How to Clean Mud from Shoes, Big and Small

Don’t stay inside just because it's messy outside But you can make cleanup easier with these simple tips.

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Ah, the signs of spring. Warmer and longer days, trees leafing out, birds coming back—and mud. Whether it’s snowmelt or rain, trails get sloppy in spring time. And don’t try and go around: It’s better for the environment to walk right down the middle of a muddy trail instead of widening it (some vulnerable trails actually close in spring; learn the local ethic and check with your trail authority before heading out). Bonus: Kids love to get dirty. Cleaning mud from their (and your) shoes is just part of the deal—and it will prolong the life of footwear since mud and grime can degrade seams and upper materials. Here’s how to do it right.

1. Avoid the washing machine. It may be tempting to toss footwear into the washing machine, but don’t do it. The tossing and turning, swishing and swashing, and constant soak can damage and misshape shoes. This is especially true of leather boots. You can remove the laces and toss those in the washing machine.

2. Start cleaning on the trail. At the end of your hike, seek out a creek, puddle, or patch of snow. Dip your muddy shoe (still on your foot) in the water or drag it in the snow, cleaning off mud. The more you get off now, the easier the cleanup at home.

3. Let them dry. Though it’s best to get mud off right away, if mud still lingers after the step above, leave boots outside to dry. The caked-on, hard mud will be much easier to get off when it’s dry. Just bang them sole to sole and the dried mud will come off (in chunks, do this away from others and in a place that can get dirty).

4. Repurpose your toothbrush. To further clean shoes, dip a soft brush (like an old toothbrush) into a solution of water and mild soap, like dishwashing soap. Scrub extra muddy/dirty parts of the shoe.

5. Avoid the dryer. The dryer wreaks more havoc on shoes than the washing machine. The heat of a dryer breaks down glues used to adhere shoe parts and can add to overall deterioration of your shoes.

6. Avoid the sun. The sun works like a dryer, and its intense, direct heat will also melt glues. You can put shoes outside in the shade and make use of a warm day and fresh air to help speed up the drying process.

7. Use newspaper. To expedite drying time, remove liners and stuff newspapers inside shoes. The permeable surface of newspaper will help draw moisture away from the shoe.

8. Treat them right. To extend the life of your waterproof shoes and leather footwear, use product. To re-waterproof shoes and boots, try Nikwax’s Footwear DuoPack Fabric & Leather.To treat leather and keep it from drying out, try Nikwax Conditioner for Leather

9. Get back out there and get muddy again! Want to become an expert at maintaining and repairing all types of gear? Take our course and make your gear last forever, or as close as possible.