How to Clean Hiking Boots (The Best Way 2023)

how to clean hiking boots

Are your hiking boots broken in but still have plenty of miles left in them? Not to worry, we’re is here to help! Whether you are new to the world of hiking or have been taking care of your gear for years, we’ve got you covered. We’re going to cover everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how to clean hiking boots, including when to clean them and how to take care of different fabrics, as well as recommendations for some products you can use. 

Why Should I Clean my Hiking Boots?

While the purpose of hiking boots is to get dirty and keep your feet clean and dry while you are hiking, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be cleaned! Skipping out on cleaning your boots regularly can break them down and wear them out quicker, leaving you to drop even more money on expensive boots. While you are hiking, dirt, mud, or sand on your boots can act really similar to sandpaper, wearing through your boot, and will eventually wear holes through your boots. The mud will also start to take hold in the crevices of your boots, making them much harder to clean later.

How Often to Clean Hiking Boots

How often you should clean your hiking boots will vary depending on how dirty they get and how often you hike. A good rule of thumb is to clean them after every few hikes, but if they are very dirty or full of mud, then you may need to clean them sooner. Perhaps consider a light clean after really messy hikes or backpacking trips, with a couple deep cleans throughout the hiking season. 

How to Clean Leather Hiking Boots

The best way to clean leather hiking boots is with a mixture of water and saddle soap. Mix the two in a bucket, then take a damp cloth or sponge and dip it into the solution. Rub the cleaning solution all over your boots, making sure to pay special attention to any dirt or mud that is caked on. Let the boots sit for about five minutes so that the solution can soak in and break down any tough dirt or mud, then use another damp cloth or sponge to wipe off all of the suds. Finally, let your boots air dry overnight – do not put them near a heat source like a radiator as this could damage the leather.

After cleaning leather you always want to use a leather conditioner. Leather conditioners will keep your boots soft and flexible, helping them last longer.

How Do I Clean Fabric Hiking Boots?

Fabric hiking boots are the easiest to clean! Just use a damp cloth or sponge with warm water and wipe down all of the mud that is caked on – it should just come right off. Then you can leave them out to air dry overnight.

Consider Using a Boot Wash

While both leather and fabric hiking boots can easily be washed with mild soap and water, an alternative is a professional cleaning product like Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel. Whether your shoes or boots are leather, suede, nubuck, or syndetic materials, this cleaning gel is super easy to use and doesn’t require any other supplies or water. Just use the built in sponge-on applicator to clean your boots, then follow up with waterproofing while the shoes are still wet.

Finish with a Waterproofing

Whether your boots are leather or fabric, consider finishing your cleaning session with a waterproofing spray or sponge-on. We use NikWax Fabric & Leather Proof on all our outdoor shoes multiple times each season, and we love how it adds water-repellency without taking away the breathability of the shoe. Nikwax also makes a Suede and Nubuck waterproofing for all types of fabrics. 

Why finish with a waterproofing? Over time, the seal on your boots wears away, and before you know it, you’ll be feeling water seep through the fabric instead of being repelled. Using a waterproofing spray is super easy and is an essential part of maintaining your hiking boots so you can get all the miles out of them that they have to offer. For a more in-depth look at how to waterproof hiking boots check out this link

Got Stinky Boots? 

After cleaning the exterior of your boots, consider taking the time to clean the inside as well. The steps are simple, and most can be completed with common household items. Read more here on how to clean smelly hiking boots.


Can I wash my boots in the washing machine?

No. Never put boots in a washing machine, as it can damage them. Use a mild soap or shoe cleaner, followed by a waterproofing and a session outside air drying. 

Can I put my boots in the dryer?

No. Heat can damage the exterior or the boots, or even melt glue and other adhesives that hold the shoes together. If you need to dry your shoes, go with the old fashioned air drying method. 

How do I wash waterproof boots?

Use a soft brush with water for simple cleaning sessions. Don’t use soaps or detergents unless necessary, then finish with re-applying the waterproofing.

How do you clean a stinky hiking boot?

We’ve put together an entire article on cleaning smelly hiking boots! Read more here. 

About the Author

Derek Vitiello

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while. Feel free to contact us with any questions or get in touch with us on social media!

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley

Know Nothing Nomads