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How to Clean Hiking Shoes
Published: Nov 25, 2020
Hiking shoes are built not only to protect your feet, but also to take on muddy and gritty trails. Yes, they're meant to be sturdy, but taking care of them and cleaning them after every hike can make a big difference on how long they can last.
Cleaning your hiking boots is important if you want them to last many years. To clean them thoroughly, wash them with water, brush off the dirt, use a mild soap to remove stubborn stains, then wash them again. Let your boots dry away from the sun, at a natural temperature. Make sure to apply waterproofing and conditioning to ensure that they will keep protecting your feet on future hiking trips.
In this article, we'll discuss how to clean your hiking shoes and boots inside and out. After this, we'll talk about how to dry your shoes, ways to properly store them when you don't use them, and tips to waterproof and condition your boots to make them look like they're brand new.
Let's get started.
Cleaning your hiking shoes
Cleaning your shoes does not mean that you need to wash them every time they're dirty. When you're still on your campsite, you can dust the dirt off by holding them on the ankles, and banging them on a tree trunk.
Why is it important to do this?
Ignoring the built-up dirt on your boots can:
- Take away the moisture from the cloth or leather of your shoes, which can speed up the aging process and make your boots dry.
- Damage them due to drying mud, which can grind away your shoes, like sandpaper eating away wood.
Items you'll need:
- An old toothbrush, a vegetable brush, or a brush specially made for cleaning boots.
- A mild solution of a saddle or dishwashing soap, a specialized shoe cleaner, and water.
- An old warm cloth.
After a hike
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to rinse your shoes a day after your hike.
1. Remove the insole and laces
Insoles tend to collect moisture from your feet, which results in odors. To clean the insoles, take them out of the shoes, and put baking soda on them. Removing the laces can help you clean the metal hardware and lace holes easily. To clean the laces, wash them with dish soap and running water, then hang them to let them dry.
2. Remove the dirt accumulated on the surface
Typically, you can remove the excess dirt on the surface of your boots by using a brush. But if you have stubborn stains, you can soak the shoes in water, and brush them with a mild solution soap or a boots cleaner of your choice.
3. Remove the soap
Once you're done scrubbing the stubborn stains, you can use a clean warm cloth and water to remove the soap. Keep doing this until your shoes are completely dry.
Once you've removed all the dirt and soap from your boots, it's time to dry them.
Tips for drying and storing your hiking shoes
Washing your shoes improperly is not the only mistake that makes them age faster. Drying and storing them in the wrong place can also cause even more damage.
Here are some tips from our expert campers to avoid these incidents.
Drying a pair of hiking boots
Always remember that you shouldn't put the shoes under direct heat or in the dryer, as it can potentially ruin the entire material of the product. Here are some important steps that you should remember:
- Dry your boots under low humidity, and at room temperature.
- Normal fans can dry your shoes faster and better.
- Do not use any heat source, like a heater, radiator, campfire, etc., because it can age the shoe faster, and weakens any adhesives.
- You can put newspapers inside and outside the boots to speed up the drying process. Frequently change the paper, whenever it feels damped.
- Never put your shoes under direct sunlight, as it can cause discoloration and crack.
Where and how to store a hiking boots?
At the end of your preferred hiking season, it's important that you put your shoes in a safe and dry place to avoid getting them molded. Here are some advice from our co-hikers to store your shoes:
- Completely clean off your hiking boots again to ensure that there is no sticky mud or pebble on them.
- Make sure that your shoes are completely dry before storing them.
- Remove the laces, and store both of them separately, and away from sunlight and moisture.
- Do not put them inside any box or plastic container.
Waterproofing and conditioning hiking shoes
Now that you're well aware of how to properly clean and dry your boots, it's important that you maintain their quality and features. You can do this by conditioning and waterproofing your shoes.
How to waterproof your hiking shoes?
Most surface pores of any boots will open after you clean them with water. It's important that you close these surfaces to ensure that your shoes will still be protected from water and chemicals.
- The first thing you want to do is pick a waterproofing or a wax compound that is made specifically for shoes.
- Spray your chosen product onto your boots while they are still damp to ensure that these “open pores” will absorb them properly, and will prevent them from absorbing water on your next trip.
- Spray the waterproofing or wax every time before you go hiking, and after washing them.
How to use a conditioning solution on hiking shoes?
You should apply a conditioning solution on your hiking boots right after you waterproof them, to retain the moisture within the surface. Most shoe materials come with a specific care product, so you should take note of this as well.
Make sure that you use the right amount; not too much nor too little, just to help reduce any cracks and wear and tear. It's advisable to put a conditioning solution to your shoes every time after you wash and waterproof them. However, don't apply too much solution, so that the outer layer of your boots won't get too soft.
If your boots contain some metal for the boots' lace holes, you can use chrome polish to prevent and remove any rust. Simply put in a little chrome polish on a dry cloth and apply it. Let it rest for a couple of minutes, and remove any excess polish with the cloth.
How often should I clean my hiking shoes?
Like we've mentioned earlier, it's important that you clean your shoes after every hike. Here's a quick summary of why you should do this:
- Built-up dirt can cause cracks and make your boots age faster.
- Particles of dirt can go deeper into your shoes' outer material, which can eat them up like sandpaper brushed on wood.
- You'll end up buying hiking shoes more often than you actually need to if you don't take good care of them.
- Cleaning your shoes can help prevent transporting foreign invasive species from one area to another.
If you're like us, and love your hiking shoes and would rather have only one pair, then it's vital that you follow the steps and precautions mentioned above.
Hiking shoes are made to protect your feet from dirt and prevent injuries, which is why it's so important to take care of them as much as you can.
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