Cleaning your wellies is often an over-looked part of welly ownership, but proper care of your boots can lead to extended life and the prevention of cracks and leaks.
To learn how to care for your wellies, we need to have a brief understanding of how they are made. Natural rubber boots are constructed from rubber in its raw form and then “vulcanised” to harden the rubber and form wellies that you can wear. Polyurethane wellies are made by injecting a dense, two-part, polyurethane foam into a solid mould. Both methods produce waterproof and comfortable boots, but the care requirements do vary between the two methods.
Why do wellies crack and split?
There are a number of reasons why wellies can split but the most common issues are with older or neglected wellies. Rubber boots can suffer from something called “chain hardening” which is where oxidants, heat and sunlight cause rubber molecules to form new bonds and become stiff. This lack of flexibility then causes your boots to crack when they no longer move as your foot does. The most likely points for cracking are around the toes and ankle.
Think of your rubber wellies as a little bit like baking a cake. Once they’ve been baked and hardened, you want to keep them as supple and soft as possible.
1. Taking your wellies off the right way
Pulling your wellies off using a step or the toe of the other boot might feel convenient, but unless your boots have integrated kick spurs, repeated removal of your boots in this way can lead to the sole separating from the heel of the boot. A better alternative is to bend and grip your wellies by the ankle then pull. The best and easiest method however, is to invest in a “boot jack” that wedges your boots in as you remove them, to avoid stressing any joint lines.
2. Keep your wellies clean
It might seem obvious but rinsing your boots off after each wear will go a long way to keeping them lasting for years. Farming customers particularly will see the benefits to rinsing dairy chemicals and manure off boots at the end of the day. Mud, soil and manure can accelerate the hardening of natural rubber on a molecular level, leading to your rubber boots cracking. Polyurethane boots have a smooth outer surface that once broken down, allows moisture to penetrate the foam construction inside.
3. Cleaning zips, buckles and laces
If your boots have zips buckles or laces, it’s important to keep them free of muck too so they’re always ready to use. Zips can be lubricated with a silicone boot spray to keep them running smoothly - just be careful to keep the spray away from any leather on more expensive boots. With zips specifically, boots should be cleaned and stored with zips done up to their top to avoid getting water inside the boot and help prevent sagging.
4. How to dry wellies correctly
Wellies don’t like extremes of temperature, so drying them in front of the fire or leaving them outside in the freezing cold can lead to cracking and splitting. Dry your wellies in a room-temperature, well ventilated space indoors.
5. Treat Your rubber boots
Once clean, treat your rubber wellies with a silicone spray or silicone lubricant to provide a protective barrier against water and air from penetrating the rubber compound of your boots. Using a silicone spray on your boots displaces the various elements that can lead to your boots hardening and splitting. For polyurethane boots, simply cleaning and keeping your boots dry will extend their life. Additional products can lead to the breakdown of the PU foam that makes up your wellies.
6. Keep your wellies inside
Your wellies will spend their life outside in all conditions but by keeping them outside even when not in use, you expose your boots to excessive sunlight and UV. UV accelerates the hardening of your rubber boots and will significantly reduce their lifespan. To help keep your boots in good condition for longer, store them inside away from windows to prevent sunlight from damaging them.
7. Take your trousers off
Bear with us on this one
We’ve seen countless numbers of wellies perish around the tops of the feet and around the ankles. This typically affects polyurethane wellies more than rubber but it all comes down to how you store your waterproof trousers. If like a lot of people, you keep your boots and waterproof trousers wrapped together overnight, you keep any moisture on your boots and trousers in constant contact with each other. Without giving your boots chance to dry out, the materials “rot” and turn porous very quickly, characterised by a crazed and cracked appearance around the ankles. To prevent this happening, always take your trousers off your boots when storing them.
8. The right boot to get the job done
Make sure your wellies are going to keep up with you. Don’t expect a cheap pair of wellies to cope with a 15-mile hike, or a non-safety welly protecting your toes from a cow standing on you. Some wellies are better for walking, some are better for cold protection, some are better for all-day hard work. Using the right boot for the right task will prevent premature wear.
9. Sizing is important
Your boot’s sizing is really important, more so for wellies than most footwear. If your boots are too big, they’re going to be loose and slip while you walk. This can cause blisters and premature wear of the heel lining. If you’ve opted for neoprene wellies, this gets really uncomfortable when the lining wears through to the rubber. Make sure your boots don’t slip while walking. Check our handy wellington boot size guide here.
10. Use a boot bag
Keeping your wellies in a boot bag helps regulate their temperature and prevent cracking and discolouration. Storing for long periods in direct sunlight is also bad for the rubber in your boots, so a good boot bag will help here too.
You can always call the team here at Abbeydale Direct for advice and support on 01335 347788, or contact us here.
Check the features of all our wellies our welly features guide here.