How To Clean Hiking Boots (Step By Step Guide)

The humble hiking boot is sturdy, rugged and uncompromising. Whether splashing through streams, powering up mountains or meandering through woodland, a high quality walking shoe always gets the job done.

​Even when hiking boots no longer look pretty, they’re putting in a high octane performance. They need cyclical care to remain in top condition and to keep protecting your feet from mud, rain, cold temperatures, rocky terrain and more.

​After every outdoor excursion or adventure, cleaning your hiking boots should be a priority. With our handy tips, it’s a simple task and, most importantly, it’ll ensure the health of your shoes for a long time to come.

1. Remove Loose Dirt and Debris

​Before you head indoors, try to remove as much loose dirt and debris from the boots as possible. You can do this by stamping your feet, tapping the heels on a kerb or dislodging any caked on mud with your hands. The more dirt you can remove at this stage, the easier your boots will be to clean later.

​2. Scrub with an Old Toothbrush

The best tool for removing stubborn patches of mud is an old, unused toothbrush. Get it wet and use it to scrub at stains and caked on dirt. If you’ve got it, apply a dedicated footwear cleaning solution such as Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel or Granger’s Footwear Cleaner.

Add it to your toothbrush and scrub around the lace eyelets and any cracks or crevices. While it’s okay to get hiking boots wet, we advise against submerging them in water. If the laces are very dirty, consider removing them and washing them separately.

​3. Rinse with Warm Water

Once you’ve scrubbed the outside of your boots, rinse them gently in warm water. Again, try not to fully submerge them. Hold them briefly under the tap, turning them in your hands to wash away all the grime you’ve just dislodged.

If you’re worried about getting the interiors wet, stuff your boots with paper towels before rinsing. This will soak up excess water and stop the insides from getting too damp. It speeds up drying later and prevents unpleasant odors.

​4. Neutralise Stinky Insoles 

It’s normal for well used hiking boots to get a little stinky. If there’s a pong coming from your shoes, remove the insoles (most hiking shoes have detachable insoles). Repeat the cleaning process – scrub the interior with a toothbrush – but use less water this time.

One clever trick is to pour several tablespoons of baking powder into each boot. Then, leave the shoes to dry naturally in an airing cupboard or above a low radiator. Once completely dry, any unpleasant smells should be gone. If odors linger, you can repeat this step as many times as needed.

Hand wash the shoes’ insoles in warm water. Add a small amount of dish soap and use your fingers to work out dirt and grime. Rinse in cold water and dry thoroughly.

​5. Keep the Shoes in a Warm, Dry Place

You should never use artificial heat (such as a hairdryer) after cleaning your hiking boots. You risk damaging the outer surface and any protective layers on the outside. Always allow shoes to dry naturally, even if takes a long time. It may take up to twenty four hours.

When using a radiator or space heater for drying, leave it on a low setting. Place your boots above (but not touching) the heated surface.

​6. Treat with a Conditioning Spray

Once your hiking boots are completely dry, consider applying a conditioning treatment. It’s particularly important for leather as it prevents the fabric from hardening and developing cracks. If your boots are designed to be waterproof, they’ll need to be periodically protected with a waterproofing agent.

There are many different proofing sprays on the market, and most are easy to use. They work by fortifying the outer surface of hiking boots to reduce permeability while still retaining a necessary degree of breathability.

Apply proofing spray from a distance of 10-15cm. Make sure to cover the entire hiking boot, hiking sandal including seams. Dab away any excess liquid with a clean, dry cloth. Leave to air dry in a warm environment but out of direct sunlight.

​Why Cleaning Your Hiking Boots Is So Important

​Hiking boots are designed to endure. They’re specially made to resist harsh temperatures, tough terrains and trying conditions. However, they’re not invincible. Over time, protective sealants and coatings start to wear away.

​Final Verdict

​Mud, grime and moisture can accelerate this degradation so cleaning your hiking boots is an important part of extending their life. While it can feel like a fussy task, rarely is it a complex one. Try to make it an integral step in your ‘homecoming’ routine, as vital as the first hot drink, long bath or energy boosting snack after the close of a big adventure.

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Daniel Sturm

I started this blog to provide the guideline, you towards a better and more comfortable hiking experience. I deliver more than hiking, camping and backpacking guideline.

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