How To Clean Hiking Boots: 6 Easy Steps, Tips & Advanced Care

how to clean hiking boots

I can confidently tell you that your hiking boots will be two or three times dirtier than your average sneakers! Yep, I sometimes hike too. Hence, I know that cleaning your hiking shoes would require a lot more effort.

Fortunately, hiking boots are far more durable and stronger than normal sneakers. Plus, most of them aren’t as valuable, seeing as their sole purpose is to be used for hiking and not for collecting!

Nevertheless, knowing how to clean hiking boots properly is an important part of the hiking hobby. So, here we go!

I. Hiking Boots Cleaning Kit

Cleaning kit itemFunction
Shoe cleanerA special shoe detergent needed to clean your favorite and precious hiking boots.  
ApronKeeping your shirt clean while washing your boots. 
Premium boot cleaning brushScrub the upper part of your shoes. 
Medium brushClean the boot’s midsole section. 
Standard brush Remove dirt on hiking boot’s outsole section.
Small brush or ToothbrushClean the hard-to-reach and narrow inner part of the boot.
Microfiber clothWipe the boot from dirt and stains.
Shoe treeMaintain the boot’s basic structure intact.
ContainerStore water that will be mixed with Shoe Perfume to generate a certain odor for the boots.

II. 6 Easiest Steps Of How to Clean Hiking Boots

Source: ArthurHidden on Freepik

Here is how I usually wash my hiking boots by hand after breaking trails and adventuring in the mud and dirt! You should follow the step carefully and put effort into it for a satisfying end result.

Step 1: Prepare the necessary items and tools needed to clean your hiking boots:

Prepare the Shoecleaner, apron, Premium Brush, Medium Brush, Standard Brush, Small Brush, Microfiber Cloth, two pieces of Shoe Tree, and a container to store water and ShoePerfume.

Step 2: Remove the laces from the boots:

Before proceeding to clean the boots, make sure that you have removed the laces from the boots. Then, soak them inside a bucket of water mixed with the Shoe Cleaner detergent. 

Step 3: Wash Your Boots Sole:

Use a standard brush to clean the sole. It’s essential to use a strong brush to wipe all the mud and dirt from your boot’s gap. In my experience, this step can be tricky, especially if you’ve just come home from an extreme hike.

Step 4: Wash the Outer and Inner Parts of the Upper Boots 

Use the Premium Brush to clean the outer part of the upper boots. For a great output, you can consider using a mixture of water and Shoe Cleaner detergent. 
Use a small brush or toothpaste for the inner part of the upper boots. The inner parts will prove to be a little bit challenging due to their narrow nature!
If you don’t own a Shoe Cleaner detergent, use water. Just wipe them with a microfiber cloth after letting water flow throughout the boot. 
I have tried this alternative method to clean the outer part of the upper boots. and it works just fine in a pinch.

Step 5: Drying Process 

After the hiking boots are deemed to be clean enough, you can proceed to dry them off by fanning them or letting them somewhere hot without direct contact with the sunlight.
Sunlight can damage the boot’s paint job and make the colors fade, so avoid that! I really recommend that you dry your booth thoroughly. Otherwise, they’ll get smelly and attract bacteria.
If your shoes are wet and not hygienic, it may increase the chance of you contracting trench foot disease. That’d not be good for us hikers!

Step 6: Finishing 

As soon as the boots are clean, put the laces back on, and the boots are ready for another adventure!

III. The Do and Don’ts When You Clean Your Hiking Boots

Washing the boots by letting water flow through them. Don’t clean the boots with a strong soap, as it can make the waterproof feature of your boots get broken. 
Using the right soap that won’t damage the waterproof feature of your boots.Don’t use any detergent or bar soap
Using the right cleaning tools in order to prevent any damage to the boots. Never put your shoes under direct contact with the sunlight 

IV. Advanced Stain Removal

Source: Freepik

1. For Oil Stain

Blot Excess Oil: Use paper towels or a clean cloth to gently blot (not rub) the stain. This will help absorb as much of the oil as possible.
Apply Absorbent Material: Sprinkle a generous amount of cornstarch or baking soda directly onto the oil stain. They will help absorb the remaining oil.
Let it Sit: Leave the cornstarch or baking soda on the stain for at least 15-30 minutes, allowing it to absorb the oil.
Brush Off the Absorbent Material: After the waiting period, use a soft-bristle brush or an old toothbrush to gently brush off the cornstarch or baking soda.
Prepare a Detergent Solution: Mix a solution of warm water and a few drops of dishwashing detergent or laundry detergent.
Apply the Detergent Solution: Dampen a clean cloth with the detergent solution. Gently blot and scrub the stained area with the cloth.
Rinse: Use a different clean cloth dampened with plain warm water to wipe away the detergent residue.
Air Dry: Allow your boots to air dry naturally. Do not use direct heat sources like hairdryers or radiators, as they can damage the material.
Prevention Tips: To prevent future oil stains, consider applying a stain repellent or waterproofing spray to your boots.

2. For Mold Stain

Ensure Safety: Wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from mold spores.
Brush Off Loose Mold: Use a soft brush to gently remove any loose mold from the boots. Do this outdoors to prevent mold spores from spreading inside.
Mix a Cleaning Solution: Combine equal parts water and white vinegar in a bowl or spray bottle. Vinegar is effective at killing mold.
Apply the Solution: Dampen a clean cloth with the vinegar solution and gently wipe the moldy areas on the boots.
Scrub Gently: For stubborn mold, use a soft brush to scrub the affected areas.
Rinse and Dry: Dampen another cloth with clean water and wipe the boots to remove any vinegar residue. Let the boots air dry completely.
Storage Tips: Store your boots in a cool, dry place, and consider using cedar shoe trees to absorb moisture and prevent mold growth.

3. For Sap Stain

Freeze the Sap: Place the affected boots in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. Leave them for several hours or overnight to freeze the sap.
Scrape Off Frozen Sap: Once the sap is frozen, carefully scrape it off using a plastic scraper or the edge of a credit card. Be gentle to avoid damaging the boot’s surface.
Clean Residue: If there is any remaining sap residue, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth and gently rub the affected area.
Wash and Dry: Wipe the boots with a damp cloth to remove any alcohol residue, then let them air dry at room temperature.
Condition and Protect: After the boots are dry, apply a suitable conditioner or protector to maintain their quality.

V. Boots Inner Health

Step 1: Remove Your Boots

Take off your boots and remove any boot inserts or insoles.

Step 2: Allow Boots to Air Out

Let your boots sit in a well-ventilated area for a few hours to allow any moisture or sweat to evaporate.

Step 3: Shake Out Debris

Hold your boots upside down and give them a gentle shake to remove loose dirt, debris, and dust from the inside.

Step 4: Brush or Wipe the Interior

Use a soft brush or a clean cloth to gently wipe away any remaining dirt or debris from the inner lining of your boots.

Step 5: Remove Insoles and Clean

f your boots have removable insoles, take them out. In case the insoles are dirty or have an odor, wash them separately with mild soap and warm water. Allow the insoles to air dry completely before putting them back into your boots.

Step 6: Address Odor

If your boots have developed an odor, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda inside each boot. Leave the baking soda in the boots overnight to absorb odors. Shake out or brush away the baking soda the next day.

Step 7: Maintain Good Hygiene

Wear clean socks with your boots to minimize odor and moisture buildup. Change your socks regularly, especially if your feet tend to sweat.

Step 8: Store Properly

When not in use, store your boots in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

Step 9: Periodic Cleaning (for Leather Lining)

In case the inner lining of your boots is leather, you can occasionally clean it with a mild leather cleaner and a damp cloth.

VI. DIY Cleaning Solutions

Source: Freepik

1. DIY Leather Boot Cleaning Solution

Warm waterAs a base of the cleaning solution and helps to loosen dirt and grime from the leather surface.
Mild liquid dish soap (or leather-specific cleaner)Cleaning agent that breaks down and removes dirt, stains, and oils from the leather.
Olive oilServes as a moisturizing and protective agent.
Two clean, soft sponges or clothesApply the cleaning solution, wiping away dirt, rinsing, and applying the conditioner.

Step-By-Step Guide:

Mix a Cleaning Solution: In a bowl, combine one cup of warm water with a 1-2 teaspoons of mild liquid dish soap or a leather-specific cleaner. Avoid using harsh detergents or chemicals.
Dampen a Cloth or Sponge: Dip one of the soft cloths or sponges into the cleaning solution, wring out excess liquid so it’s damp but not soaking wet.
Clean the Boots: Gently wipe down the surface of the leather boots with the damp cloth or sponge.
Rinse: Dampen the second cloth or sponge with clean water and wipe away any soap residue from the boots.
Air Dry Naturally: Allow the boots to air dry naturally. Avoid exposing them to direct heat sources like radiators or hairdryers, as this can damage the leather.
Condition: Once your boots are completely dry, apply a small amount of olive oil to a clean cloth. Rub the cloth over the boots to moisturize and protect the leather.

2. DIY Fabric or Suede Boot Cleaning Solution

WaterAs the solvent in the cleaning solution.
White vinegarActs as a mild cleaner and stain remover.
Soft-bristle brush or suede brushUsed to brush off loose dirt, debris, and surface stains from the boots.
Clean, soft clothDampened with the vinegar and water solution and used to blot and clean stained or soiled areas of the boots.
Baking sodaAbsorbs and neutralizes odors, helping to keep the boots fresh.

Step-By-Step Guide:

Mix a Cleaning Solution: In a bowl, mix equal parts white vinegar and water to create a mild cleaning solution.
Brush Off Dirt: Use a soft-bristle brush or a suede brush to gently brush away any loose dirt or debris from the suede or fabric boots.
Apply the Cleaning Solution: Dampen a clean cloth with the vinegar and water solution. Blot (don’t rub) the stained or soiled areas of the boots with the damp cloth.
Rinse: Dampen another clean cloth with plain water and use it to wipe away any vinegar residue from the boots.
Dry: Allow the boots to air dry naturally, away from direct heat sources.
Restore Suede Nap: After the boots have dried, use a suede brush to gently restore the nap (the soft texture) of the suede.
Odor Removal: Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda inside them and let it sit overnight. Shake out the baking soda the next day.

VII. Post-Cleaning Maintenance of your Hiking Boots

Source: Instagram/hookheritage

As a seasoned hiker, I’ve learned that taking good care of your hiking boots is essential to make them last longer. Here are some tips that I’ve found to be effective in extending the lifespan of my hiking boots:

1. Break in your boots properly

I recommend wearing them around the house or on shorter hikes to help the boots conform to your feet, providing optimal comfort and durability.

2. Clean and dry your boots after each hike

After each hike, I always make sure to clean and dry my boots thoroughly. Dirt, mud, and water can damage the material, so it’s essential to remove any debris and dry them completely. I recommend using a soft brush to clean them gently and avoiding harsh cleaners that can damage the material.

3. Treat your boots with waterproofing spray

To keep your boots dry and prevent water from seeping in, treating your boots with waterproofing spray is crucial. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and reapply the spray periodically.

4. Store your boots properly

Storing your boots properly is another key aspect of extending their lifespan. I recommend keeping them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can damage the material.

5. Replace worn-out parts

Replacing worn-out parts is also essential in prolonging the lifespan of your hiking boots. The sole, laces, and insoles can all become damaged over time, so consider replacing any worn-out parts to help your boots last longer.

6. Rotate your boots

Lastly, rotating your boots is another way to make them last longer. Using your hiking boots regularly can wear them down quickly, so I recommend rotating them with another pair of shoes to give them time to rest and recover between hikes.

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VIII. Question and Answers

1. How often should you clean hiking boots? 

Avoid cleaning your hiking boots too often, even if you’re using the shoes regularly. A great trick will be to clean them if there’s a long window in which you’re not using the boots. 

2. How do you take care of hiking shoes?

There are a lot of ways to take care of hiking boots. The most important thing is to not let them be dirty or stinky. Clean them if you have spare time, but make sure that all the material won’t get damaged in the process. 

3. How do you wash the inside of hiking boots?

The inner part of hiking boots might be a little bit tricky, as they are small and narrow. However, it can be solved simply by using a small brush or toothpaste!

4. How do you clean smelly hiking boots?

To clean smelly hiking boots, you need to wash them first. Normally, it would be the inner part of your boots. Then, give a fair amount of shoe perfume to eliminate bad odor inside the shoes. 

5. How do I clean waterproof shoes or boots?

You can follow the tips that I’ve highlighted above. However, you should avoid using abrasive cleaning solutions like toothpaste or other strong chemicals. You also need to brush gently and wipe it lightly. Do not forget to respray your boots with a waterproofing spray after you’ve finished the cleaning process.

IX. Conclusion

Due to their functions, hiking boots need to be cleaned thoroughly and regularly. No matter what type of hiking boots you have, they can be cleaned with the same tools that you can find at home. The only thing that matters is to clean them carefully in order to prevent any damage to the boots.