How to Clean Hiking Boots

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Hiking boots get dirty especially when you are out having fun on the trails. I have had my fair share of dirty and muddy boots but after a while there comes a time when it is time to clean them. Learning how to clean hiking boots properly not only keeps them fresh and comfortable but also extends their lifespan and maintains their performance. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps on how to clean hiking boots and keep them in top condition.

Key Takeaways

In this guide on how to clean hiking boots, we are going to cover the following:

  • Gathering the necessary supplies such as soap, specialized products, brushes to properly clean your boots.
  • How to take proper care of them by cleaning & conditioning regularly and waterproofing when needed to extend lifespan and ensure comfort on the trails.
  • The importance of proper cleaning and how to store your boots when not on trail.

How to Clean Hiking Boots (Step by Step)

1. Gather Your Supplies

First before cleaning your hiking boots, you need to gather the necessary supplies. You’ll need a small soft brush, a little bit of dish soap or boot cleaner, water faucet or a bucket, and a cloth. In my demonstration I will be using one of my favorite boot cleaners, Nikwax cleaning gel.

For brushes, consider getting:

  • Small travel size tooth brush
  • Boot cleaning brushes
  • Boar’s hair brushes
  • Horsehair brushes

These brushes will help you gently remove dust and dirt from your boots without causing any damage to the material. I am using a small brush from an old book kit I got awhile back.

gather your supplies

2. Take off the Laces and Insoles

I recommend taking out the laces and the Insoles prior to working on the boots. I like to place the laces in a bowl of water with a very small amount of dish soap or boot cleaner to soak while you’re cleaning the hiking boots. After the boots are done, I wring them out.

For the insoles it just depends on how smelly they might be. But I like to use a little bit of baking soda when they start getting a little smelly and I lightly scrub that in letting the baking soda sit on the insoles till the boots are done being cleaned. Then I rinse them off while I rinse the boots off.

Baking soda to help deodorize.

3. Brush off any Dirt

Next, after you have gathered your supplies and taken care of your insoles and laces. I recommend scrubbing off any caked-on mud or dirt from the outsoles, near the seams, and the lace eyelets.

Awhile back, I did brush my boots off inside, doing so in the trash can but, I still made quite a bit of a mess. I like to do this outside now as going outside makes clean up much easier.

Scrubbing dirt off hiking boots

4. Clean the Hiking Boots

After doing a thorough scrubbing. Now you are ready to start cleaning your hiking boots.

First, start off with setting up the area with a water bucket or container. You could place the bucket in your sink so you can use the water faucet, place it outside next to your hose, and/or even just use the water bucket and do more hand washing either way works.

Secondly, start by rinsing some of the dirt from the boots paying close attention to the outsoles.

Using a hose to rinse mud and dirt off

Third, place a small amount of soap in your bucket or container and using the small brush scrub the hiking boots. If using a cleaner either spray or apply that cleaner onto the boot and scrub. I am using Nikwax cleaning gel which has a built-in scrubbing brush.

Scrubbing with Nikwax Cleaning Gel

Finally, rinse the soap off of your hiking boots.

Scrubbing and rinsing hiking boots

5. Conditioning Leather Hiking Boots

If you do not have leather hiking boots you can skip this step altogether. Also, take note you do not need to condition Nubuck or Suede leather hiking boots just lightly brush them. However, if you have leather hiking boots this is when you would want to condition them.

Use a leather conditioner to keep your leather hiking boots in top condition. Condition while the leather is still slightly damp, to ensure optimal absorption of the products.

Avoid applying too much leather conditioner on your leather boots, as this can cause the leather to become soft and lose its support. Conditioning helps to maintain the longevity of a leather hiking boot.

Conditioning Leather Boots

6. Waterproofing Your Hiking Boots (Optional)

After cleaning your hiking boots is the perfect time to apply a waterproofing product if you want to. Waterproofing spray, creams, or wax makes the boots more resistant to water, dirt, and can help prolong the integrity of the hiking boots.

However, waterproofing your hiking boots is totally optional and your current waterproofing membrane or treatment may still be in good shape. If you are looking for a good all-around waterproofing spray, I recommend using Nikwax All Fabric and Leather waterproof spray.

Waterproofing hiking boots

7. Drying Your Hiking Boots

After you clean and rinse your shoes it is time to use a cloth, towel, or absorbent towel, such as the PackTowl, to dry your boots effectively. To further absorb moisture and help your boots maintain their shape, I like to stuff them with newspaper or paper towels and allow them to air dry in a cool area with great ventilation.

After your hiking boots are dry grab your insoles and place them back in your hiking boots. Grab those shoelaces and thread them back into your boots and you’re ready to hit the trails.

Removing Mold and Mildew from Hiking Boots

Hiking boots can face serious issues with mold and mildew. To remove them, use a 80% water and 20% of distilled white vinegar. White vinegar is an effective method for removing mold and mildew from hiking boots due to its antimicrobial properties.

Take your hiking boots outside and carefully brush off any visible mold or mildew using a scrubbing brush. Moisten a clean cloth or sponge with the vinegar and water mixture and scrub the affected areas of the boots. Rinse the boots thoroughly with clean water to eliminate any residue and allow the boots to air dry completely before storing or wearing them again.

Storing and Maintaining Your Hiking Boots

For extending the life of your hiking boots, proper storage is key. Store your boots in a cool and dry area such as a closet or shelf in a room with low humidity and no heat sources. To maintain their shape, consider using shoe trees or scrunched-up paper inside the boots.

Regularly inspect your hiking boots for signs of wear and tear, such as:

  • cracks, rips, or tears in the exterior leather, fabric, or synthetic upper
  • diminished tread on the soles
  • reduced support or cushioning
  • alterations in fit or comfort level
  • visible harm to the sole, upper, or lining
  • frayed shoelaces or broken eyelets

Addressing these issues promptly will help prolong the life of your store boots and ensure that you do not run into any problems with your boots when you are out on the trails.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Hiking Boots

Regularly cleaning your hiking boots is important for a variety of reasons. Did you know that maintaining clean boots can:

  • Extend their life
  • Retain breathability
  • Retain Waterproofing of the boot
  • Avoid material deterioration
  • Ensure optimal traction

Washing your hiking boots after each use is a good practice, especially if your hiking boots are soiled. Cleaning your boots is necessary when they have caked-on mud and helps with performance and longevity.

Tips for Extending the Life of Your Hiking Boots

Clean your hiking boots after every use and wash hiking boots using the techniques described in this guide to extend their lifespan. Condition and waterproof your boots as needed and replace worn-out components such as laces and insoles to maintain the comfort and support of your waterproof hiking boots.

Following these tips and taking proper care of your hiking boots will save money so you do not end up having to buy replacement hiking boots as often. It will also help maximize your comfort, hiking boot performance, and longevity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can hiking boots be washed?

Yes, hiking boots can be washed by a small amount of dish soap or a designated hiking boot cleaner like Nikwax cleaning gel. Never put them in a washing machine.

How do you get mildew out of hiking boots?

If you are trying to get mildew or mold out of hiking boots. I recommend using a mix 80% water and 20% vinegar to spray on any affected areas. Then scrub those areas well to remove any of the mildew or mold.

How to clean boots?

Remove the laces, knock off any loose dirt, mix a solution of warm water and dish soap or boot cleaner to clean the exterior surfaces, rinse and wipe with a clean cloth, condition leather hiking boots, optionally waterproof, and dry.

How often should I clean my hiking boots?

Try your best to clean your hiking boots after every use to ensure long-term performance and durability. Especially when your hiking boots get caked with mud and dirt.

Can I machine wash my synthetic hiking shoes?

It’s best to avoid machine washing synthetic hiking shoes, as this can cause damage to the materials and compromise their performance. Follow cleaning steps provided in this guide for cleaning synthetic hiking shoes.

How to Clean your Hiking Boots


By following this guide for how to clean hiking boots you will be able to help maintain your hiking boots stay in good shape, expand their lifespan, and maximize performance when out on the trails. If you have any questions about cleaning hiking boots let us know if the comments or feel free to send us a message.

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