How to Clean the Inside of Hiking Boots (Remove Smelly Odors)

We’ve all been there, you remove your boots to cries of “WHAT IS THAT SMELL?” only to realise that it’s not your feet, it’s your boots. Considering we have thousands of sweat glands in our feet, it’s not a surprise, but there are ways you can help keep odours at bay. 

To clean the inside of hiking boots and remove those smelly odours, all you really need is some warm water, disinfection spray, and a nice sprinkling of baking soda to top it all off. The process is fairly simple, and one that will keep your boots smelling fresh. 

Ready for the detailed step-by-step so that you remain on top of your game? Scroll down and you’ll find all the information you need for sparkling clean boots. 

What You Will Need 

Before you get started, you will need the following:

  • Dish soap
  • Warm water 
  • Mixing bowl
  • Clean cloth
  • Disinfecting spray or white vinegar 
  • Spray bottle 
  • Baking soda 
  • Essential oils of your choice 

You will want to mix the warm water with a spoon of dish soap before you get started. Keep it in a small basin and use it to dampen the cloth ready for cleaning following the steps below. 

#1 Wash with Warm Water 

Most hiking boots have a removable insole, and if this is the case for you then make sure you take them out first. This is because it is much easier to wash and dry them if they are separate from the boot. You will want to wash the outside of the boot too, we have a guide for that here. 

Take the insoles and wash them with a damp cloth that has been dipped in soapy warm water. Try NOT to soak the insoles too much, a brisk cleaning will get the job done without letting them get too wet – soaked insoles attract things like mould and take longer to dry. 

Once you have washed the insoles, leave them to dry. Don’t place them on or near a direct heat source as this could damage the material. Leave them to hang in a space that is at least room temperature overnight or until they are nice and dry. 

#2 Use Disinfecting Spray 

The reason you need to disinfect your boots is that the sweat produced by your feet encourages the growth of fungi and bacteria, leading to nasty conditions like athlete’s foot. Therefore, you need to keep the interior of your boot just as fresh as the exterior. 

You can buy plenty of chemical disinfecting sprays that will do the job, but we prefer the homemade option. A spray bottle of white vinegar or anything over 80% alcohol does the trick quite nicely and also helps to back up the baking soda by removing odours (see below).

#3 Soak the Boots in Baking Soda Overnight 

Baking soda is honestly one of the greatest gifts to mankind and it has loads of uses inside and outside the home. The way it works is that it doesn’t just soak up moisture, it also neutralises odours so that what you are using it on is left smelling wonderfully fresh. 

For your boots, sprinkle the baking soda generously inside them. Allow them to sit overnight, giving the baking soda time to absorb the odours and any excess moisture in the boot. The next day, tip the baking soda out and you’ll be left with fresh-smelling boots. 

If the baking soda gets a little stuck in your boot, there is no need to worry. You can grab the vacuum cleaner and clear the stragglers out. 

Take a look at this cheap, easy to use Duzzit baking soda to use to clean your hiking boots. 

#4 Mask Lingering Odours 

Sometimes we just have really smelly feet and boots, which means it can take time to remove the odours. There’s no need to feel ashamed, I am part of the smelly foot club. The good news is, there is one more thing you can do to help conquer those foot aromas. 

Essential oils are really handy to have around, and they can mask odours that are still lingering even after your boots have been cleaned. The best ones for the job are peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree (although tea tree should be avoided if you have pets in the home). 

You can use any oils you like, but these three are the best. All you need to do is pipette a few drops into each of your boots, let them dry, and then slip them on your feet. You get a pleasant odour that doesn’t overwhelm you (or others) and no one can smell your feet anymore. 

If you’re not comfortable with essential oils, you can use a branded foot powder instead. These are designed to soak up the sweat from your feet to protect your boots and your feet, but they also neutralise odours so that you don’t have to feel self-conscious. 

Take a look at the recommended rosemary oils that I personally find the best solution for masking smelly odours from your hiking boots. 


Why do my boots smell so bad?

Your boots likely smell bad because your feet have been sweating while you walk. It’s a natural thing, and the sweat makes the perfect home for bacteria and fungi. Keeping your feet washed and clean will help, and you can also sprinkle some baking soda or foot powder in the boots. 

Take a look at our guide on which household cleaners are best for cleaning your hiking boots.

How do you clean smelly leather boots? 

To clean smelly leather boots, the best trick is sprinkling baking soda inside them. This soaks up any excess sweat and also neutralises the smell. You can also use branded foot powders that do the same thing, but baking soda tends to be a cheaper and easier solution. 

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, getting your hiking boots clean and free from nasty odours is actually pretty simple. All you need to do is follow the steps in this guide and they will be good as new. Remember, baking soda and white vinegar are great ways to neutralise smells. 

Did you enjoy this guide to cleaning your boots? If so, we have an entire series dedicated to foot care (and footwear care), camping tricks, safety while out on the trail, and the proper etiquette to adopt. As experts, we’re dedicated to keeping you safe and protected, so check them out.