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Hiking Boot Cleaning and Care

I have shoes stashed everywhere, in fact I have a pair of dirt covered hiking boots stashed under my desk right now. A pair of dirt covered boots that desperately need to be cleaned, but my lazy self just hasn’t gotten around to doing that yet. Well, no more standing around, today is the day that I finally start treating my tried and true hiking boots with a little extra love.

Just like any other piece of outdoor equipment, your shoes don’t function like they should when they’re caked in mud. But if you stay on top of it, cleaning your boots will help them last longer and keep your feet more comfortable on your next adventure.


Tools You’ll Need

To properly clean your boots, you’re going to need some sort of brush to really get the mud out of all the crevices. The brush that you use can be anything from a specialized boot brush to an old toothbrush. Another important aspect of washing your boots is soap, many companies (like Nikwax) have specialized boot cleaning solutions or you can go with a mild dishwashing liquid and water. If you go the dishwashing liquid route, make sure there aren’t any additives that could harm your shoes (like moisturizers or fragrance).



If you just went on a light hike and your shoes are merely dusty, a light scrubbing and water is all you’ll need to have you shoes looking like new. But if you’ve been tromping through the mud, some more extreme measures might be necessary.

The first step is to completely remove the laces and then follow the directions on your boot cleaner. Most cleaning solutions are pretty self explanatory, but it’s good to check them out just in case. After you’re done scrubbing your shoes, give them a good rinse with clean water to remove any excess dirt and soap.

Never put your boots in the washing machine, boots that go into the washer don’t always come out the same as they went in. Washing machines are definitely easier that manually washing your shoes, but it can damage the materials and cause shrinkage in weird places.

Once your boots are clean you’ll want to set them aside to dry, but be sure to take out the insoles and let them dry separately. Don’t use any heat to dry your boots quicker, this can weaken the construction of your boots causing them to wear out faster than they should. If you need your boots to dry faster you can put them in front of a fan or fill the toes with paper to help soak up moisture.



If you’re hiking boots are made out of leather you’ll want to take the time to condition them before you set them aside to dry. If you want the option of resoling your shoes down the road, it’s best to stay away from wax conditioners. The wax conditioners leave behind a residue that can make it difficult for a new sole to be attached. Nikwax has a conditioner for leather that softens the leather and restores the durable water resistant coating to keep your shoes looking their best. Conditioners work best on clean, damp leather, so be sure to double check the instructions on the bottle and then start applying the conditioning treatment before the shoes dry.