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How to Wash Hiking Boots

How do you wash hiking boots? What’s the best way to clean my boots after a muddy hike or long walk in wet grass? Do I need to use soap and water, detergent, bleach, or some other type of cleaner on them?

In this article, I’m going to explain how and why you should clean your hiking boots, how to do it safely, how to avoid damaging them in the process, how much time it takes to get them truly clean, how long it will take before they are ready for another hike or walk in wet grass after a cleaning is done, and how you can extend their life and how you can help keep them waterproof.

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Why and when should you clean your hiking boots?

You should clean your hiking boots regularly. This is how you will get the most out of them and how you’ll avoid damaging them over time. Here’s how you know it is time to clean your hiking boots:

  • When they are being left on a shelf or in storage for more than 3 weeks. Especially if you live where the summers are hot (such as Arizona), you should clean and condition them.
  • If you have worn them for more than a few days. Preferably 10 or 20 miles, but at least three days – and they show signs of staining on the interior, it is time to give them a cleaning. This most commonly happens from mud, grass, water or some other liquid that has splashed up into your boots. You will want to clean off the exterior stains as well if they are bad enough so that you don’t have them staining the interior of your boots when you wear them for a hike again.
  • If they fall apart and start leaking all over your feet. At this point, it’s time to give them a good cleaning and conditioning.
  • If they smell bad or your feet start to itch or smell. When this happens, then it is time for you to clean, disinfect, and condition them. You will want to be more thorough with how you do this process so that you can stop the smells from coming back. You may even consider throwing them out if they are not waterproof anymore.

How to clean your hiking boots safely

The answer is different for each type of boot. If you’re wearing leather hiking boots then it’s important not to submerge them in water as this can cause shrinking and cracking. Leather needs special treatment that involves cleaning with a brush followed by an application of a conditioner.

You’ll also want to avoid using detergent since it will strip off natural oils from the material which will dry out your feet while walking. Synthetic materials like nylon are more robust so they can be washed with soap and water, or even a hose outside if you want.

That said, here’s the general approach on how to clean your hiking boots:

1. Read your hiking boots’ care instructions

You should find how to clean the shoes stitched into their inner soles by someone who cared enough about the longevity of your boots to write how and when you should clean them down on the inside where you can easily read them. Do not use any soap or cleaner unless that is what they recommend.

2. Get a tub or bucket, some warm water, and detergent

Mix it how that is how you are supposed to do it according to the care instructions that come with your boots. Drop in your boots and let them soak for how long they recommend (usually 10 minutes). Most likely they will be stiff as a board when you take them out.

3. Soak them in warm water and gentle soap

Mix these two per the instructions on your shoes, then rinse them off in cold water until it runs clear. Do not use bleach or other harsh cleaners, as this will damage how they are made and how long they last for you when you use them.

4. Let them dry in the sun if possible

Hang them up to dry if you do not have access to a sunny area. Otherwise, put them in your basement or garage where the air is warm and they will dry quickly.

5. Once they are clean and dry, condition them

Again, follow how you should do this per the instructions on how to care for your hiking boots inside their soles. You can get a spray-on kind of conditioner that you squirt into each boot. You want to how long you wear them between cleaning and conditioning to how well they hold up in the process.

How to avoid damaging your hiking boots when cleaning them

If you’re not careful, you can ruin how long your hiking boots last you. Here are a couple of things to watch out for:

Never, ever use bleach to clean your hiking boots

Bleach destroys how the material is made and how it is supposed to hold up to the wear and tear that you put them through on your hikes. This means that they will wear out faster, and also will not be as resistant to the elements.

Do not submerge your hiking boots in water

If you are wearing leather hiking shoes, avoid getting them wet altogether. Leather cannot withstand the water pressure when it is submerged, and this can cause how the soles and how they fit to how your feet change over time. If you wear nylon boots, then you can simply dunk them in clean water how most how you would your hands.

Do not use rough brushes to clean how hiking boots

Using stiff-bristled brushes how they can damage the materials that makeup how boots so how they fit and wear on your feet.

Make sure that how you clean them how per their care instructions

If they come with a how to take care of your hiking boots and how to clean them how do not use any other method. You can damage the seams and stitch on the outer soles as well as how the inner linings are made if you use something that how they how to take care of them how how how to clean them how to how long you can get out of them.

Make sure that when you wash your hiking boots, wear socks

This will prevent the waters from penetrating how well the liner on their inside is made and how well the boots support your feet. Soak how how how how how how how how how how you should clean them and let the water wash out the dirt, mud, grass, and whatever else is inside that will help keep your feet dry while out in the wilderness.

Wear socks if possible during all other times when you are wearing your hiking boots

This helps to prevent blisters from how how how how how how how how how your feet move during the day, and it helps to keep out any dirt and grime that you may pick up on your boots from how how how how long they last for you.

Avoid walking around in muck, mud, and dirt

This will wear down how inside of your boots quickly if how to take care of them is not properly done. This can lead to smells that are hard to get out when you are cleaning your boots.

Additional tips on washing your hiking boots

Here are some additional tips on washing your hiking boots:

Make sure they’re dry enough

Before washing your boots, make sure that they are dry enough to be splashed with water. If not, apply the shoe polish on the soles and leave overnight. The next day brush off the dirt from heel to toe. It’s also possible to use an old toothbrush that has soft bristles made of natural fibers.

Avoid nylon brushes as they can scratch leather material and cause cracks in it. Once you have brushed out the mud from your boots, remove excess dirt by shaking them vigorously or tapping gently with a rubber spatula along with gentle brushing action till all the particles have dislodged from inside the boot.

Use an old toothbrush

If you have an old toothbrush and some liquid soap, mix a few drops of the liquid soap into a cup full of water then dip the toothbrush into it. Gently scrub both sides of your boots with circular motions to get off any mud or dirt that’s caked on. Use a soft brush and avoid pressure as this can damage the material.

After washing each side for about 10-15 seconds, use another clean area of the brush to rinse it off until all traces of dirt are removed from it. Try out how well this works by dipping just one end of your toothbrush into the solution then dabbing onto a paper towel to see if there is any trace of mud – should be none if done properly!

Rinse out the boot and repeat this process on the other side.

Use a damp cloth

You can also use a damp cloth to wipe out your boots from the exterior, like how do you wash hiking boots with uppers or how to clean hiking boots without a sole. This is enough for cleaning mud off the surface though deeper stains will still need some more effort. If you don’t have liquid soap then you can apply a mild detergent with warm water.

Don’t soak boots in it as detergents are meant for washing clothes so they could damage the material if left too long or get inside through stitching and cause irritation to skin or eyes. Remember that how do I clean my leather hiking boots after a muddy hike, how how to wash hiking boots without sole trails, or how do I how to wash my hiking boots without them falling apart are different for each material.

Mind the rubber protectors

If you have some thick rubber protectors at the back of your boot’s upper where water can get into, make sure that they are properly in place before washing. Then let your boots air dry indoors for 2-3 days till they are completely free of sweat and odor – now you know how do I clean my leather hiking boots after muddy hike stretches.

Store them in a cool and dry place

Once your boots are completely dry, make sure to keep them in a cool and dry place where they will not be damaged by harsh sunlight or chemicals. High-quality hiking boots should last for years even with regular wear and tear, so it’s worth taking good care of them after a muddy hike.


If you’re a hiker or just someone who likes to get out and explore the outdoors, it’s likely that your boots have become muddy at some point. To clean them off without damaging them, there are several ways you can go about this – which we covered above.

Remember: if they are really dirty then make sure you use water with detergent or soap on tough stains like around the heel area. You should avoid using harsh chemicals as these could dry out the skin and cause irritation (especially for leather). After scrubbing both sides of your boot thoroughly, wipe away any residue from the toothbrush by wiping down each side with a damp cloth until all traces of dirt is gone.