How to Clean Hiking Boots Like a Pro (5 Easy Steps and Tips)

For me, dirty hiking boots clearly show I’ve been on an amazing adventure. However, I know that at the end of the day, I can’t store boots with all of that dirt on there as a badge of honor.

Caked-on mud from gritty trails can cause both leather and synthetic fabric boots to break down quicker and causes unnecessary wear and tear on the materials.

Here, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to clean hiking boots and ensure that your favorite boots last as long as possible. 

Quick Summary 

  • You should give boots a regular cleaning after every hike.  
  • The best way to clean hiking boots is to thoroughly clean both the inside and the outside of the boots. 
  • While your boots are still wet, apply a waterproofing treatment to protect them. 

How To Clean Your Boots Inside

cleaning hiking boots

The insides of your walking shoes are not exempt from getting dirty while you’re out on the trail, and you must also take time to clean them.

I’ve had all sorts of things seep through small cracks in my shoes and have seen the damage it can do.

I also know that my feet tend to get sweaty during long hikes and that dampness can also cause damage. 

Here’s the process I use to clean the inside of my boots each time I finish a hike. I like always to do this cleaning step first before I tackle the dirtier outside of the boots. 

  1. Remove the insoles from both of the boots. 
  2. Take a clean, damp cloth and wipe down the inner lining of each boot to remove any dirt.  
  3. Wash the insoles with warm water and some gentle soap. If they need deodorizing, sprinkle some baking soda on them at this time. Leave them out of the boots to finish the drying process.
  4. Stuff newspaper or a hand towel inside your boots to keep them completely dry as you move on to the outside of the boot. 

How To Wash The Outside Of Your Boots

cleaning hiking boots with a brush

No doubt, when cleaning hiking boots, the hiking boot outsoles and uppers will need the most attention. Before I leave the hiking area and get back into my car, I kick off as much mud and dirt as possible. I’ll either stomp my feet on the ground or even against a rock or a tree.  

Once I’m back at home, that’s where the real work begins. After cleaning the interior and removing the bad smell of the hiking boots, I move on to the muddy exterior. 

  1. Take a boot brush and brush off all the caked-on mud, rocks, leaves, dust, and other debris on the surface that you kick off at the end of the trail. Also, scrub the laces.  
  2. If you have synthetic boots: Fill a sink or basin with warm water and add a bit of dish soap (not bar soap). Sometimes I fill the bathtub instead to avoid getting my sink too dirty.
    Dip your hiking boots into the water and use a shoe brush to gently give them a good scrub. Once your boots are clean, dampen a fresh cloth and wipe again, to remove any leftover soap residue. 
  3. For leather hiking boots: Rinse your boots under lukewarm water. Use a special leather boot cleaner and rub it around the boot with a soft cloth. After cleaning the entire boot, use a damp sponge to remove any remaining leather cleaner from the boot. My cleaning and maintaining process for leather hiking boots are slightly different, so please check our guide.
  4. After your hiking boots are clean, re-waterproof your footwear. Complete this step while your hiking boots are still wet. For synthetic hiking boots, use a waterproofing spray. For leather hiking boots, steer clear of those and use a waterproofing wax instead.
    Apply a few thin layers of the wax in a circular motion to ensure they are properly waterproofed. 
  5. Let your boots air dry. After they dry completely, replace your hiking insoles. Remember, never dry your hiking boots near heat sources (like a fireplace or campfire) or in direct sunlight. 

For my Vasque leather boots, I also like to apply a leather conditioner to them after they’ve dried to help prevent any cracking or drying out and keep them looking slightly shiny.  

Related Article: How Do You Wash Hiking Boots In The Washing Machine 

How Often Should You Clean Your Hiking Boots? 

drying my hiking boots in my bathroom

Ideally, you should make sure you’re cleaning hiking boot outsoles and uppers after every one of your outdoor adventures.

However, if you’ve only worn your hiking boots for a short walk or in a dry environment, you may get away with waiting until after your next hike to give them the full treatment.

I’ll admit that I don’t diligently clean mine from top to bottom every time I return from the outdoors. 

Tips And Recommendations 

If your hiking boot is really dirty, it helps if you remove the laces as well and wash those separately in the sink or the clothes washer. 

Most hiking boots should hold up well to washing. However, I’ve noticed that non-leather options are easier to wash than full-grain leather boots. 

My favorite brands with a gore-tex membrane include Merrell and Salomon boots. These brands have very good waterproof membranes and hold up well to the environment and cleaning.


How Do You Clean Merrell Waterproof Hiking Boots?

Clean your Merrell waterproof hiking footwear by following the manufacturer’s instructions based on the material and construction of the shoe. 

How Do You Wash Gore-Tex Boots?

Wash boots made of gore-tex by following the instructions for cleaning synthetic materials and re-waterproofing them with a durable water repellent, such as a waterproofing spray.

Wash boots made of gore-tex by following the instructions for cleaning synthetic materials and re-waterproofing them with a durable water repellent, such as a waterproofing spray.

How Do You Clean Leather Hiking Boots?

Clean leather hiking boots by rinsing them under warm running water and then applying a special leather cleaner to the boots. Apply wax as a waterproofing treatment and use a conditioner to prevent cracking.

What Materials Do I Need to Clean My Hiking Boots?

To clean your synthetic hiking boots, we suggest you have a boot brush, boot cleaner, and a soft brush. These materials will help you remove dirt and maintain the boots’ condition.

Catalin Geangos

Catalin Geangos

Catalin is a writer and outdoor specialist who has been traveling in over 35 countries so far. He loves spending time in nature, enjoying mountains and nature adventures, and ultimately inspiring people to travel more. In his time off, he is testing, analyzes, and reviews hiking and other outdoor gear and accessories.

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