How To: Boot Cleaning

Take care of your hiking boots and they'll take care of you.

Andrew Bowden

It had been a cold, wet six-day trip into Wyoming’s Wind Rivers. When I finally reached the warmth of the car, I ripped off my muddy, saturated boots and socks, wrapped them tightly in a plastic bag, and put my pink feet next to the heater.

I didn’t give those boots another thought until I came across a stinky plastic bag in my garage a month later. Inside were the boots, covered in mold and mildew and ruined.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Take care of your boots and they’ll take care of you. Here’s how:

1. Let boots air dry, preferably out of direct sunlight. To hasten the process with thoroughly saturated boots, remove the insoles and laces, open the boots as wide as possible, and stuff newspaper inside to absorb moisture.

2. Never place wet boots close to a heat source, such as a heater or a fire. The leather can contract, rendering your boots a half-size too small or splitting them. Rubber soles have also been known to melt.

3. Brush off dirt with a stiff nylon shoe brush. For obstinate dirt and salt stains, rinse with clean water, then brush.

4. Use an old toothbrush to remove muck from nooks and crannies.

5. Sprinkle baking soda inside to absorb moisture and odors.

6. If the leather starts to look dry and light-colored, moisturize your boots to prevent cracks. Consult the boot’s manufacturer for the recommended treatment.

7. Use chrome polish to remove rust from boot hardware.

8. Once your boots are dry, clean, rejuvenated, and ready for your next adventure, store them in a cool, dry, dark place.