Five Easy Steps To Clean Hiking Boots
Our guide on how to clean hiking shoes: covers, synthetic and leather boots to help you keep yours in great shape so you can use them for many more hikes.
After a long day of hiking, it’s tempting to just throw your muddy boots in the closet and forget about them until next time. However, doing this can speed up the wear and tear on their materials. Our guide on cleaning hiking boots tells you how to clean synthetic and leather boots so that yours stay in great shape and you can use them for many more trails. In addition, you can read here more about how to clean your hiking backpack.
Yes, hiking boots are meant to get dirty, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean them between hikes. When hiking, your boots get dirty with mud, sand, dirt, and even tree sap. If you don’t take the time to clean this off often, it will get deeper into the fabric of your boots every time you walk. This can speed up the wear and tear on your boots and make them less waterproof. If your hiking boots are made of leather, these substances will also dry out the leather and make it crack. Cleaning your hiking boots doesn’t take much time, energy, or money, and it will save you money in the long run because it will make them last longer.
How often should hiking boots be cleaned?
Even if you don’t think it’s necessary, you should clean your hiking boots whenever you use them.
Even if you don’t think so, you should clean your hiking boots whenever you use them. It seems like it would take a lot of time, but it doesn’t have to. At the end of each hike, if you can walk through wet grass or wade through a puddle or shallow stream, you may not even need a boot brush to get rid of dirt.
At the end of each hike, if you can walk through wet grass or wade through a puddle or shallow stream, you may not even need to use the boot brush to get rid of dirt.
Steps on cleaning synthetic hiking boots
Follow these steps to clean your boots well if they are not made of leather. If you plan to use your boots again the next day, you might want to wipe them down and wait until you have a day off to let them dry completely.
1. Take off the shoelaces and the insoles
Taking out the laces and insoles will make it easier to clean the details of your boots. To clean the laces, rinse them in warm water with a little dish soap and set them out to dry.
You can also wash the insoles by hand with warm water and a little dish soap, then set them out to dry. Sprinkle baking soda on the insoles and set them aside. This will get rid of the smell and dry them out.
2. Clean the mud off your synthetic hiking boots.
If mud is stuck to your boots, use a shoe brush (or an old toothbrush or nail brush) to get the mud off first. You could do this outside in the driveway, garage, or over the sink so that mud doesn’t get all over your house.
mud on the boots
If mud is stuck to your boots, use a shoe brush (an old toothbrush or nail brush will also work) to get the mud off first
3. Wash your hiking boots made of plastic.
Put some dish soap in the sink or basin and fill it with warm water. Dip your boots in water, and then use the boot brush or a cloth to scrub them gently. You can wash the inside of synthetic boots by filling them with water, letting them drain, and then using a brush or cloth on the inside.
When your boots look clean, get a new cloth and wet it. Wipe off the soap with the wet cloth.
4. Make sure your synthetic hiking boots don’t get wet.
If you want to make your hiking boots waterproof again, you should do it while they are still wet and follow the steps in our article on how to waterproof them.
5. Let your man-made hiking boots dry.
Stuff your wet boots with newspaper to soak up the water and let them air dry away from heat sources.
If your boots are only lightly dirty when you get home, you can quickly wipe them with a damp cloth and set them out to dry away from heat sources.
Steps for cleaning leather hiking boots
If your hiking boots are leather, don’t wash them with soap or detergent.
Do not use soap or detergent on your hiking boots if they are made of leather. Instead, you should get a leather hiking boot cleaner and follow these steps:
1. Take off the shoelaces and the insoles
If you need to clean the laces, wash them in warm soapy water. If not, just put them away.
You can wash the insoles by hand with warm water and dish soap and let them dry outside, or you can just use baking soda to eliminate the smell.
2. Sweep away dirt and dust
Dust and dirt outside your boots can be removed with a soft boot brush. If you don’t want to get your house too dirty while cleaning your boots, you can do this outside, over a sink, or in the trash can.
3. Clean your leather boots for hiking
If you only want to wash the outside of your boots, wrap a towel around your hand and put it inside the boot, so the inside doesn’t get wet. Turn on the faucet and run some warm water over your boots to clean them. Put some of the leather hiking boot cleaners on the boot and gently scrub the outside with a soft cloth. Then rinse the cleaner off.
If you also need to clean the inside of your boots, you can use a damp sponge or soft cloth.
muddy hiking boots
Dust and dirt on the outside of your boots can be cleaned with a soft boot brush
4. Keep your leather hiking boots from getting wet.
If you want to make your boots waterproof again, do it while they’re still wet and follow the same steps as synthetic hiking boots.
5. Allow your leather hiking boots to dry.
You can put the towels you used to clean your boots inside while drying or stuff your boots with newspaper. Then, let your boots air dry at room temperature, away from heat sources and direct sunlight. You can speed up the drying process by using a fan.
Hiking Boot Drying and Storage
How to dry hiking boots after you’ve cleaned them
Take out the insoles and let them dry in the air independently.
Dry the boots in a place where the temperature is normal, and the humidity is low.
Do not use a source of heat (fireplace, campfire, wood stove, radiator, heater, etc.). High heat makes glues less strong and ages leather faster.
Use a fan to dry things faster.
You can also put newspaper in the boots to help them dry faster. If the paper gets wet, change it often.
Keep boots in a place where the temperature is steady and normal. Do not put boots in attics, garages, car trunks, or any other place that is damp, hot, or doesn’t have enough airflow.
Taking care of your shoes
Use a conditioner if the full-grain leather on your boots looks dry or cracked. Full-grain leather is leather that looks smooth instead of rough on the outside. Other kinds of leather, like suede and nubuck, don’t need to be treated. If you need to quickly break in your new full-grain leather boots, you can also use a conditioner.
Be careful when you use a conditioner. Leather that is healthy works best when it is moist. But too much conditioner makes boots too soft, which makes them less supportive.
Do not use Mink Oil or other similar oils made for work boots. They make the type of leather used in hiking shoes, which is dry-tanned, and too soft.
Cleaning Hiking Boot Outsoles
Even though mud caked on your boots won’t hurt them, removing it will make them grip better again. Also, keeping the bottoms of your shoes clean won’t move invasive species from one hiking area to another.
Brush the bottoms of the shoes hard to get rid of any stuck pebbles. For dirt that won’t come off, soak just the bottoms and then use a hose to blast it away.
Here are some more tips for cleaning boots:
Even though most shoe cleaners can be used on various materials, you should always double-check that your cleaner is safe to use on your boots and read and follow the directions.
Do not use bar soap or detergents. Many of them have ingredients that can hurt leather or membranes that keep water out.
Mix 80% water and 20% vinegar to remove mold.
After that, you should always wash your boots well with clean water.
You should never put your boots in the washing machine because it can hurt them.
If you want to make your boots water-resistant, you should do it while wet. Most boots are waterproof when you buy them, so you don’t need to waterproof them until you notice that water drops no longer bead up on the surface.
Hiking boots are made to be able to handle muddy dirt trails. But that doesn’t mean you should throw your dirty friends in the closet and forget about them. If you clean them regularly, they will last you a long time on the trail, and you won’t have to buy new ones as soon. If you’re too tired to clean them right after a hike, do it the next day.
If you don’t clean your boots, they wear out in two ways:
When you bend your boots, dirt, grit, or sand particles, work deeper into the leather and fabric, wearing them down like sandpaper.
As the mud dries, it pulls moisture out of the leather. This makes the leather in your boots less flexible and speeds up aging.