Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gear Review: Doc Martens Dubbin Polish for Boots

I know what you're thinking.  Doc Martens. England.  And....well....

But, this blog post is only about taking care of your boots.   I've written passionately about my Danner Mountain Lights ($320) time and time again on this blog, and even how to heat-wax them (highly recommended).   My other two primary pairs of boots are Danner Sierra Upland Boots ($320) as a back-up pair to my Mountain Lights, and Doc Martens 1490s ($140) for wear in the city on wet and snowy days.   Unless you don't pay for your own boots, you absolutely must take care of them.  If they are leather, wax is where you start.

I was ordering a new set of laces for my Docs and saw on the Doc Martens USA website that they are also selling leather care products as well (a no-brainer, since almost all of their boots are shiny leather, extra-shiny leather, or patent leather).   I did a little homework and saw that the most utilitarian wax in their product line appeared to be their Dubbin Polish.  When the package arrived, I was pretty pleased with how clean and simple the packaging was.  Good stuff.  (Deep inhale)....good branding.

Dubbin (Dubbing) wax has the long and tedious history that one might expect of any traditional product made of natural ingredients.  Uses of dubbin wax range from fly-tying assistant to toilet wax rings, and I reckon that "boot waterproofer" fits nicely inbetween those two extremes.   I honestly wondered if Doc Martens Dubbin Polish, designed to waterproof leather boots in the cold, wet, and dirty streets of London, would offer serious protection to not just my Docs, but my work boots as well.  Before waxing:

After waxing:

Doc Martens Dubbin Polish went on thick and tacky.  This is not a wax for dress boots.  It worked easily into the pores of three different types of leather and moved quickly across dry leather at room temperature.  But - it's very tacky - much more so than typical boot waxes.   It also tends to disappear quite quickly:

I've had a chance to wear all three pairs of boots in the mud, snow, and rain since I waxed them.  On both pairs of Danners, I was amused/disappointed at how long the wax stayed tacky - I ended up with tiny bits of leaves on the toe boxes of both boots.  That was not the case with my Docs, which I wore twice in the City, in the snow, with what appears to be no impact to the initial finish from the wax.

The downside to using such a durable wax, aside from the leaf-collecting that I mentioned above, is that it's easy to get random, lasting spots and stains on your boots because bits of dirt and grime will simply just remain attached.  In the case of my Danners, both of which have seen over 1,000 miles of hiking/surveying/ working/hunting, nobody would even know if there was a spot on my boot, and hell, a spot probably means a good story.  On my Docs, well, honestly I don't want to re-polish and re-lace them any time soon, so I will just make sure to wipe them down after they get wet.  Hopefully that will extend the lifespan of the recent waxing.

Here they all are, below, after about a solid week of being worn during work (Danners) and life in the City (Docs).  Each pair has been worn in rain and snow (tough week).

While I haven't used other Dubbing Waxes on my boots and cannot offer a comparison between brands, I'm pleased with Doc Martens Dubbin Polish and will probably purchase it again in the future.  Five bucks (and free shipping) gets you about four waxing's worth of polish, but honestly, out of curiosity, I'd go ahead and get a big tin of the Wonder Balsam for another nine bucks.   Need heavy duty wax? Doc Martens Dubbin Polish might be just the thing for you.


Anonymous said...

I find that if I wipe the boots down with a very slightly damp cloth, let them dry a bit and then put slightly warmed up dubbin on - polishing a little. Letting it dry (10 min) and then buffing with a slightly course-ish cloth before the soft cloth - you get shine.
But I do avoid the stitching as I feel it's not good for it. But a nice similar product which does not hurt the stitching ans is applied in the same way is Snoseal - wonder if its still available.

Kirk Mantay said...

Snoseal *is* still available and it's my go-to polish. It's tacky and gross but for my work boots that get dunked daily, it works just fine.

Also check my post on heat-waxing boots, if you search "river mud heat wax" it should come up. Thanks for stopping by!

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