How to Use Sandpaper on Leather Boots

By Melissa King

If your leather boots look a bit too new, try distressing them by scrubbing them with sandpaper. The sandpaper won't destroy your boots, but it will give the leather an attractive aged or suede appearance. Distressing the leather also makes it softer and more pliable, so this is a useful technique for breaking in stiff boots.

Female hiker resting on rock, portrait
credit: Mike Powell/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Sandpaper gives leather a distressed look.

Step 1

Stuff the boots with crumpled newspaper, then lace and tie them. This helps them to keep their shape while you work.

Step 2

Fill a spray bottle partway with rubbing alcohol or nail-polish remover. Mist all outer surfaces of the boots to soften the leather.

Step 3

Rub the boots with medium-grit sandpaper using short back-and-forth motions. Focus on the toes, heels and seams of each boot. To distress lightly, apply gentle pressure to the sandpaper. Apply heavier pressure for a more distressed look. As you rub, the leather will take on an aged appearance.

Step 4

Spray the boots with rubbing alcohol or nail-polish remover. Apply clear wax polish to each boot using small circular motions. It is important to note that nail-polish remover and rubbing alcohol may permanently discolor your boots.