As an avid hiker, I know that cleaning boots after a hike can be a bit tedious and time-consuming, but also that it’s important to clean off all that dust, dirt, and sweat to prevent fungal infections and keep my footwear in good shape.
Often, as I scrub away the mud and dirt, I’ve thought about how much easier it would be to just throw them in the machine.
However, for most hiking boots, this process is not recommended as it can cause damage to the materials, waterproofing, or wear down the boots.
Nevertheless, some boots advertise themselves as machine washable, which means you can put them in the machine to freshen them up without affecting their performance.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to wash a pair of hiking shoes in the washing machine when you notice they start to smell or have a lot of debris.
Can I Wash Hiking Boots Or Shoes In The Washing Machine?
You can wash hiking boots or shoes in the washing machine to keep them smelling fresh if the manufacturer’s instructions state that they are suited for machine washing.
Make sure you always use a gentle detergent.
This rule usually only applies to boots made of fabric or cloth, like nylon, polyester, or cotton.
If your boots or shoes are not made of these fabrics, you should stick to hand washing to clean them properly.
Materials You Should Never Put In The Washer
As mentioned, certain materials should never be washed in the machine as it will ruin them. Here are the types of boots you should steer clear of throwing in the washer.
- Leather shoes
- Suede shoes
- Nubuck shoes
Generally, anything made from animal products should not go into the washing machine. The laundry detergent and agitation of the machine will almost always damage these types.
Additionally, boots of any material (even fabric) with a waterproof membrane may also suffer damage if you frequently clean them in the machine.
You’ll quickly find that the waterproofing no longer properly does its job.
Read More: How to Maintain Leather Hiking Boots
Materials That Are OK For The Washing Machine
If your shoe or boot is made from the following fabrics, you may be ok to freshen them in the machine without causing any damage.
- Other types of fabrics
Shoes made of fabrics do much better in a machine than ones made from natural materials.
- Best Hiking Boots for Winter
- Best Waterproof Boots for Hiking
- Best Hiking Boots That Provide Good Ankle Support
How To Wash Hiking Shoes In The Washing Machine
If you’ve determined that your pair of boots or shoes are machine washable, follow these steps to clean your boots without any damage or hassle.
A front-load machine typically works best for shoe or boot cleaning using this method because it doesn’t have an agitator, which can possibly cause damage.
- Ensure you have a gentle laundry detergent, a mesh bag, a cleaning brush or old toothbrush, and some cloth to stuff in the boots.
- Remove the laces and take the insoles out of your boots or shoes (if they’re removable). You’ll wash these separately.
- After you remove the laces, place them in the mesh bag so they won’t get lost. However, don’t put the insoles in there. You should hand wash those separately.
- Use a cleaning brush or old toothbrush to scrub the soles and tongue to remove any visible or caked-on dirt, mud, dust, and debris on the outside of the shoes. This step helps with the cleaning procedure.
- Put the shoes in the machine and run the cold water cycle to protect them from damage or shrinking. You may want to throw a couple of towels in there simultaneously, as the towels will help to balance the load and prevent the shoes from banging around so much during the cycle. You can also stuff a cloth (or socks) inside the toe of each shoe to help it maintain its shape.
- After the cycle has finished and your shoes are washed, take your clean shoes out and begin the drying process. First, wipe the shoes with a clean towel to remove any extra moisture, and remove the cloth that you stuffed inside.
- Do not put your shoes in the dryer to dry them. No matter what your shoes are made of, you must let them air dry, as the hot air from the dryer is damaging,
- To air dry your shoes or boots, find a well-ventilated area, away from any heat sources where your shoes can breathe. Make sure you let them air dry completely before wearing them again. This process can take a few days and it should completely remove the smell from your hiking boots.
- Once the shoes are completely dry, replace the laces and insoles, and you’re ready to hit the trails with freshly washed shoes on your feet.
Tips And Recommendations
Here are some of my final thoughts and tips if you choose to clean your shoes or boots this way.
- Never wash your premium hiking boots and shoes without taking the time to remove the laces and insoles.
- Always run a cold cycle in the washer. Warm water can damage the shoes by changing their shape or causing fading and shrinkage.
- Make sure you use a mild soap made for the machine.
- If you wash your shoes too often, the waterproof membrane will suffer, and you’ll need to re-waterproof the boots.
- Never try putting your boots or shoes in the dryer. Doing so will always cause damage.
- If you want to speed up the drying time of the boots, wipe your boots off with a cloth first and put a fan in the area.
- You can use baking soda to help deodorize shoes that have odors, even after washing.
No, you should not machine wash your Timberland Boots. These boots are made from leather, and it would be harmful to both their construction and integrity. Stick to handwashing with a soft cloth and special soap for your Timberland boots.
Merrell does not recommend any other way to clean their shoes other than handwashing with a cloth and soap when they get dirty. Therefore, you take a risk by putting them inside a machine.