How to Clean Hiking Boots with Household Items (Help Your Boots Last Longer)

You’re back from your hike, you’ve had a great time, but the issue is that you’re now left with a pair of hiking boots that are covered in muck and grime. It’s tempting to just chuck them in the cupboard for another day, but this can actually lead to them becoming less durable. 

You can clean hiking boots with common household items such as an old toothbrush and some mild washing up liquid. Of course, it is best to have some actual boot cleaner so that you can take the best possible care of them, but homemade quick fixes are fantastic. 

If you’d like to know the ins and outs of getting your hiking boots sparkling clean, make sure you scroll down and check out our handy detailed guide. 

Quick Cleaning Tips 

Before we get started, I’d like to take you through a couple of my top tips for cleaning your hiking boots efficiently. 

#1 Always check that your chosen boot cleaner is compatible with the material your hiking boots are made from. It’s why I like to go with the branded stuff that’s recommended for my boots. 

#2 Never use bar soaps or detergents, they can damage the leather as well as the waterproof membrane. Always use boot cleaner or the diluted dish soap in water technique. 

#3 If you’ve got mouldy boots (we’ve all been there) you can use a white vinegar and water solution to remove it efficiently. Just make sure you go 80:20 water to vinegar. 

#4 Never put your boots in the washing machine, they will end up damaged. Do make sure you rinse them after every cleaning session though. 

#5 Always waterproof your boots when they are still wet. We’ve got something on that you can read too so that you’re fully prepped for your next trip. 

Why is it so important that you clean your boots? Well, the thing is when they are caked in muck and grime, every step you take causes that to rub against the leather-wearing it down like sandpaper

Mud also sucks the moisture from your boots as it dries, which can lead to them ageing much faster and becoming cracked. They will also be much less pliable and difficult to restore if this happens frequently without cleaning. 

Cleaning Hiking Boot Uppers 

The uppers are made of tough stuff, which means they can be a little tricky to clean when they are caked with mud. No need to worry though, we have you covered. 

What You Will Need:
  • A boot brush or an old toothbrush 
  • Boot cleaner or mild dish soap and water (diluted)

#1 Remove the laces. This is because they get in the way of cleaning your boots, but also because you can wash them separately with warm water. 

#2 Use the boot brush (or toothbrush) to gently brush the uppers, removing any dirt that has been caked on. If it’s really stubborn, you can use a little more pressure. Make sure you get the whole exterior of the boot, might as well clean the whole thing up. 

#3 Put your boots under the tap (or the hose) and use with your chosen boot cleaner to give the uppers (and the whole exterior) a thorough wash and remove all the grime. You can also use your brush for this step. 

Cleaning Hiking Boot Outsoles 

A bit of caked-on mud on the outsoles isn’t going to destroy your boots, but it will limit the traction and mobility that they offer. 

What You Will Need:
  • A boot brush or an old toothbrush 
  • Boot cleaner or mild dish soap and water (diluted)

#1 Brush the boots vigorously with your brush of choice. You don’t want to be too rough, but make sure you apply some pressure to get rid of all that caked-on muck. 

#2 Use the brush to dislodge any pebbles and stones that have got stuck in the outsoles. 

#3 If they are really grimy, you can take the garden hose (or put them in your sink) and spray them with water to clean them off. 

How to Clean the Inside of Hiking Boots 

The inside gets pretty gross. Your feet have been in there all day and it’s going to smell after long hiking sessions. The good news is that cleaning them is really simple

What You Will Need:
  • Baking soda 

#1 Fill the boots with warm water and allow them to soak overnight. In the morning, pour the water away. 

#2 If the insoles are a bit smelly (they probably are) pour baking soda into the boot and allow it to soak up the excess moisture as well as the foot smell. Be generous with the baking soda. You can leave this overnight or for a few hours, depends on how bad they are. 

#3 Pour the baking soda out once you are finished with it, and you can use a brush or a vacuum cleaner to get the stragglers out. 

#4 Dry as normal, but if you have removable insoles this will help them dry way faster. 

Hiking Boot Drying and Storage Tips 

Now that your boots are clean, they are ready to dry and store away ready for your next trip. Here are our top tips for making sure they dry thoroughly (to avoid that awful stink) and to ensure they are stored away safely. 

#1 Remove the insoles (if possible) and let them dry separately from the boots. This allows for better airflow for the interior of the boot as well as the insoles. 

#2 Ensure the boots dry in a place with low humidity and that is at room temperature. 

#3 Do NOT place them near to or directly on a heat source. This includes the oven, radiators, fireplaces, and dryer. This is because heat can age the leather as well as cause it to crack and break. 

#4 You can fill the boots with newspaper (and change it regularly) to soak up moisture more effectively. We actually have a whole guide on drying hiking boots here. 

#5 You should store your boots in a place that is well-ventilated as well as at room temperature. They should not be stored in a hot and unventilated place or damp spaces. Places to NOT store your boots include the attic, garages, and car boots. 

Conditioning Your Boots 

This is really important as conditioning your boots to ensure they stay in good condition and protects the leather. For boots made from GORE-TEX, there are often specialist boot conditioners so that you can restore and retain the waterproof coating

Only full-grain leather needs to be conditioned. If you aren’t sure what yours are, smooth leather is full-grain, and boots with a rough texture tend to be made from materials such as suede or nubuck. You can also use a conditioner to break full-grain boots in quickly

You do have to make sure you are using the right amount of conditioner, and it can be a little tough at first. You want to make sure the leather is fully moisturised to keep it functioning at its best, but too much can cause the leather to become soft and less supportive. 

Your best bet is to pick up the branded conditioner that was designed for your boots. This is because other conditioners, such as those made for industrial boots, can actually be damaging to the leather of your hiking boots by over-softening them. 


Can you wash hiking boots in the washing machine? 

Don’t put your hiking boots in the washing machine, it can cause damage to them. It’s not just the laundry detergent, but also the fact that washing cycles are quite harsh on the material and likely to remove any waterproof coating that your boots have. 

Read here: How to dry your hiking boots ?

How to clean smelly hiking boots 

Cleaning smelly hiking boots is actually pretty simple. First, you will want to give them a good wash in warm water and mild soap. Following this, pour baking soda into and onto the boots, leaving them overnight to absorb the odour. 

Tip them out the next day and vacuum up anything that is left in the interior of the boot. You should find that the odours are gone and your boots smell nice and fresh. 

Final Thoughts 

Now you have everything you need to know in order to get your hiking boots looking their best. Whether you stick with the boot cleaner or go for something a little less traditional, each of our guides will help you get every inch of your boots nice and clean. 

If you found this chapter of our outdoor living series helpful, why not check out the rest? We offer extensive guides written by experts in the field so that you have all the latest news on safety, etiquette, and the best gear for the job. All we want is for you to have the best time.