What is rubber?
First, let's learn a little about rubber - the main material in rubber rain boots.
Rubber is a natural product obtained from the sap of rubber trees. These trees are grown all over the world and grow well in humid climates. Vast plantations of rubber trees are grown in South America and Asia and many people work in these plantations.
The sap is extracted from the trees and processed to produce vulcanised rubber, which has been specially treated to ensure that it does not bio-degrade as fast as it would normally do.
Since rubber is natural and is not a plastic or synthetic material its life is limited.
In general, it is always important that you always take care of rubber products.
Here are the key cleaning tips:
- Avoid leaving your rubber products in direct sunlight when not in use - ultraviolet light causes rubber to degrade
- Avoid leaving your rubber products in damp wet places (cool and dry is best) - damp conditions encourage mould and other hungry rubber eating, creatures
- Avoid harsh chemicals when cleaning - rubber is often coated with a protective spray, chemicals will wash the protection away
- Clean gently - the surfaces of rubber materials are not designed for abrasive scratching or intense friction
Two-Step Cleaning Procedure
Before you clean your boots, take note of the following two-step procedure:
Step 1: What material are your wellies?
There are three main types of material used for modern Wellington Boots:
- Plastic/wax coated vulcanised rubber
- Plastic/PVC coated canvas
- Neoprene (often coated with a rubber based compound)
The first step when cleaning your boots is to determine which type of material your boots are made of. Read this from the sole of the boots or the label on the inside - or try and search the web for information.
Step 2: Determine the best cleaning solution for your material?
The second step is to choose a cleaning solution and cleaning cloth for that type of surface. We highly recommend you try your cleaning solution on a SMALL AREA, such as the back of the heel before attempting to clean the entire boot. Also, wait at least an hour, examine the small area and observe if there is any damage before continuing to clean the rest of the boot. This is because there may be a slow chemical reaction that is not easily seen. This chemical reaction occurs between the cleaning solution and the protective coating of the boot. The coating can easily be damaged and your boots will lose this protective coating forever and be permanently damaged. We recommend a very gentle clean, using a soft cloth with a very mild soapy solution.
Continuing to look after your Wellington Boots
After you've cleaned your boots, how do you keep them well looked after?
Rubber and sunlight do not go well together. Rubber is a natural product, even if it is vulcanised, so sunlight will still tend to cause the rubber to harden.
Keep in the dark
Protect your wellies by keeping them in the dark. Ensure that they are well ventilated in order to dry and prevent mould from growing inside the boot. A wicker-storage box is a great idea.
Get a shoe bag
Once your wellies are dry store them in a welly bag or in a shoe bag. This will keep them in a dark place. Ensure the shoe bag has holes otherwise slightly damp Wellingtons may end up getting mouldy.
How to dry
Heat will affect the rubber, so do not dry Wellingtons using a heat source other than room temperature.
Bicarbonate of Soda Trick
A bit of bicarbonate of soda inside the boot and around the container is an old trick that will also help dry your smelly wellies and keep them in top condition.
Silicone protects rubber from ultra-violet radiation damage by forming a thin protective layer between the sun and rubber. Wellington Boots usually already have some form of protective chemical covering to protect the rubber. Always test on a small area of your Wellingtons before applying to the whole boot. Do not apply to the base of the boots as Silicone is extremely slippery.
A wellie stand is a perfect item to dry your wellies. These are either wall mounted or sit on the floor in your hallway. Wellington boot stands are wood or iron gadgets that have poles that you put the boots on. The wellies usually sit upside-down, allowing any water to drip out.
Use your hands or a "wellie jack" to remove your wellies when you return from mud-filled expeditions. A wellie jack is a special device you place your Wellington Boot into that holds the base and bottom of the heel to allow you to safely remove your foot from the boot without causing the base to separate from the rest of the boot. You should be gentle when removing your boots as the heel of the boot may separate from the ankle material because these parts are often only glued together.
Things to avoid
Greases, oils, and acids are not good for rubber products in general - wipe off immediately. Certain brands of Wellington Boots are more resistant to chemicals than others. Some brands are made from Neoprene - which is not rubber at all but a synthetic rubber product invented in the 1930's. Neoprene needs special care - use a mild soapy solution and very gentle brushing.
Protecting against sunlight
Use a silicone spray on rubber boots to protect the boots against sunlight, but avoid spraying the soles as this will make them slip when wet. The silicon spray will also add shine to the rubber.
Special Note: Always refer your Wellington Boot manufacturers guidelines as the primary source of care for your shoes.