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How to Clean Hiking Boots (Step-by-Step Process)

hiking boots nicely cleaned looking like new

Hiking boots are designed to withstand the grit and grime of the route. But it does not mean they should be left uncleaned after every outdoor adventure.

If you keep to the manufacturer’s instructions and maintain regular cleanings, your hiking footwear will last you for many years without needing to be replaced.

As someone who has gone on many hikes, it is important to have the correct equipment.

This section will explain the basics of how to clean your hiking boots. If you like going for hikes but need to learn how to clean hiking boots, this guide is for you!

What you’ll need for cleaning your hiking boots:

  • You will need a special shoe brush or soft brush
  • An old vegetable brush or toothbrush
  • Specialized boot cleaner
  • Saddle soap, baking soda, or a mild solution of dishwashing soap and waterproof membranes.
  • Hand towel for boots air dry

How to Clean the Interior of Your Boots

interior of merrell hiking boots

Shoes worn outdoors tend to grow grimy on the exterior. However, during wet conditions, mud and water can seep inside the shoe. It’s the same with dirt, grit, dust, sand, pine needles, etc.

There are several alternatives for leather, suede, and synthetic boots, so be sure to choose the one that best complements your footwear. So, how do you clean your hiking boots’ interior parts?

Step 1: Remove the laces and footbeds

First, remove the footbeds such as those in Vasque hiking boots after every trip and shake them out.

Step 2: Gently Scrub with Spong

The best way to clean either a Gore-Tex membrane or full-grain leather boots is with a sponge and lukewarm clean water. Do not use a boot brush to clean the interior of your hiking boots. This may damage the inner lining of your hiking boot.

Step 3: Spray and Air Dry

Fabric footbeds are machine-washable at 30°C, although hand-washing is recommended. As with the interior lining, leather footbeds can be cleaned with a moist sponge. Cleaning your footbeds will also prevent them from stinking.

If the inner lining of your boots still smells musty after being washed with clean water, we suggest applying a shoe hygiene waterproofing spray and air drying.

How to Clean Your Boot’s Exterior

the soles of a pair of merrell hiking boots

Hiking boots are built to withstand the worst conditions imaginably as seen in most Columbia hiking boots. Yet the worst thing you can do is to leave them there, soiled and thrown away.

If you take care of them and don’t let the dirt get in, your shoes could last for years and miles. If you take good care of them, you won’t have to worry about replacing them before their time is up.

A good rule of thumb is to clean your hiking boots as soon as possible after returning from a hike, but no later than the next day. The following are the steps to cleaning hiking boot outsoles:

Step 1: Take off all the excess dried mud

First, try to gently remove dust Remove hard dirt by giving the boots a gentle hit against a hard surface (not too hard, as you risk damaging the material or stitching). The dirt can also be removed using a hard brush.

The lugs must be cleaned as well. Clogged soles reduce traction in wet and slippery conditions.

Step 2: Remove the shoelaces and insole from the boots.

You must have complete access to the tongue to reach every nook and corner. After removing the shoelaces, pull the tongue forward and clean the crevices of any grit and grime. Shaking out your laces and rinsing them thoroughly can remove any dirt embedded in the fibres.

Remove the insoles and shake the boots to remove any dirt.

Step 3: Wash your boots

Make sure your boots are well-protected by stuffing a big wad of absorbent material into them before you begin washing. Any splatters of water or cleaning solutions will be quickly absorbed.

Step 4: Waterproof your leather hiking boots

In the same way as synthetic hiking boots, re-waterproofing treatment must be done while the boots are still wet.

While most hiking boots come with a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish, it eventually wears off, and the boot becomes more water-resistant. Apply your waterproofing product after you’ve washed your boots but before you let them dry.

Step 5: Dry your leather hiking boots

If you’ve just finished cleaning your boots and want to let them air dry, you may either leave the towels or stuff newspaper inside. The next step is to dry the boots in a cool, dry place that is out of direct sunshine or heat. A fan will completely dry your boots faster.

How Frequently Should Your Hiking Boots Be Cleaned?

It is recommended that you clean your shoes after every walk or ramble. On the way home, try walking through some damp grass or a puddle to shake off as much dust as possible.

After that, you should wash the footwear in clean water.

Tips and Recommendation

You should always remember to air out your boots after wearing them so they can dry faster. Drying boots on the heater is not recommended because this can cause the leather to shrink, warp or crack.

Utilize conditioner sparingly. Leather in good condition operates optimally when it is hydrated. Too much conditioner, though, makes boots too soft, reducing the support they provide.

Mink Oil and similar oils developed for industrial boots oversoften the dry-tanned leather utilized in hiking footwear.

Additionally, check our guides for hiking boots based on each foot type, that we personally tried and tested.

  1. Wide Feet Hiking Boots
  2. Plantar Fasciitis Hiking Boots
  3. Flat Feet Hiking Boots


Can I Wash Hiking Boots in the Washing Machine?

You shouldn’t put your shoes in the washing machine because doing so could damage them. Your hiking shoes should be kept between outings in the open air (not in a bag) in a cool, dry location where they will not be subjected to direct sunlight.

How do you clean Merrell waterproof hiking boots?

The Merrell company recommends using mild soap and water to clean your shoes. Combine one part of soap with two parts of water in a bowl, then soak the shoe in the mixture. Rinse thoroughly with cool running water and then dry completely.

How do you wash Gore-Tex boots?

When you wash shoes with GORE-TEX lining, the gore-tex membrane is shredded, and the shoes lose their waterproof properties. GORE-TEX materials provide a membrane with exceptionally small holes. It is recommended to use a brush and lukewarm water on leather shoes and a damp sponge and lukewarm water on textile shoes to remove stubborn dirt.

How Do You Clean Leather Hiking Boots?

To clean, use dish soap with warm water in a small basin. Clean the boot’s exterior by dipping a soft cloth into the solution, wringing it out, and wiping it down. Cleaning the boots entails rinsing the soapy solution carefully with a new cloth and clean water.