Nikwax Leather Tretament
Nikwax Leather Tretament (courtesy, REI)

How can I rescue my boots after a dunking in baby oil?

My friend, not in a proper state of mind, decided it would be funny to completely fill and lather my Gore-Tex hiking boots in baby oil. I'm going on a hiking trip this summer in the Canadian Rockies, and I'm just wondering if these definitely need to be replaced or not. It seems like the oil would wreak havoc on the breathability of the Gore-Tex. Josh Grand Rapids, Michigan

Nikwax Leather Tretament

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Some friend! As your friend apparently likes pranks so much, you should return the favor. Fill his boots with, I dunno, cow dung?

Nikwax Leather Tretament Nikwax Leather Tretament

Anyway, baby oil? What a jerk. First of all, you’re right: It’s seriously apt to interfere with the Gore-Tex liner’s ability to breathe, maybe even turning it into waterproof/non-breathable material. Even worse, in my view, is that it screws up the tanning in the leather (assuming these are mostly or all-leather boots). Baby oil is a pretty light lubricant (it’s mineral oil with some fragrance added) but will still over-soften the leather, much like mink oil would do. So you might find that the leather has turned to something akin to mush.

Anyway, I’m not overly optimistic that this problem can be corrected. If these were my boots, I’d start by soaking them in a bucket with a solution of warm water and Dawn detergent. Dawn is fairly mild and is an excellent surfactant (grease cutter). Soak the boots, scrub them with a soft-bristled brush, air dry, then treat the leather with a real leather conditioner such as Nikwax ($8; Then take the boots for a hike. You’ll know immediately if there are problems. They may well feel too “soft,” and your feet are apt to be sweatier than normal. If either problem manifests itself, chuck the boots, buy new ones, and send your friend the bill.

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From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: courtesy, REI