How To Clean Hiking Boots: The Ultimate Guide In 6 Steps

Hiking boots are specially designed to withstand the rigors of rough, muddy, gritty, and dusty paths. That is not to say that chucking your mucky buddies in the closet or even into a washing to clean them is a good idea.

Cleaning them properly after each walk will make them gleam for the next hike and extend their lifespan.

In this detailed guide, we’ll walk you through the procedures of how to clean hiking boots, starting with the preparation, cleaning the boots, and then drying and storing them.

How Often Should You Clean Your Hiking Boots?

You should aim to clean your hiking boots after each use. Cleaning these boots after each hike may seem time-consuming, but the stress and time are well worth it.

Your hiking boots will become damp with sweat and caked in mud, sand, and grit. If you do not take the time to clean this off regularly, the following may occur with your boots.

Dirt and sweat may penetrate the fabric of your boots. This makes future cleaning more difficult. Your boots may deteriorate more quickly and lose their waterproofing ability.

If your hiking boots are made of leather, these materials (mud, grit, and sand) can cause the leather to dry out and crack.

Fortunately, cleaning your hiking boots does not require a lot of time, effort, or equipment and saves you money in the long run by extending the lifespan of your boots.

What Equipment Do You Need for a Good Cleaning?

Cleaning a pair of boots does not require much. Here are some tools you want to have to make boot cleaning easy:

  • Brushes: You can purchase a boot brush at a neighborhood store. However, an old vegetable brush or toothbrush can also be used. These brushes are also effective.
  • Cleaner: This is typically a solvent that is used to increase the solubility of dirt in the water. You can obtain boot cleaners at retail stores. If you’re going to use a boot cleaner, make sure it’s made specifically for the material of your hiking boots.
  • Dishwashing soap: Avoid using bar soap or detergents on leather and waterproof membranes.
  • Waterproofing spray
  • For leather boots only: Conditioner
  • A basin or tub filled with warm water
  • Paper or hand towels

How Do You Get Your Hiking Boots Clean?

Once we’ve gathered all of the necessary cleaning materials, we’re ready to begin the actual process of getting our boots sparkling.

1. Start With the Laces and Insoles

To begin, remove the laces and insoles. This will make cleaning the details of your boots much easier. Wash the laces in warm water with a small amount of dish soap, rinse with clean water, and lay them out to dry.

2. Remove Large Pieces of Dirt

If your boots are extremely muddy, attempt to remove most of the dirt before using your brush or immersing them in water. What is the best method for accomplishing this? Slam those boots together! Don’t worry; they can take it.

Remove as much mud as possible using brute force before switching to a good brush. This enables the bristles of the brush to remove any remaining dirt effortlessly.

Additionally, slamming the boots together can remove plant matter and small rocks. Following that, you can use your boot brush (or an old toothbrush) to remove the mud deposits.

To avoid tracking mud into your home, you could perform this task outside in the driveway or over the sink.

3. Scrubbing Your Hiking Boots

At this point, you can clean your boots with your boot cleaner or with warm water and mild dish soap, depending on the material your hiking boots are made of.

For synthetic boots:

  • Fill a sink or basin halfway with warm water and add a few drops of dish soap.
  • After dipping your boots in water, scrub them gently with the boot brush or a cloth. You can also wash the inside of synthetic boots by immersing the entire boot in water, allowing it to fill up, emptying it, and then using the brush or cloth on the interior as well.
  • Scrub with a soft cloth or a soft-bristled brush for particularly stubborn stains.
  • When you’re finished scrubbing, rinse the cloth under warm water to remove any remaining soap residue. Alternatively, you can simply grab a new damp cloth.
  • Wipe the boots clean with a wet cloth. When the cloth becomes soapy, rinse it thoroughly under running water and squeeze out the excess water. Continue wiping the boots until all soap has been removed.

For leather boots:

You do not want to submerge your leather hiking boots in water.

  • To begin, you must avoid allowing the interior of your leather boots to become excessively wet. Wrap a towel around your hand and place it inside the boot to keep the interior dry.
  • Turn on the faucet and run lukewarm water over your boots.
  • Squeeze some leather hiking boot cleaner into the boot and scrub the outer edges gently with a soft cloth.
  • You should thoroughly rinse the cleaner away.
  • If the insides of your boots also require cleaning, use a damp sponge or soft cloth to wipe them down.

4. Waterproofing

It is recommended that you waterproof your hiking boots immediately following cleaning while they are still wet. After cleaning, the pores on the surface of hide-based boots such as leather and suede will open, increasing their water absorption capacity. The purpose of waterproofing is to close these open pores.

  • Apply the waterproofing spray designed specifically for your hiking boots. Additionally, wax can be used to waterproof and moisturize the boots.
  • Use the waterproofing agent according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • If available in spray form, make sure you spray as evenly as possible.
  • However, some of them come in wax form. So you need to rub the product in with a soft cloth.

To keep your boots in good condition, spray or wax them the day before hiking. It reduces the amount of moisture that may seep into the boot material.

5. Drying

Once your boots have been cleaned and re-waterproofed, it’s time to let them dry.

These are some of the steps you should take to ensure that your boots are fully dried in time for your next trail:

  • Separate the insoles and laces and ensure they are completely dry before re-inserting them.
  • Keep the tongues open to ensure that nothing is trapped inside. Additionally, opening the tongues facilitates faster air drying.
  • Arrange your boots in a well-ventilated place at room temperature.
  • Avoid placing your hiking boots near a direct heat source such as the sun, a heater, a fire, or a stove. This can cause damage to the leather and waterproof membrane.
  • To speed up the drying process, you can direct a conventional fan at them or place them on a boot dryer.
  • Stuffing dry paper towels or hand towels inside can assist. You have to check these towels regularly and change them whenever they get soaked.

Once your boots are dry, you are ready to go on the next hike with clean boots.

6. Conditioning

Depending on the type of boots you have, you may need to condition your boots. This step is not necessary for fabric boots. On the other hand, leather, like our skin, can dry out and crack over time and, like our skin, requires moisture.

If your full-grain leather boots appear dry and cracked on the outside, you should condition them. To apply the conditioner, take a quarter-sized amount and rub it in a circular motion onto the boot. Allow the first coat to dry completely before applying a second and, if necessary, a third coat.

How to Store Hiking Boots After Cleaning

Re-lace your hiking boots and reinstall the insoles once they’ve dried completely. To prevent mold from growing in damp boots, let your hiking boots air dry for at least 24 hours before storing them.

Keep your boots in a well-ventilated space at room temperature. Avoid storing boots in sealed containers, attics, or car trunks.

Bonus: Removing Unpleasant Smells

Most odors can be eliminated by simply washing your boots. Please make sure that they are completely dry before storing them.

After cleaning, the boots can develop a musty smell. Wipe on vinegar (20%) dissolved in water to get rid of the smell. You can use baking soda or a commercial solution designed to be sprayed inside the boots to get rid of the stench of sweaty feet.

Replace the insoles with odor-control insoles if the smell continues after a thorough airing out of the insoles.

Conclusion: How to Clean Hiking Boots

There you have it. A step-by-step approach to thoroughly cleaning your hiking boots. Cleaning your hiking boots properly after each trek is critical for maintaining their luster and extending their lifespan.

Last Update: 04. April 2022
About the Author

My name is Thomas, and I love the outdoors. I'm currently living in Germany and I would like to encourage my readers to go outside with this blog. Here you can read more about me.