Why Are My Leather Boots Turning White?

Realizing your favorite pair of shoes is aging poorly can be devastating. For example, do you have a pair of leather boots that are turning white, and you have no clue what is happening? How are darker-colored boots turning white? What is the white substance?

Luckily, we've done plenty of research and have the answer for you below!

The white color change to your leather boots can be blamed on the growth of microorganisms (fungus or bacteria) on the surface of your leather. Generally, as leather is exposed to water, oils, and other elements, that can cause the white to appear.

Luckily, you should be able to clean off any white residue from your boots as long as you use a water and vinegar mixture or some leather cleansing product.

As we start this article, we'll dive into why leather boots turn white and give some advice on how to stop this from happening. Whether it's your first pair of leather shoes experiencing a color change, you regularly deal with this, or you have other questions: we're here to help! Let's get right into it.

Why Are My Leather Boots Turning White?

Dirty old boots isolated over white background

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This could mean a few things if you've recently tried on your leather boots and noticed whitening on the surface. First, leather absorbs salt and moisture, so if you're sweating in your shoes: that could be causing the white film.

The same can go for your boots being around the elements, like the beach or something relative. As the water from the air and salt mix on your shoes, that can cause crystallization or a murky white substance to cover your footwear.

On top of that, if your shoes develop a fungus or bacteria, this will cause them to turn white. Since these all tie together, it could be the moisture from your sweat or the outdoors mixing with other environmental conditions.

Luckily, as long as you take swift action, you should be able to save your footwear. Leather is porous, which can make it more challenging to keep up with: so try and be more attentive to it.

Also, wear socks with your leather boots, which can help with sweat transfer.

How Do I Stop My Leather Boots From Turning White?

If your boots have already turned white or are starting to change color, you want to use a cleanser ASAP. According to leather experts, products like "MooBuzz® Natural Leather Protection" should remove the bacteria or fungus blooms from your shoes.

You can also use a mixture of two parts water and one part vinegar for white leather boots. The vinegar will kill and lift the white bacteria/fungi, restoring your shoes to their natural beauty.

Remember not to overuse the vinegar, however, as that can damage your footwear. It's best to be gentle with your products, especially if your leather boots are older.

On top of that, it could be a good idea to start using a leather protectant or waterproofing spray on your shoes to keep bacteria and fungi from making them their new home.

It's always best to store leather boots somewhere cool and dry, which will also help. 

Furthermore, using a bit of heat (like a hairdryer) on your leather can help the oils move back into it, which may stop whitening. Again, this may take some trial and error until you figure out the issue.

We'd say assume it's bacteria or fungus and go from there with your cleaning efforts.

Do Leather Boots Turn White If You Leave Them Outside?

Yes, it is more likely for your leather boots to turn white if they stay outdoors too long. Generally, as the elements play into effect, that can cause oils, salt, moisture, and bacteria/fungi to form on your footwear.

Therefore, letting your leather sit outside overnight or throughout the day can be detrimental. You want to avoid keeping a natural material, like leather, in the sun or somewhere moisture is prevalent.

Even if you're out having fun at a BBQ or riding horses, you want to make sure your shoes come indoors when you're done wearing them.

If not, you risk white blooms forming, which can ruin your leather over time. The best storage for leather goods is somewhere dry and temperature-controlled, so keep that in mind.

Additionally, if you have a closet with shoe racks or want to use bins, those are good places for your footwear. Just make sure there isn't moisture sitting on your boots!

Will Leather Boots Get Ruined If You Leave Them In The Rain?

Close-up of a young couple and their legs how walking on the rain in the city in a hurry manner. Walk, rain, city, relationship

Yes! A common mistake leather owners make is leaving their shoes/accessories outside in the rain. As we covered above, leather is incredibly porous.

Therefore, your boots will quickly absorb the water as the rain falls.

This can cause your shoes to bloat or fill the inside with moisture. Once the storm passes, your boots will try and dry off as fast as they can, often causing dryness to the leather and cracking.

The more often this happens, the faster the leather will age.

If you've ever seen an old, worn-out pair of leather boots: they were probably left outside during a few rainstorms. Again, if you get caught in the rain while wearing your shoes, they won't necessarily be ruined, but try and get inside if possible.

Even work boots or hiking boots can only take so much water and natural elements.

Since leather footwear can be expensive, we recommend keeping your shoes as dry and protected as possible. You'll thank us later.

Should I Wear Leather Boots Hiking? Will That Turn Them White?

One of the more popular ways people use leather boots is to hike. Since leather materials are thick and sturdy, they have become a go-to for nature lovers.

However, is it good to wear your leather footwear on a hike?

Generally, yes. You should be fine to wear your leather boots for hiking and other activities. As we mentioned, you might want to clean them more often if you expose them to the elements, so keep that in mind.

For example, if you purchase a pair of leather boots to hike and think they'll get wet or dirty, use a protective spray or oil before going out.

Applying a water/weather-resistant product on your leather shoes will block oils, salt, water, and bacteria or fungi from penetrating your boots.

That should keep white discoloration at bay. Again, there is always the chance your feet sweating will cause the leather to absorb the water and salt from the inside: hence why we recommend socks.

How Often Should I Clean My Leather Boots?

brown vintage leather boots aligned selective focus

When it comes to the cleaning schedule of leather boots, try and do this once per month. According to most leather professionals, shoes you wear often should get a deep clean every few weeks.

That said, you might need to wipe down your boots each time you go hiking or out in nature. Leather, unlike rubber or synthetic materials, depends greatly on its owner.

You need to clean, moisturize, and dry your shoes to keep them looking fresh. Whether you wear your leather boots to work, school, out on walks, or wherever else: try and clean them monthly.

On the other hand, Heddels mentions that it's also possible to "over-clean" leather boots.

For example, if you apply conditioner or cleanser to your boots every night, you could create a moisture problem. Remember, the more moisture in leather: the more likely bacteria and fungi will develop.

So, in your effort to stop white leather, over-cleaning could cause it to happen.

Do I Need To Condition Leather Shoes?

Although you don't technically have to condition your leather to keep it in good shape, doing this has proven to be helpful long-term. Typically, moisturizing your leather once per month after you clean it will help keep the material supple.

Masterclass suggests conditioning leather apparel up to once a month, giving your leather boots a brand-new, healthy appearance.

They also mention that conditioning your leather boots can strengthen them. When the leather is conditioned and in good health, it will withstand everyday elements and use better.

Therefore, whenever you clean your shoes, it could be worth it also to moisturize them. Of course, you need to use a specialty leather product for this, so that will need to be somewhat specific.

Real Men Style also recommends doing this before wearing your boots at all. They claim if you moisturize and prep them for future wear, that can help keep them looking fresher for longer.

How Long Should Leather Boots Last?

Old work shoes in smoke, Why Are My Leather Boots Turning White 2

In general, your leather footwear should last a few years. Of course, that timeline will depend on how you use your boots and whether or not you maintain them.

Typically, work boots made of leather material will last 6-12 months. That's because you're putting them through immense daily work and weather, which isn't great for them.

However, if you use your leather boots as a fashion accessory, they could last 5+ years.

That all depends on how careful you are with your leather and how proactive you are with the cleaning, conditioning, and other maintenance.

To Wrap It Up

Whether you have leather boots that are turning white or want to keep this from happening, it's always good to know what causes the murky white film.

We found that your leather will turn white if it absorbs too much salt, water, oil, and other natural elements. That can lead to fungi or bacteria blooms on your shoes, giving them a white appearance.

To clean this, try and use vinegar and water or a specialty leather-cleansing solution. The drier you keep your shoes, the better they'll age!

While we have you, check out these related leather articles below:

Why Are My Leather Boots Peeling? [And What To Do About It]

How To Clean Waterproof Leather Boots [In 3 Easy Steps!]

Brown Leather Turning Black – What's Wrong?

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