How to Wash Hiking Boots

How to Wash Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are one of those things that we don’t mind spending a little extra on- whether it be time, effort, or money. They act as a barrier between your feet and the rough outdoors, protecting you from water, wind, cold weather, and more. If you found yourself without them in the woods somewhere trust me-you would miss them dearly.

Your hiking boots are one of the most important pieces of gear you will take with you on a hike, so it’s crucial that you clean and maintain them. A little extra effort now will pay off in the long run by keeping your boots in tip-top shape. We’ll discuss how to wash hiking boots properly since the process isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. By taking every step to protect your boots, you can be sure they’ll be ready when you are.

Let’s go over the key points to make sure that this relatively simple task is completed correctly.

Why wash hiking boots?

Most people think that once they buy a pair of quality, waterproof boots, they never have to worry about cleaning them. However, this is incorrect. Just like any other high-quality product, your hiking boots need to be properly taken care of in order to last. For example, if you owned a Mercedes Benz, would you just let it sit outside and never wash it or change the oil? Certainly not! The same logic applies to your hiking boots.

Just as with your shoes, if you take care of them and regularly clean them, they will last much longer while performing better. Below are a few reasons why cleaning your shoes frequently is important:

  • Don’t let the dirt build up. As you walk through muddy areas, pay attention to the rivets and lugs at the bottom of your shoes — they will fill with dirt quickly if you’re not careful. If you don’t maintain traction, it can become a safety hazard, especially when walking on slippery or uneven terrain.
  • Cracking leather is preventable with some care. Ensure to moisturize regularly, but if wet mud or water sit on the leather for too long, it will begin to crack as it dries up. If this occurs, your shoes slowly become unusable as the cracks worsen over time. To avoid this happening and extend the shelf-life of your shoes, be proactive in taking care of them.
  • Give your hiking boots extra protection by waterproofing them often. Every time you take a step in your shoes, the material cracks open slightly and dirt and other materials can work their way in. If you go too long without cleaning your boots, this build-up will eventually cause the membranes to break or separate from the surface– letting water inside when you wear them next. Check out our easy guide on how to waterproof your boots to get started.
  • Keep your boots looking sharp by regularly cleaning and maintaining them. We all want our boots to look slightly worn, but not too old. Cleaning hiking boots won’t make them look brand new, but it will help them maintain a sharp appearance.

If you are an avid hiker, you understand the importance of a good pair of hiking boots. Not only do they need to look great, but they also have to function well. It is essential to keep your feet cozy and dry on hikes because if you don’t, blisters and other Foot problems will undoubtedly occur and ruin your trip.

When to wash hiking boots?

Given how crucial it is to regularly clean your boots, you might be wondering what “regular” means. Some people might interpret this to mean that every time they take their boots out of the closet and wear them, they need to brush and wash them afterwards.

You don’t need to over-clean your shoes. In fact, too much exposure to a brush and cleaning solutions could break down the leather or material of your boots and cause them to crack eventually. So, it’s best practice to clean your boots every 3-4 uses.

Unless you’re constantly trekking through dangerous and muddy terrain, cleaning your boots every few weeks should suffice. To get rid of any caked-on dirt or mud in between cleanings, simply bang your boots against each other.

Different materials

Most hiking boots are not made from a single material; rather, different sections of the shoe are constructed from various materials. Consequently, this can create complications when you go to clean your boots because some materials inevitably require more upkeep than others. The following list details some of  the most common materials used in constructing hiking shoes:


There are many types of leather: full-grain, split-grain, suede, nubuck leather, etc. This material is often the primary layer of a shoe because it is very durable and water resistant.

Though it may raise the cost of shoes, leather is definitely worth the investment for its endurance and how it looks. Just be careful when cleaning leather- if you do it wrong you could ruin the material. We’ll go over the best way to clean leather in detail later on.

Waterproof membranes

Most waterproof shoes have a synthetic material reinforcement, and the most common one is Gore-Tex. It’s not only durable, but does an excellent job of keeping your feet dry too. When it comes to cleaning, you don’t need conditioner like with leather—it’s that easy!

Synthetic cushioning

Most shoes contain synthetic materials in the interior for insulation and cushioning, which makes them more comfortable to wear and also provides warmth when hiking in colder conditions. However, cleaning this material is a little trickier but not as crucial.

If you are sweating a lot inside your boots, it can make your feet cold and uncomfortable. To clean the boot, make sure not to let it get too wet as it can be difficult to dry. Keep your feet warm by reading our reviews of the best socks.

The soles of your shoes are the most crucial component to clean for safety reasons. If they’re not cleaned and you walk around, you could easily slip and fall. The good news is that rubber soles are very easy to clean and you don’t haveto worry about over cleaning or damaging them.

You should only avoid using sharp objects that might tear the rubber. Otherwise, feel free to dig in and get all the dirt off so you can maximize traction.

How to wash hiking boots

Now that we know the importance of keeping our hiking shoes clean, let’s go over the specific steps required to do so. This guide is mainly for leather hiking boots but can easily be applied to any type of boot material.

  • In order to begin, you will need to collect the following items:
  • A bucket or barrel adequate in size for one shoe
  • Saddle soap or mild dish detergent
  • Water
  • Soft brush—toothbrush or gentle dish brush. It is essential that it doesn’t scratch the leather. something mildly sharp to dig out dirt like a stick or screwdriver .Gather some rags as well.

Remove any excess dirt

In order to clean your boots without damaging them, avoid scrubbing harshly to remove dirt. Instead, bang the shoes together or against a flat surface.

By only cleaning the soles of your shoes, you won’t damage them. Use this method to remove any dirt that is clinging loosely to the shoe. Once you’ve done that, take a rag and delicately go around the exterior of the shoe to break away any dirt stuck on or unwilling to fall off.

Clean out the soles

The next step is to turn the shoes upside down and clear out any dirt and mud from the soles. Unscrew anything that’s left over from the first step too so all you can see is rubber. If you don’t, it defeats the purpose of taking time to clean your shoes in anticipation of wearing them again soon.

If you want your shoes to be truly clean, use a tool like a stick or screwdriver. This will help you reach places that are difficult to get to and remove any mud or dirt that is being stubborn. Once you’ve finished this step, you can move on to the rest of the shoe.

Prepare the soap and clean the shoe

Do not use soap or any other harsh cleaning product on the shoe; it will damage the leather. Fill a bucket with water and mild dish soap, then swirl until sudsy.

This will remove the dirt from your shoe without harming the leather. Get a toothbrush or something similar and wet it under the faucet. Start scrubbing around the whole shoe, using enough pressure to clean it well, but not so much that you scratch it.

Keep your brush dipped in the water as you go around the whole shoe. Make sure each part of the shoe gets wet without saturating any one area. Once you’ve gone around the entire circumference of both shoes, set them down and repeat the process for the second shoe. Wearing the shoe like a glove will stabilizing it and make it easier to reach all parts distinction from other objects or animals).

Let dry and condition

Once you have wash hiking boots, find a warm, dry place for them to finish drying. It is important they are not over-exposed to heat (this can cause the leather to dry out) but that they are also in a well-lit area instead of a dark and damp space like the basement.

Drying your shoes correctly is important to prevent mold growth. If you have machine-washed the inside of your shoe or if it is wet from use, stuff some newspaper inside it to help reduce moisture and promote airflow for faster drying. Never put your shoes in the dryer or use a hair dryer on them as this could damage the fabric.

After the shoes have had a chance to dry, you will want to condition the leather. To do this, purchase a conditioning product overnight which essentially prevents the leather from drying out.

Just take a dry, clean rag and apply a small amount of cream on the leather surface. Rub it in until the cream is fully absorbed – be careful not to use too much as this can change the color of the leather. Don’t forget this step though, as it will help you keep your shoes looking new for longer!

Some common mistakes to look out for

Let’s go over a few things you should avoid doing to your boots if you want them to last. Making any of the following mistakes will shorten their lifespan and force you to spend money on replacements long before necessary:

Not doing it right after

After a taxing hike, the last thing on most people’s minds is to wash hiking boots. However, if you neglect this crucial step, it could result in some serious consequences.

To extend the lifespan of your boots, clean them with this 20-minute method that will also prevent cracking and staining.

Using detergents

As we stated before, always use a mild soap on your shoes. People often think that because they need to get tough stains out, they should use more intense soaps; however, this will damage your shoes significantly if not immediately then over time with repeated washes. If you have a difficult stain, don’t be tempted to break out the heavy-duty soaps—be patient and keep scrubbing with the brush and mild soap. The extra time you spend now will save your shoes in the long run.”

Washing machine

Hiking boots shouldn’t be put in the washing machine like some other shoes because it would ruin the leather. Just don’t do it and you’ll save yourself a lot of money in the long run.

Using heat

If you’re worried about your boots not drying quickly enough, do NOT put them next to the heater or in the oven. The leather will dry out and crack, rendering your shoes useless. If you need the shoes to dry fast, put them next to a fan or somewhere with moving air.

Grab a brush and start cleaning

So, to sum it up, the process isn’t too complicated, but does require a bit more effort than you might have initially expected. Maintaining your equipment is key to making it last as long as possible and work effectively.

Try getting into the habit of regular maintenance so that it becomes second nature. You should at least wash hiking boots when you get home from a hike, and every few hikes do an deeper cleaning with a brush and soap.

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