7 Tips to Help You Weatherproof Your Shoes for Winter

iStock.com/Barringtonhd
iStock.com/Barringtonhd

The rain, ice, snow, and slush of winter—not to mention salted sidewalks and roads—are hard on footwear. But a storm shouldn’t stop you from wearing your favorite kicks. Here are seven tips for weatherproofing your shoes for bad weather.

1. Don’t immediately reach for the waterproofing spray.

While completely waterproofing your shoes may sound like the best option, in reality, it will leave you with very sweaty feet. Waterproofing sprays create a barrier to ensure that nothing can pass through the material—but that also means that your shoes won’t breathe, creating a little pocket of hot, sweaty air around your foot. You probably want to look for something that will make your shoes water-resistant instead. If you’re going to be standing in a puddle for a decent amount of time, just go ahead and wear your rain boots.

2. Pay attention to material.

You’ll need to approach weatherproofing your shoes differently depending on what material they are. Whatever water-repelling spray you choose, read the label to make sure it will work on the pair of shoes you’re using. While waxes work on leather shoes, sprays are better for suede or fabric. Some shoes—namely, patent leather ones—can’t handle water-resistant sprays at all.

You can definitely find water-repelling sprays that will work for most of the shoes in your closet, though. The highly rated Tarrago Hightech Nano Protector spray works for leather, suede, nubuck (the sanded leather often found in work boots), and textiles like velvet. One warning: If the shoes aren’t black or dark brown, make sure to test a bit of the spray on an inconspicuous area of the shoe first, because some sprays can change the color of the material.

3. Clean and condition first.

Before you try to snow-proof your footwear, you want to make sure those shoes are completely clean, whether you’re waterproofing your hiking boots, running shoes, or designer suede. Otherwise, you’ll just be sealing in dirt. You can use a cloth to dust off any debris, then apply a cleaning solution. Some experts recommend using simple dish soap on leather, but you can also get solutions specifically designed for premium shoes, like this one from the sneakerhead-oriented shoecare company Jason Markk. If you’re working with leather shoes, you should use a conditioner to moisturize the leather and keep it from drying out and cracking, applying a layer while the shoe is still wet from cleaning. According to The Wirecutter’s tests, the French-made Saphir Renovateur is the best conditioner on the market. Then, once that whole process is finished, go ahead and apply the protectant spray or wax.

4. Use vinegar to take care of salt stains.

Salt stains happen, but you can mitigate the damage with a little bit of white vinegar. The Spruce recommends a mixture of 1 cup cold water and 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar. Use a white towel or cotton balls to apply the diluted vinegar to salt stains. The acid will dissolve the salt, and the stains will disappear. The technique works best on fresh stains, though, so try to take care of the issue as soon as you can.

5. Get a brush.

Keeping your shoes looking their best is an ongoing process. You should brush grime off your shoes regularly—ideally after every wear. It’s an easy way to remove dirt, mud, and salt before they build up and stain the material. It may seem like a lot of work in the moment, but it will save you time scrubbing at those stains later.

For leather, The Wirecutter recommends the Hanger Project’s medium horsehair brush ($15) for leather shoes, citing its quality construction and high bristle density. You’ll want something a little different for more delicate materials. For fuzzy fabrics like velvet, Racked recommends the very reasonably priced Evercare Magik brush.

6. Pay attention to the seams.

For the most thorough protection against the elements, pay extra attention to where the sole meets the top of the shoe and any other seams where water might get in. Backpackers and outdoorsy types swear by the beeswax-based Sno-Seal. You apply that one with a rag or a gloved hand, so it's easy to dab a bit extra around the seams compared to the rest of the boot.

7. Spray gently.

When using a water-resistant spray, you don’t want to deluge your shoes. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before spraying, but in general, most sprays should be applied at least 8 inches away from the shoe to get a more even application of the product. Let the shoes dry thoroughly before you go out in the elements. How long this weatherproofing lasts will depend on the spray, the shoe material, the weather, and how often you wear your shoes, so again, check the instructions on your particular product to figure out how long your shoes will remain protected from the elements. You may only need to wipe your work boots down with Snow-Seal once a year, for instance, while you probably will have to reapply the Tarrago Nano Protector Spray to your vintage velvet ballet slippers more often.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

5 Ingenious Tricks for Saving Burnt Cookies

"Please bake our brethren on the middle rack next time."
"Please bake our brethren on the middle rack next time."
cnicbc/iStock via Getty Images

It doesn’t take long for cookies to go from an irresistible golden brown to a dispiriting black (especially if you're baking at a high altitude). But before you toss them in the trash and start rummaging around in your pantry for a store-bought snack, we have a few suggestions for saving that imperfect batch.

1. Grate off the burnt bits of cookie with a zester or cheese grater.

As PureWow explains, all you have to do is slide the cookie along your cheese grater to get rid of the burnt layer on the bottom. The smaller the holes, the better, so a lemon zester works well for this, too.

2. Scrape the burned part of the cookie off with a knife.

If you don’t have a cheese grater, you can get the same results with a regular knife—it just might take you an extra minute or two. Instead of slicing off the entire bottom of the cookie, hold your knife blade perpendicular to the bottom of the cookie and carefully scrape away the burnt crumbs.

3. Store the burned cookies in a jar with a piece of bread.

Even after you’ve shaved off the blackened evidence of your culinary blunder, your cookies might still be crispier than you’d prefer. Store them in an airtight container with a slice of bread—they’ll soak up the moisture and soften right up.

4. Make ice cream sandwiches with your burned cookies.

Snobby snackers won’t scoff at your grated cookies if they can’t even see the bottoms. Slather one with a nice, thick layer of ice cream, slap another one on top, and roll the edges in your favorite topping for a treat that’s better than any cookie—burnt or not.

5. Transform your burned cookies into a cookie crust.

For charred, crunchy cookies that seem beyond salvation, you can completely cut off the burnt bottoms, crush the remains, and turn them into a cookie crust for a pie or cheesecake. Here’s a simple recipe from the Pioneer Woman that calls for three ingredients: cookie crumbs, butter, and sugar.