How to clean hiking boots and look after them
Hiking is great fun, and having the right hiking boots on your feet goes a long way to making sure you enjoy all of the benefits of exploring the great outdoors. Knowing how to wash hiking books and clean them is an important part of ensuring they stay in tip-top condition, so you can avoid injury or nasty spills on the trail and, quite literally, get more mileage from your hiking boots.
While you might be pretty worn out after a day's hiking, the good news is that washing your boots doesn't have to take a lot of time or energy.
Cleaning hiking boots
When it comes to washing your hiking boots, dishwashing liquid or purpose-designed boot cleaning detergent gets the best results.
To start with, take the laces out of your boots and set them aside. If your boots are muddy, either bang the heels together to remove the mud or dunk the outside of the boots (i.e. where they're most dirty) in soapy water. If the mud has dried, use an old toothbrush or household brush to remove mud and other dust.
Next, take out the insoles from your boots, and give them a wash in soapy water with a soft-bristled brush. When you've finished washing the insoles, leave them in a well-ventilated space to dry.
Then, give the outsoles of your shoes a good scrub in soapy water with a tough brush, making sure to get rid of anything like pebbles or dirt that are trapped or stuck between the tread lines. You might need to apply a fair amount of elbow grease if you've gotten a bit lazy with regularly cleaning your hiking boots.
Once this is done, give your boots a thorough rinsing with clean water, getting rid of as much of the cleaning detergent as you can.
Drying hiking boots
Drying your boots properly is just as important as how you wash them. It's absolutely vital that you allow your shoes to dry completely after you finish cleaning them.
The best way to dry your hiking boots is to let them air naturally at room temperature and in a well-ventilated space with minimal humidity. Never use a direct heat source like a heater or fireplace and, while it might seem counter-intuitive, don't leave them in the sun. Excessive heat breaks down the adhesives used in the soles and the uppers of your boots and too much direct sunlight prematurely ages the leather.
To speed up the drying process, stuff newspaper inside your boots and change it whenever it gets damp.
When your boots and insoles have completely dried, pop the insoles back in the boots and re-lace your footwear. Giving them a spray with an anti-odour or disinfectant spray will help avoid smelly boots.
Ongoing maintenance and cleaning tips
The sooner you wash your boots after a hike, the better. Don't just throw them in your shoe storage space thinking you'll get to them another time. They should be cleaned as soon as possible, or on the following day at the latest. Dirt - especially mud - sucks the moisture from boot leather, making them less pliable, speeds up the ageing process and makes them less comfortable for hiking. If you can, give your boots a rinse in a stream or river when you finish your hike.
Never (ever) wash your boots in a washing machine! As tough as they are, the spin cycle is too harsh on hiking boots, and will weaken the materials used in their construction.
Always make sure you buy footwear cleaner that's okay to use on boots, and follow the directions on the packaging. Don't use bar soap or other detergents, like laundry liquids, because they can break down waterproofing membranes. If you notice mould spots on your hiking boots, you can easily clean them away using a mixture of 80 percent water to 20 percent vinegar after rinsing out your washing solution.
If you notice that water isn't beading on the surface of your boots anymore, it might be time to give them another waterproofing treatment. As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions on your waterproofing packaging to get the optimal results for that specific product.
Between each hike, store your boots in a cool dry place, which is out of direct sunlight. Avoid storing them in a hot attic or garage, as extreme heat (which includes direct sunlight) can damage the material that holds your boots together and seriously reduce their lifespan.
Your hiking boots do an enormous amount of work when you're out on trail walks and camping, so knowing how to clean hiking boots is important.
Keeping them clean not only means they protect your feet like they should but it also extends the lifespan of your boots, helping you get excellent value-for-money and, most of all, supporting you in some exciting adventures while you're out hiking.