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Can You Wash Hiking Boots in the Washing Machine?

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Can you wash hiking boots in washing machine? The simple answer is yes, you can, but you shouldn’t. That is unless you want them damaged and, in most cases, beyond repair.

Even though there’s this notion your hiking boots should be a lot like your overland truck—rough, rugged, raw, and covered in dirt—not only does that give them character, but it gives them that been through it all and came back look that most outdoor lovers like.

The simple truth is that leaving your hiking boots without the necessary boot care they need will not only shorten their lifespan but could also damage them. Quick answer? No, you shouldn’t wash hiking boots in washing machine.

So, yes, you should keep your hiking boots clean. And that means giving them a thorough cleaning after every hike. How do you do it? How do you properly and safely clean hiking boots, so they don’t lose their structural integrity? Here’s a step-by-step guide that should help.


Step by Step Guide on How to Clean Hiking Boots

Your hiking footwear, not just the boots, needs a good cleaning after every outing. While the procedure is often different depending on the type of footwear in question, the process is almost always similar to a point. For example, leather shoes won’t need to be worn through every single step like your more athletic shoes.

Step 1: Gather the Essential Cleaning Materials

You already have most of what you need to clean your hiking boots at home. You can easily get what you don’t have from your nearest store. Here’s a quick list of the materials you will need to clean your hiking boots:

  • Scrubbing brushes: You might need a few of these, but you can use one depending on the kind of hiking boots you have. You’ll often need a boot brush (a hard or soft scrubbing brush). In some cases, you can get away with using an old toothbrush, and in other cases, all you’ll need is an old vegetable brush.
  • An old rug: Anything that’s absorbent and doesn’t leave its fibers or coloring on the boots will do. You could also use a soft cloth.
  • Mild detergent: In many cases, you’ll find that a mild dishwashing soap works just fine. You might want to purchase a special boot cleaner or cleaning gel. If you are going to use a special boot cleaner, make sure it is specifically made for your boot type since suede, leather, and other types of fabrics require different types of cleaners. Refrain from using hand soap or laundry detergent. These tend to damage the waterproof membranes of the boots.
  • Old newspapers: These will be used later on in the drying process. 
  • Water: Cold or lukewarm water works just fine. In some cases, the boots may grow mold or begin to smell bad, especially when you haven’t washed them in a while. Mixing water with vinegar (20% vinegar and 80% water) is advisable.
  • The dirty boots: If you have more than one pair, you can have a big cleaning day for all of them.
walking if forest with hiking boots

Step 2: Scrub off the Dust and Dirt

Getting as much dust and dirt off your boots as soon as you take them off after a hike and before you put them away is advisable. There’s a very simple method of doing this:

  • Take your shoes off
  • Tuck in the shoelaces
  • Insert your hands into your boots
  • Bang them together against one another

Quite a bit of the dust and loose dirt should come flying off the more you bang them together. Once done, remove your hands from inside the boots and hold them by the soles. Bang the top of the boots together several times to get rid of any dust and loose dirt on the fabric.

Step 3: Scrub off the Dirt

Using your boot brush, scrub off the remaining dirt and dust from the boot’s fabric. You can also use a tent peg, or something just as pointed, to get rid of the mud from the soles. If that doesn’t work to your satisfaction (chances are that it won’t), soak the soles in clean water for a little while—20-30 minutes should do just fine—and then use a durable boot brush to get rid of the mud and clean the soles.

Step 4: Remove and Clean the Laces

You will have to remove the laces to clean the boots’ uppers. Soak the laces in clean, soapy water and give them a good rinse before leaving them out to dry.

Step 5: Wash the Boots Using Warm Water and Mild Soap

If your boots have stubborn dirt or mud stuck on them, consider soaking them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes—no more than 30 minutes—before using your soft brush to clean them.

Go over each boot using a soft brush. Pay extra attention to the creases and seams. If the insoles can come out, remove them, and clean them using the brush.

Step 6: Rinse the Boots

Once satisfied that you have given the boots a thorough brushing, it’s time to rinse them using clean water. One of the best ways to do this is under the tap.


Tips on How to Dry Hiking Boots

Once you are done cleaning your boots, it’s time to dry them. However, before you get to that, you need to decide whether or not you want to give your boots a waterproof treatment. If so, it needs to be done while the boots are wet and before you follow the drying procedure.

man wearing hiking boots

How to Waterproof Your Hiking Shoes

Waterproofing treatments become necessary as your boots get older. Whether you own synthetic boots, leather boots or fabric hiking boots, there’s a recommended waterproof treatment solution for them.

You must only use the recommended product for your specific hiking shoes. That said, you will most likely use a waterproofing spray or gel such as Nikwax Fabric.

Nikwax Fabric & Leather Footwear Cleaning and Waterproofing DUO-Pack,...

Once you have all that you need, here are the steps you need to follow to waterproof your boots:

  • Ensure they are damp: Waterproofing works best when your boots are damp or have excess moisture. If you have leather hiking boots, you must let them soak right through. This will often be achieved by cleaning them, but if they are clean enough and you only want to waterproof them, you will have to let them soak in warm water for a few hours.
  • Read the instructions: Closely follow the instructions highlighted by the manufacturers of your waterproofing treatment solution.
  • Leave the boots out to dry: You don’t want to dry your boots directly under a heat source such as a radiator or campfire. Find a well-ventilated place and let the boots dry out slowly. Drying them under a direct heat source might dry out the leather and ruin the shoes.

How to Dry Your Hiking Boots

Here are some steps you can follow to dry your hiking boots properly and away from direct heat sources.

Note: These instructions should only be followed if you aren’t waterproofing your boots. Otherwise, the above instructions should apply.

Step 1: Towel Dry the Boots

Grab an old piece of cloth or a towel and wipe off any excess moisture from the surface of your boots.

Step 2: Stuff the Boots with Newspaper

Crumble up as many newspaper pieces as you can fit into each boot and stuff them in there. These pieces of paper will work to absorb the water from the inside even as the boots dry out from the outside.

Step 3: Leave the Boots Out to Dry

Don’t leave your boots to dry under direct heat, such as a radiator or a tent heater. Leave them in a dry, well-ventilated area so they can dry out slowly. Keep changing the newspapers as they get damp.

Learning how to clean your hiking boots properly will save you money in the long run. Not only does a thorough cleaning give your hiking boots better longevity, but it also helps keep them clean and fresh. You could use an odor eliminator of your choice if you find that they are getting a little funky.

Other than that, the above instructions are sufficient and should help you keep your hiking boots clean and properly functional.


Did we miss anything? What’s your tip(s) for cleaning your hiking boots? Leave us a comment below!

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Last update on 2022-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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