Outdoor Horizon is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

What’s The Best Way To Clean Hiking Boots? (4 Easy Steps)

Hiking is an activity that involves moving on rough terrains, so it is understandable that hiking boots get covered in a lot of dirt. This makes it necessary to clean hiking boots after hikes. For most people, there is a lack of clarity about how to go about cleaning their hiking boots.

The best way to clean hiking boots is by using a cleaning solution or special boot cleaner and a boot brush. This solution is usually made of water and a mild dish soap. It is important to clean your hiking boots thoroughly to keep them in top condition for as long as possible.

To maintain your hiking boots, it is important to not only clean them but to clean them properly. The frequency of cleaning, drying of the boots as well as their storage affect their durability. Below, we discuss all of our top tips, and explain why it is so important to clean your hiking boots.

Why Should You Clean Your Hiking Boots?

It might seem counterproductive to clean outdoor footwear that gets exposed to a lot of mud and dirt regularly. Cleaning your hiking boots comes with benefits that give you a better hiking experience altogether. But there are three main reasons you should clean your hiking boots.

Traction

Your traction while hiking is greatly affected by how clean your boots are. Things like pebbles, mud and dirt usually get stuck in the soles of hiking boots, thereby reducing the traction. Cleaning your boots and removing these items will ensure that you move fast and freely. Not only does a pair of clean hiking boots give you traction, but they also prevent accidents.

Durability

Cleaning your hiking boots regularly ensures their durability, thereby extending their lifespan. Mud affects the outer fabric of hiking boots by causing cracks which start to break with time. This will leave you with no choice but to replace the boots within a short period of time. Walking with dirty boots will push dirt deeper into the material of the boots, thereby causing them to wear faster.

Safety

Finally, hiking trails are home to all kinds of seeds and plants, many of which cling to the sole of your boots when trekking. These plants and seeds might carry invasive species,or even poisonous or irritating compounds. By cleaning your hiking boots, you will avoid moving invasive species to another hiking area. You will also keep such species out of your home!

What Do You Need To Clean Your Hiking Boots?

Brush

A brush is needed to get mud and dirt off your hiking boots. A boot brush is the best option, while an old toothbrush is a great alternative.

Soft Cloth

A soft cloth is the best option for cleaning leather hiking boots in particular.

Cleaning Solution

Cleaners help to wash all the stains and dirt off the hiking boots. You can get a boot cleaner or make a solution of dish soap and water. For boot cleaners, it is important to get a product that is suitable for the material of your hiking boots. It is important to avoid hand soaps and laundry detergent, as they can damage the material of your boots.

Basin

A basin or sink that contains water is essential for cleaning your hiking boots. This is because you need plenty of clean water to rinse your boots thoroughly.

Vinegar

Vinegar helps with bad odors. If your hiking boots smell bad or have mold growing on the surface, then vinegar can be very useful for cleaning them.

Towel

Towels and soft cloths come in handy when cleaning boots, as they help you to get rid of excess water.

4 Steps To Clean Your Hiking Boots

1. Remove The Insoles And Laces

Whether your hiking boots are made of leather or synthetic materials, removing the insoles and laces should be the first step when cleaning them. Insoles typically collect a lot of moisture, so they often get smelly. Wash the insoles and laces with warm water and dish soap. Sprinkle the insoles with vinegar in order to kill the odor. After doing this, you can lay them out to dry.

2. Get The Mud Off

If you are cleaning a pair of hiking boots that are caked in mud, then you need to get it off before anything else. Getting the mud off early on will ensure that it does not interfere with the rest of the cleaning process. Make use of a brush to remove all the mud on the outside of the boots. Carry out this step outside, in order to avoid getting your house dirty!

3. Wash The Boots

This step is a bit different depending on the type of hiking boots that you have. For synthetic hiking boots, it is okay to submerge the entire boot in water, but don’t do this with leather hiking boots.

Synthetic Hiking Boots

To wash synthetic hiking boots, fill a basin or sink with water and add your cleaner. Put your boots in the water and scrub the outsides with a brush. Pay attention to areas like the metal parts and lace holes, as well as tongue folds. After cleaning the outsides, clean the insides by allowing water to fill it up. You can then get the dirt out by scrubbing with a brush or using a piece of cloth.

Leather Hiking Boots

The method for cleaning leather hiking boots is slightly different from that for synthetic ones, as you do not want to get too much water in them. If you are cleaning only the outsides of your leather hiking boots, you need to be extra careful to avoid getting the insides wet.

To achieve this, start by wrapping a towel around your hand, and putting it inside the boot. You can then sprinkle water on the boots before applying a cleaner and scrubbing with a soft cloth. Then, rinse the cleaner off the outsides of the boots. If you intend to clean the insides of your leather hiking boots, you simply have to wipe it out using a soft cloth.

4. Rinse The Boots

After cleaning your hiking boots, it is crucial to rinse them thoroughly in order to get all the soap or cleaning solution out. After rinsing, get rid of excess water by wiping the boots with a dry towel. To get rid of excess water from the insides of your boots, use newspaper to absorb it. You can change the newspaper as many times as you need until the insides of your boots are completely dry.

If your boots still have an unpleasant odor at the rinsing stage, then you might need to apply more vinegar. Sprinkle vinegar around the midsole and toe areas of the boots as required.

3 Steps To Waterproof Your Hiking Boots

1. Get Your Boots Clean And Damp

The best time to waterproof your boots is right after washing them, as they are clean and damp at this point. This will enable the waterproof treatment to enter beneath the boots’ surface, making it very effective. Waterproofing a clean pair of hiking boots means that no spot will be missed due to dirt on surface of the boots. Add waterproofing to your cleaning process for the best results.

2. Follow The Instructions

After ensuring that your hiking boots are clean and damp, the next thing to do is to apply your chosen boot waterproofing solution. Here, you need to follow the instructions given by the manufacturer. Whether they’re full-grain leather, fabric or suede, different boots require special waterproofing treatments.

3. Leave Your Boots To Dry

After applying the treatment, you should leave your boots to dry. It is important to keep the boots away from heat sources, as air drying is the best way to go when waterproofing boots. Make sure they’re completely dry before you wear them out again.

3 Steps To Get Mold Off Your Hiking Boots

1. Brush Off Visible Mold

The first thing to do is to get off all the visible mold with the help of a scrubbing brush. Be sure to do this outdoors, in order to prevent leaving the mold in the house.

2. Make A Solution

You need a water and vinegar solution to remove mold from your hiking boots. Mix three-quarters of a cup of water with a quarter cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle.

3. Spray Affected Areas

Spray the affected areas of the boots with the vinegar solution, ensuring that you do not miss any spot. After spraying, you can clean the surface of the boots with a towel.

Drying Your Hiking Boots

Drying your hiking boots properly is an essential part of the cleaning process. Drying them wrongly can cause deterioration, thereby reducing their lifespan. Do not dry your boots in the sunlight or close to any direct heat source such as heaters, radiators or campfires. These heat sources will cause discoloration and cracking, which will affect the integrity of your hiking boots.

Dry your boots in an open area that is well ventilated. You might want to leave your boots for up to 24 hours or more, in order to ensure that they dry properly both on the inside and the outside. Dry the insoles and laces separately, only putting them back when the boots are completely dry.

In the case that you need your boots to dry quickly, there are a few things you can do. These measures include boot dryers, fans, as well as stuffing them with newspapers. Regardless of what you do, avoid drying your boots in a damp area, as this usually causes mold.

Can You Put Your Hiking Boots In The Washing Machine?

You should not put your hiking boots in the washing machine, as this can damage them. This is because the cleaning agents used in washing machines affect the materials of hiking boots, and the action of a washing machine can damage the waterproofing of the boots as well as their physical structure.

How Often Should You Clean Your Hiking Boots?

This is one question that a lot of hikers ask when it comes to taking care of their hiking boots. The truth is that your hiking boots can use all the cleaning that they get, so it is best to clean them after every hike.

Yes, it sounds stressful, which is why you do not have to give your boots a deep wash every time. If you took a short walk without getting your boots muddy, a simple brush cleaning will suffice. All you have to do is clean the outsides and sole of your boots with a soft cloth, before leaving them to dry.

It is best to give your hiking boots a deep wash after walking on a muddy trail or using them on several hikes. Deep washing also helps if your boots are moldy. A clean pair of boots might be all that you need to improve your hiking experience!

How To Store Your Hiking Boots

Storing your boots properly is as important as keeping them clean. This is because storing your boots in a condition that is not ideal will only cause deterioration of the material and growth of mold. The first thing to do when storing a pair of hiking boots is to ensure that they are clean. Putting boots away after a hike without cleaning them will only leave them smelly and in bad condition.

You do not want your hiking boots cracking and covered in mold due to a lack of care. Once the cleaning is taken care of, you can then proceed to store the boots properly. There are a good number of storing options available to you.

Boot Racks

Storing your hiking boots on a boot rack is a great way of keeping them clean and dry. Boot racks help to prevent clutter, allowing the boots to get enough ventilation. It also keeps them away from moisture that might affect them if they are simply placed on the floor.

Keeping your boots on a rack also means that you will easily find the pair whenever you need them. If you own multiple pairs of hiking boots, you do not have to worry about storage, as most racks can hold quite a few pairs.

Wads Of Paper

If you do not have a boot rack, you can simply store your boots with wads of paper inside them. The function of the paper is to keep the boots in shape as well as absorb any moisture. Newspapers work fine for this form of storage. Using wads of paper comes at almost zero cost, making it a very reliable – and sustainable – option.

Storage Boxes

Storage boxes are best for long-term storage of hiking boots. This form of storage is effective for keeping boots free of dust and dirt. Storage boxes can come in handy when you are traveling with your hiking boots too.

Final Thoughts

The best way to clean hiking boots is by using a cleaning solution and a boot brush. It is important to note that a deep wash is not always needed. A simple wipe down might be enough to keep your hiking boots clean, particularly in the dry season, and you should never put boots in a washing machine.