conditioning. A light coat of MooBuzz on clean, dry boots will protect them from water and external salt damage and will keep them looking their best.

You’re taking good care of your leather!

Well, unless they are made of gorgeous, velvety green suede this is probably a bad thing.

Leather is a natural product and mold and mildew (fungi!) will grow on it in the right conditions. These conditions usually involve dampness and darkness and it doesn’t take long. Basements, car trunks, and the back of closets are all places wet shoes and boots can linger and get moldy and funky.

Even if your boots weren’t wet when you stored them, they may get funky in a damp place. Most leather is hygroscopic, meaning that it will absorb moisture from the surrounding atmosphere until the leather reaches a point at which microorganisms will grow on it. It’s best to stop that process as soon as possible. Essentially you need to clean the surface of your boots and dry out the leather a bit.

If your boots smell like mold or mildew, it’s a good bet that you’re dealing with fungus growing on your leather. If your boots don’t smell moldy, but they look weird, there may be something else going on. (Our next post will continue this topic and will discuss on other funky stuff that can happen to boots.)

But I digress. Back to mold and mildew. Here’s a simple way to clean surface mold and mildew off of your leather boots or shoes. Other remedies are available which employ harsh cleaning agents (like alcohol or bleach), but try this method before resorting to the big guns. You don’t want to risk discoloring your leather.

How to clean mold and mildew from leather - 3 things you will need

You will need:

  1. Clean towel or cloth for initial wipe down
  2. Another cloth or natural bristle brush for cleaning
  3. Bucket or sink
  4. Warm water
  5. White vinegar
  6. Clean, dry towel

What to do:

  1. Dampen a clean towel or cloth with clean water and wipe down the boots top to bottom to remove as much surface gunk as possible.
  2. Make a solution of white vinegar and water – 1 cup vinegar to 1 cup warm (not hot) water.
  3. If this is starting to sound familiar, you may have read our article on removing salt stains from leather but these instructions vary a bit.
    soaking in a tub - no, tub holding water to apply to boot with sponge? - yes!

    Best Practice!
    Never submerge leather. Always bring water to boot or shoes with a brush or cloth.

    Using your clean soft cloth or natural bristle brush, gently scrub your boots. Remember: to avoid creating water stains it is important to get the entire surface of the boot wet. It’s best to bring water up to the boot. Do not submerge your boot. If your boots are really smelly, use a damp rag to wash the inside as well.

  4. Once you have wetted and gently scrubbed your leather top to bottom with vinegar and water, rinse gently with clear water. Remember to bring the water up to the boots. No dunking.
  5. Pat your boots with a clean, dry towel to remove any excess water. If your boots are a light color you may want to use a light colored towel just to be sure you don’t transfer color from the towel onto the boot.
  6. Odrawing of a fan - Air dry, better yet sun dry your boots after washingnce you’ve removed any excess water, set your boots someplace with good air circulation and allow them to dry thoroughly. If you can set them outside in the sun that will help. Remember, avoid high heat areas like near a fireplace, wood stove, or radiator. The key is plenty of fresh air and sunshine. If you can put them outside, great. If not, just put them some place airy to dry.
  7. Once your boots are dry, check them over and buff gently with a dry cloth. If mold and mildew remain, follow up with a second cleaning using a mild soap solution (¼ teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap to 2 quarts warm water). Wash with soap as indicated above using a cloth or natural bristle brush to gently scrub any trouble spots. On smooth leather (not suede) you can also use saddle soap following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  8. Again, rinse well by bringing clean water up to your boots with a cloth or natural bristle brush.
  9. Pat dry with a clean towel. Use a light colored towel for light colored leather to prevent possible color transfer from the towel to the leather.
  10. Allow to dry thoroughly with plenty of fresh air. Avoid heat.
  11. Apply to leather in a circular motionWhen dry, condition and waterproof your boots with MooBuzz!

Good Job! You’re taking great care of your leather.

If your boots or shoes get really wet, the good news is that they’re probably going to be fine.

The bad news: you may have a bit of work to do.

Getting leather wet is usually not as damaging as letting it become too dry.

If your boots got really wet, have now dried, and you don’t see any watermarks or salt stains, yay. If they are relatively clean, just wipe them with a damp cloth to remove any lingering grit. If they are smooth leather (not suede), condition and waterproof them with a light coat of MooBuzz. Let the MooBuzz absorb completely then wipe off any excess. If your boots are suede, brush well with a suede brush and treat them with silicone-free water and stain protector made for use on suede. Boom, you’re done. Go have fun.

If your boots got really wet and have dried with watermarks or salt stains, or if they’re really dirty, I recommend you wash them as soon as possible. Detailed washing instructions can be found here: Condition and Waterproof your Leather boots last forever and How to Remove Salt Stains from Leather Shoes and Boots

Once you have washed your boots, it’s time to dry them.

Rules: Lots of air. No heat.

Don’t put your boots near a fire or radiator or (gasp!) in the oven to dry out. Heat can do all kinds of bad stuff to your boots including shrinking the leather and melting your soles.

Once your boots are dry, and if they are smooth leather, condition and waterproof with MooBuzz. Again, if they are suede, brush well with a suede brush and treat them with silicone-free water and stain protector made for use on suede.

If your FEET got wet when your boots got wet, check over your boots for areas where water may be getting in. The usual culprits are holes or cracks in the soling, cracks in the welt, and tears in the upper where it meets the sole. Get those babies to your local cobbler!

As a cobbler I notice that people fall into one of three general categories when it comes to caring for footwear. They either:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Do Something
  3. Do too much

As a general rule you want to be right in the middle: Do something.

You can tell if you’re doing too little because your leather will look dry and the color may look faded. Dry leather tends to shrink away from the stitching which can cause seams to loosen up which, in turn, may cause threads to break. Really dry leather can begin to crack which will cause the early demise of even the best leather shoes or boots.

It’s amazing what a light spritz of water and a horse hair brush will do for a tired looking shoe or boot. If your boots and shoes aren’t getting really dirty you may just need to wipe them down once in a while with a damp cloth and brush them off. Treat them to a light coat of MooBuzz twice a year or so. Pay attention – if you notice that drops of water are soaking into your leather instead of beading up, it’s time to reapply some MooBuzz.

Grit and grime can act like sandpaper across the top of your boot. If your shoes and boots are getting really dirty on a regular basis you’ll want to clean them on a regular basis. If you’re washing your boots regularly, the frequent wetting and drying can cause the leather to dry out. Remember: no heat to dry your boots and shoes! Follow each wash and dry session with an application of MooBuzz to keep the leather conditioned and waterproofed.

Be careful not to over-condition! Your leather should not feel loose and greasy. Too much oil can cause weakening of the leather fibers and may even cause eyelets and lace hooks to pull out. Again, pay attention: when water soaks into your leather instead of beading up, it’s time to MooBuzz.

Recap – When should you MooBuzz?

  1. When your boots are brand new – soften the leather to speed break-in and to prevent water damage.
  2. When your boots are feeling stiff after washing and drying – MooBuzz to replenish moisture and waterproof. Be judicious. You can always put on another coat.
  3. When you notice water soaking in instead of beading up – it’s time to MooBuzz.
  4. When the salt trucks come out in the winter – MooBuzz helps prevent salt damage!

1Heat can dry your leather out too much, too fast leading to cracking and shrinking. Neither of these is reversible. Both of these will ruin your boots.

2Heat can reactivate adhesives and cause soles to become loose. This can usually be fixed with a trip to the cobbler but you’ll be without your boots for a while.

3Heat can shrink some types of soling and this may deform your shoes or boots. This, in turn, may severely alter the fit. Again, this can usually be fixed but we’re talking sustainability here: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (thanks Ben Franklin – you know: waste not, want not).

4Heat can melt and distort internal components. Most boots have a thermoplastic toe counter to maintain the shape of the toe. This can shrink or get dented. Sometimes this is fixable, but typically not.

Keep your boots away from heat – campfires, fireplaces, radiators, ovens, closed up cars parked in the sun, or any other area that may become really hot for extended periods of time.

1 Condition and Waterproof

Apply a coat of MooBuzz before you step out into the snow. MooBuzz will protect your boots or shoes from water and salt.

2 If you forgot to MooBuzz, wipe off water and salt as soon as you can.

Don’t let your boots or shoes sit covered in melting snow. Remove excess surface moisture as soon as you can to prevent the salt from penetrating the leather. Letting salt stay on your boots or shoes may lead to permanent discoloration and scarring.

3 Neutralize Salt Stains

Clean the salt off as soon as you notice the telltale white halo. It’s pretty simple.

  • First, lightly wet down the outside of your footwear from top to bottom with clear water. Don’t dunk them into the sink. Just bring water up to the shoe or boot using a brush or cloth.
  • Then use a mild solution of white vinegar and water (1 generous TBSP vinegar for every cup of water) and a natural bristle brush to gently scrub the salty areas of your boots or shoes.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clear water (again bringing water up to the shoe or boot), blot with a clean towel, and allow to dry completely. Then apply MooBuzz!

See our Blog Post – “How to Remove Salt Stains from Leather Boots and Shoes” for more information.

One of my customers recently asked me NOT to clean and shine his shoes. I was confused. These are complimentary services when I re-heel or re-sole footwear. Most people take me up on it.

I must have looked puzzled because he followed up his request with a rather sheepish admission: He loves to spend time on weekends cleaning, conditioning, and shining his footwear. He finds it relaxing.  I was touched. I immediately knew we were kindred spirits.

For me, caring for nice leather footwear and accessories is part of the fun of having them. It’s one of the reasons I was drawn to leather work and shoe repair. With proper care your items look better, feel better, and last longer.

If you’re the type of person who likes to do your own leather care, you already know that it can be a deeply satisfying hands-on experience. I have many customers, however, who are very hesitant to take care of their own leather goods. And I have to admit, I’ve seen some really bad outcomes when customers thought they were doing the right thing, but they weren’t. Sometimes there’s no coming back from a bad leather care mistake.

Cleaning, polishing, conditioning, and waterproofing are all things that can be done at home.  But here’s the crux of it, the “Pro” and the “Con” depending on your point of view: You have to know what you’re doing. And like anything else, it takes time to gather knowledge and gain experience. If you love learning new things and you like working with your hands, leather care will probably be fun for you. If, on the other hand, the very thought of taking care of your leather items makes you feel anxious or disgusted, leave it to a professional.

Watch this space for pointers on proper care and maintenance for your leather goods. It’s really pretty easy once you know the basics. A few important steps can ensure that you won’t have to do some really tricky cleaning and refinishing work down the road. You might even find a new way to relax.

If you live in snow country and have ever left your house in winter, this has probably happened to you.

It’s winter. It’s slushy and slippery and there’s salt everywhere: On the street, on the sidewalk, on your door mat, and on your boots.

I’m talking about that crusty, white halo around the base of your boots and shoes.

It’s best to wipe your boots or shoes off as soon as you can to remove most of the salt right away.

Letting salt stay on your leather may lead to permanent discoloration and scarring. 

Clean any remaining salt off as soon as you notice that telltale white halo. It’s pretty simple.

How to remove salt stains from leather - 3 things you will need

All you need to clean the salt off of your leather boots and shoes is:

  • warm water
  • white vinegar
  • natural bristle brush
  • clean towel
Always bring water to boot. How to clean leather.

Best Practice!
Never submerge leather. Always bring water to boot or shoes with a brush or cloth.

The cleaning process is just five easy steps:

  1. Mix up a mild solution of white vinegar and water in a separate container: We use about 1 TBSP vinegar for every cup of water.
  2. Over a sink or large plastic tub, use a natural bristle brush to bring the vinegar and water solution up to your boot/shoe and scrub gently.
  3. Once you have gently scrubbed your entire boot/shoe with the vinegar and water solution, you will need to rinse it with clean water. Again, use your brush to bring the water up to the boot/shoe.

Do make sure to get the entire exterior of the boot/shoe wet so that you don’t end up with water marks once your boots/shoes are dry.

Don’t hold your boot/shoe under the running water or dunk it in the sink.

  1. Gently pat your boot/shoe dry with a clean towel.
  2. Leave your boot/shoe to dry fully – away from any direct heat sources.

Repeat with your other boot or shoe. See also Make Your Boots Last Forever

Once your boots/shoes are clean and dry apply a coat of MooBuzz to replenish moisture, restore suppleness, and protect against water and salt.

Want to know how to care for your leather shoes and boots? Use MooBuzz. It conditions and waterproofs to help prevent water damage and salt stains.

Here’s an easy way to tell if MooBuzz is right for you.

Infographic - how to decide if you should use MooBuzz