Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Dubbin: does it actually work?

All this year I've been having problems with my boots leaking, leaving me with wet socks.

Last winter I wore the last of my wonderful plastic boots - they stopped making them after one year, but they were brilliant, made with the lower part of solid moulded plastic, ie completely waterproof, fur lined for super warmth, and with a steel instep so you could still use a spade without hurting the underside of your foot.

They even fastened with velcro!

But after a month or so of wear, they cracked at that point where the foot bends. I sent back the first pair and received a replacement: they also went in the same place, then they were withdrawn. I found some for sale on Ebay, bought them, wore them until they cracked: I even found some amazing waterproof gluey stuff which would hold the cracks together for another couple of weeks before cracking again.

Sadly, regretfully, I finally threw away the last pair, and I am hoping to find something similar but better for this coming winter.  They are now selling "fashion" versions of these boots everywhere, but of course they lack the steel insole, the furry lining, and I bet they wouldn't stand up to any degree of hard use.

In the meantime I have been back to "summer" leather boots, but it's been such a wet year that I've had as much trouble with wet socks through the summer as I normally do in winter.  I find that the leather boots are fine for an hour or two, as they soak up the water,  then it works through and I get wet socks. Usually, in a normal summer, the worst that happens is that by lunchtime my boots are at the "soaked" stage, so I wear a different pair for the afternoon, letting them dry out alternately.

But this summer, it's been too wet, and I've been getting wet toes.

I tried Nikwax: applied it exactly as per the instructions, tried the one for leather, and the one for nu-buck, as I don't actually know which type of leather my boots are made of.

Neither of them made any difference at all.

So I bought some old-fashioned Dubbin from the old-fashioned shoe shop (average price of shoes for gents: £170. And we are so not talking Jimmy Choo here) and applied that as per instructions.

I found that for the first hour or so, the water "beaded" on the surface, which was excellent: but by mid-morning it was soaking through again, leading to wet socks. Plus I would have to re-apply the dubbin every day. This was a bit of a disappointment, on both counts.

The other day I tried dubbin on one boot, and cheap old vaseline on the other. Here we are, one hour into the test, both feet looking identical:

As you can see, excellent "beading" but the fabric of the boot is darkening.

And by lunchtime I had one wet sock - on the dubbin-ed foot.  So on balance, vaseline is possibly slightly more effective, and a tiny, tiny fraction of the price.

If anyone can tell me a better way to way to waterproof these leather boots, please, please comment!

Mind you, I have to say that I've never had such soft, supple boots....


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  1. those boots look hungry! try dubbin and then putting boots in a warm oven to open the pores and help it sink in , repeat 2/3 or 4 times till the creasing where the foot bends is wrinkled thicker , like when you get out the bath skins wrinkles are chunkier if you get me :)

  2. Ah, I tried all that: various websites suggested using a hairdryer to soften the dubbin; leaving in warm place overnight; rubbing in with the back of a spoon heated over a candle; blah blah blah, nothing worked any better than a simple slick of vaseline five minutes before leaving the house.

    And nothing worked for longer than an hour or two.

    I came to the (sensible) conclusion that if heat were necessary, it would say so on the tin. After all, the manufacturers WANT their product to work, don't they?

    If anyone has any other suggestions for waterproofing boots, do please let me know!!

    1. Well if you want a heavier waterproofer, mind I suggest sno seal. It'll take a lot of soap and water to clean the leather prior application though, for deep penetrations.

      Obenauf is another choice. It'll actually keep the leather soft and supple as well.

      Don't forget to drench the product on the welt and seams areas.


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