How to Clean Hiking Boots? The Right Way!

By Sophie Williams
Updated: September 3, 2023
how to clean hiking boots blog featured image

Hiking boots are rugged shoes made to take some heavy wear and tear. One of the reasons why people neglect cleaning them regularly. “It’s made for the dirt and hiking; I shouldn’t have to clean it every time,” they say, while that’s partially true. Your boot needs care.

If you take care of them, everything can last longer than they’re meant to. Hiking boots are no different. If you are wondering how to clean hiking boots, this post is for you. 

Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways :

  • You should clean your hiking boots after each adventure.
  • Cleaning hiking boots can take only five steps.
  • Bacteria cause a foul odor.
  • Sweating damages the waterproof membranes of hiking boots.

How Often Should I Clean My Hiking Boots?

In short, you should clean your hiking boots after every hike.

Surprised? You don’t have to deep clean your hiking boots after each adventure. The cleanup depends on the condition of your hiking boots. Here are some signs your shoes need some attention:

  • If your boots are covered in mud.
  • The shoes look dirty or are wet.
  • Boots are moldy.

You don’t have to wash your boots after a small hike or walk. We recommend washing it after a long hike. Give your shoes a wash if you hiked in damp and muddy regions.

If you don’t clean your boots after a hike, it might damage the waterproofing membranes in your boots. This causes boot odor and reduces the shoes’ life. If your boot has been sitting around for a while, wash it before wearing it, boot care is crucial.

Things You Will Need for Cleaning Hiking Boots

Now that we have established when you should clean your hiking boots. It’s time to get on with the main process. Before starting, you will need a few things.

  • Towels
  • Water
  • Toothbrush
  • Scrubbing brush or sponge
  • Shoe cleaner

You could have some old newspaper nearby to place the hiking boots on. Also, don’t even think about cleaning the shoes with a washing machine; use your hands.

How to Clean Hiking Boots

The part you have been waiting for. This is how to clean hiking boots in six easy steps with the things you have at home.

Step 1: Remove the inner parts

It is crucial to remove the soles and laces inside a hiking shoe. Hey, there’s a lot of dirt that goes inside it without you knowing, don’t blame us.  Clean them individually, and keeping them while washing the boot will only damage them.

removing the laces and inner parts from a hiking boot image

Step 2: Clean the Insides of the Shoe

If your boots haven’t been cleaned for a while, it’s normal for dirt to get in. Once you remove your insoles, you’ll notice the grime.

The interior parts of hiking boots are very fragile. You should be careful while removing the dust. Shake off the dust from the boots.  Use warm water and a damp towel to scrub off the dirt afterward.

You should consider using something microfiber or soft rather than a brush.

Step 3: Wash your Boots

Fill a sink or bucket with warm water and leave your shoes there overnight. This is the best way to clean hiking boots. You can add a shoe cleaner or shoe cleaning soap with the water.

The soap will come with instructions for the water and soap ratio. Doing this can also get rid of odor from your boots.

Rinse your boots once they are done sitting overnight.  Use a brush or sponge, whatever you have, and gently scrub off the dirt from the shoes.

Use a brush or sponge, whatever you have, and gently scrub off the dirt from the shoes.

Step 4: Drying

After washing, ensure no excess water is inside or outside the boots. Use a towel and try to absorb as much water as you can, and then air dry.

After you are done with the process; dry your boots in a ventilated, open space for at least 24 hours. Your shoes must be completely dry before we get to the next step.

Step 5: Conditioning

All boots have different conditioning. If it is leather boots, it will require conditioning. If it’s a suede or nylon boot, you will need to re-apply waterproofing agents to waterproof hiking boots.

Waterproofing agents or conditioning (depending on your boot fabric) sprays are inexpensive. Spray them and wait 24 hours before polishing. They will look good as new.

Once you’ve performed all the steps, tie your laces and store them in storage boxes.

boot conditioning spray

How to Get Rid of Hiking Boot Odor?

The shoe odor comes from organic elements, such as bacteria, fungus, yeast, etc., growing inside them. Lack of cleaning hiking boots causes a smell that might make you and other hikers gag. Don’t worry; we are here to save you; read along.

Tools Needed:

  • Warm water
  • Soap or boot cleaner
  • Shoe odor remover
  • Shoe deodorizer (optional)

Here’s the thing, there are many ways to get around this. You can start with something you have at home, just brushing the shoe with lukewarm water and soap. This will get rid of the smell if it’s not overpowering.

Don’t submerge the shoes in water; stick to doing it only when washing the boots. If the odor doesn’t go through soap or shoe cleaner, you might want to get a shoe deodorizer.

It’s a deodorizing spray that neutralizes the smell with bacteria that cause a foul odor. Shoe odor remover and deodorizer are basically the same things. They have certain enzymes that cancel out the scent from the organic elements causing the smell.

You might wonder if you could use vinegar or baking soda to eliminate hiking boot odor. Here’s the thing, they work only on specific boots, most times causing more harm than good. So we won’t recommend you something that we are unsure of.

Wrapping Up

Many are intimidated by hiking footwear, let alone cleaning them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Suppose you are still confused about how to clean hiking boots. In that case, your answer should be: removal of insoles, cleaning inside and outside, drying and conditioning. 

That’s how easy it is to clean hiking boots. The clean and dry process applies to most leather or synthetic shoes. You can also remove foul odor from hiking boots using soap or odor removers. They are inexpensive and get rid of the hiking boot smell. 

This post should work as a step-by-step guide on how to clean hiking boots. All of the steps mentioned above will make your boots last longer. 

Read Our Related Blogs on Hiking Boots:

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Sophie Williams

Sophie Williams

Sophie Williams is popularly known as a dynamic and creative footwear specialist, and she sharpened her skills and developed a strong foundation at College for Creative Studies, especially in design principles, boot and shoe materials, and boot construction techniques.

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