Learning how to clean hiking boots thoroughly and without harm will extend the life of your boot investment. 

Hiking boots were born to get muddy, wet, and all around filthy. You probably spent quite some time and research choosing hiking boots, and you want to take care of your investment. So, if your hiking boots look like they’ve been through the ringer, then I’m sure you have a great story to tell of a hike well done. But, taking care of and learning how to clean your hiking boots will help them last longer. In addition, it will help them stay more supportive when done well. So, let’s dive into how to clean hiking boots.

Supplies You’ll Need

how to clean hiking boots

Different hiking boots are made from different materials. Leathers will need different cleaners and conditioners than fully synthetic boots. So, first off, identify what type of boot you have and check to see if they came with specific cleaning instructions. Certain boot brands will have their own suggestions on what to use. But, you’ll need to collect some type of brush to scrub your boots. This can be a specific boot brush, or an old toothbrush or something similar. Next, you’ll need a cleaning agent. You can buy a special boot cleaner or simply water down some dish soap. 

If your boots have mold on them, you’ll want to grab some cheap white vinegar to kill the mold. If you have leather hiking boots, you will need a good leather conditioner. Whatever boot you do have, you may want to re-waterproof it once you’re all done cleaning. If so, have some of that on hand. Make sure to collect all your supplies before you start so you can follow the process through to the end.

How to Clean Hiking Boots

how to clean hiking boots

Hiking Boot Uppers

For the hiking boot uppers, you want to start by removing the laces and insoles if you can. This will give you full access to all areas of the boot for a better, deeper clean. Get the whole hiking boot wet and start scrubbing off the dirt and mud that have been caked on. You can use just water for this step. After the first water rinse, apply a small bit of boot cleaner or diluted soap to the brush. Work this into the particularly dirty areas of the hiking boots. Scrub, rinse, and repeat until the water runs clear.

Just as dirt and grit can get into fabric and decrease the life of the boot, so can chemicals like soap. So, make sure to rinse, rinse, rinse. Once you are assured your uppers are free of all dirt, debris, and soap, you’re all set with them. You can wash the laces separately in a bowl of warm soapy water as well.

Hiking Boot Soles 

The bottom soles are quite simple to clean. They are made of rubber, so you will simply be getting the dirt off of the rubber as it doesn’t get absorbed into it. Scrubbing with a harder brush or soaking them can help with this.

If you are looking into how to clean hiking boots because yours are moldy, we will try and walk you through reviving them. First off, note that they are moldy because of extended moisture. Think through what situation you were in to cause this and figure out if you can mitigate this in the future. But, what’s done is done. So, make a 4:1 water to vinegar mixture. This will kill the mold if you allow the boot to soak in it for an hour or so. It won’t smell the best, but it will kill the mold without breaking down the fabric as other disinfectants can. Just like the soap, rinse it incredibly well when you’re done.

How to Dry Your Hiking Boots

how to clean hiking boots

Now that you’ve thoroughly soaked your favorite pair of waterproof hiking boots, it’s time to dry them out. Using excessive heat like a fire or dryer can wear down the materials and hurt leather. Instead, let them air dry and use a fan if needed. To speed up the process, you can stuff them with newspaper and change it whenever it gets saturated. This trick also works great out on the trail when you have multiple days of hiking ahead of you.

Conditioning Your Leather Hiking Boots

how to clean hiking boots - Conditioning

Finally, if you have leather boots, you should condition the leather. The wetting and drying of the boots will dry them out, eventually causing them to crack. So, a quality conditioner will keep them moist without getting them overly soft and therefore less supportive. This only needs to be done to full-grain leather boots. Suede leather is treated differently and does not need to be conditioned.

All in all, keeping it simple when learning how to clean hiking boots is best.

Trying to use excess soaps or oils will only hurt your hiking boots. Just like everything you wear hiking, there are certain ways to care for each thing. So, follow these or the manufacturer's instructions for the best outcome. You’ve probably spent plenty of time picking the perfect hiking boot for you, so make sure to take care of your investment well. Whether you’re a lady out hiking solo or a group taking a backpacking trip for the weekend, it is vitally important to have your gear in top shape for your time in the woods.

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