How To Clean Your Leather Walking Boots

Our leather walking boots (or hiking boots if you prefer) need maintenance so we can enjoy them better and for as much time as possible.

During Autumn and Winter months, our hiking boots are put through hard trial and trails. There is mud and rain, rough terrain and all kinds of weather conditions along the trails.

We have in mind that leather walking boots are manufactured in a way to cope with such rough conditions. That doesn’t mean that it is ideal to through our muddy boots in a closet until the next time we want to use them. 

In fact, such speeds up the deterioration of our boots.

Cleaning our boots in a thorough way, makes sure that they will accompany you for a longer period of time.

Don’t forget to explore more posts from our hiking gear section, like: Ultralight Backpacking Gear Basics, Best Trekking Poles for Men and Women, Best Hiking Leggings for Women, Best Hiking Gloves and many more.

What happens with uncleaned leather walking boots?

Neglect to clean them and boots will destroy faster through a multitude a ways. Why? Here are a couple of reasons:

  • Every time you walk, your boot bends. Very small pieced or dirt, sand, mud or tiny rocks sin deeper in the boots leather, in the fabric and its adjoined structural elements. Look closer and notice the series of scratches, like rubbing them with sandpaper. 
  • Mud initially moistens boots, but as it dries it makes the skin dry too. Your boots become less flexible and materials “break”.
  • Sand and tiny rocks find their way in seams and bindings of your boots different layers and materials. Each time you use your boots, these wear down all these layers bit by bit, through abrasion.

When you don’t clean your leather boots, all these above sum up.

5 Highly Recommended Hiking Boots

How To Clean Your leather walking Boots

 Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

Over-the-ankle boot, made by Nubuck leather/textile, Gore-Tex waterproof & breathable, dual density midsole (EVA), contactgrip rubber outsole. Weighs: 2 lbs. 13.2 oz.

Check price & details In REI | In Amazon

How To Clean Boots

Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

Over-the-ankle, Suede leather and mesh, waterproof and breathable membrane, EVA midsole, Vibram TC%+ rubber midsole. Weighs: 2 lbs. 4 oz.

Check price & details In REI | In Amazon

Leather Boots

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Over-the-ankle boots, made with Nubuck leather and Cordura nylon, with Gore-Tex waterproof and breathable lining, with Vibram rubber outsole. Weighs 2lbs. 7 oz.

Check price & details In REI (Men’s) | In Amazon Women’s

Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid GTX

Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid GTX

Made with Nubuck leather, nylon and EVA foam. Waterproof Gore-Tex membrane with EVA midsole. Weighs: 2lbs. 3 oz.

Check price & details In Amazon

How To Clean Your Walking Boots

Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II WP

Made with leather, waterproof with Techlite lightweight midsole. Weighs: 2 lbs. 0 oz.

Check price & details In Amazon

What cleaning gear you need? 

Things are rather simple with such gear. Mostly you need to allocate the time for cleaning. You will need:

  • A special brush for boots or an old toothbrush. Even a vegetables cleaning brush can do the work.
  • A special boots cleaning liquid, leather specific soap or a light mixture of dish washing soap and water.

Cleaning the top

Remove laces before cleaning your leather walking boots. Use the brush to gently remove dust, dirt or mud. You can place the boot under running water while doing that. Then it is time for the detergent.

When using detergents:

  • Most of the cleaning detergents can be used and applied on big range of materials, including leather. Just double check that the one you are about to use is suitable for cleaning your leather hiking boots and follow the instructions.
  • Do not use hands soap or a detergent not suitable for such boots.
  • To clean mold away you need a mixture from 80% of water and 20% vinegar.
  • Always wash your boots thoroughly with clean water after using detergents.

Do not place your boots in a washing machine. They will most probably get destroyed.

Do not place them next to extreme heat to dry up. Such can cause damage to your boots. If weather permits let them dry under the sun, without any laces. Otherwise place them near a heat source but (as said) not too close.

The danger of salt water

Last but really important is salt water.

This actually applies to all kinds of hiking boots. When you walk through salt water it is important to rinse your boots with non-salty water (or better to thorough clean them) as soon as possible.

Salt corrodes materials and water allows it to get deep into materials.

How to waterproof your boots?

If you plan to waterproof your boots, do it while they are still wet (but not soaked). Most good boots are waterproof so you really don’t need to add extra coating. However, when you notice that water drops don’t roll away from the boots surface, but sink in then it is time for that waterproof coating.

Usually, all methods for waterproofing and maintenance relate to boots made from leather or ones that are made from suede and nubuck “hard” leathers. Just read all waterproof instructions twice, before applying any coating.

Boots with Gore-Tex or any other type of membrane don’t need extra coating. For such boots simply follow the thorough cleaning process.

Some tips:

  • If your boots are not moist enough then wrap them in a wet towel and leave them in your bathtub for a few hours.
  • Apply the coating after that.
  • To dry your boots do not use an extreme heat device or place (radiator, stove, fireplace, etc). Let them gradually dry in room temperature or better (if weather permits) under the sun, if atmospheric humidity is low.
  • If you need to speed up the process then use a fan or a hair dryer (not in high temperature and from a distance).

How to clean the outer sole of hiking boots?

Dirt and mud won’t destroy your boots outer soles but cleaning them up allows your boots to have better adhesion against the ground.

Brush dirt away and remove any small rocks that are jammed there. 

If dirt or mud has become hard and difficult to be removed with the brush, then soak soles first and use water with pressure to remove the dirt. 

Do not dry the soles next to strong heat.

How to store your boots?

You may be surprised but storage contributes largely to your boots life expectancy! Make sure to:

  • Remove the inner soles and let them dry separately.
  • Fill the boot with newspapers so they keep their shape when stored for long.
  • Store them in place where there is no atmospheric humidity and temperature remains relatively steady. Avoid storing them in garage, car trunks, attics or any other moist, very warm or with poor ventilation space.

Especially for leather boots keep in mind that leather is something that is “alive” as a material.

On top of that, all kinds of rubber, seams and synthetic materials don’t react well when mistreated under extreme conditions changes (i.e. from extreme cold to intense heat, etc). They tend to “break down” and thus gradually deteriorate.

Treat them well for safety and enjoying them longer.

Have fun.

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