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How to Clean Walking Boots

Climb Snowdon - How to Clean Walking Boots

A good pair of boots is probably the most essential bit of walking kit you can buy. As they’re not cheap, it pays to keep them in good condition. With this in mind, we created this quick guide to cleaning and maintaining walking boots.

Six reasons to clean your walking boots

  1. Failing to clean your boots can result in premature wear, tear and material degradation, shortening the boots’ lifespan.
  2. Mud on the uppers can prevent moisture from escaping, making the boot feel damp when walking.
  3. Dried mud on the soles can fill in the gaps between your tread, flattening the sole and leaving you with little grip.
  4. It is easier to identify potential problems when boots are clean. You don’t want to start a long walk only to find you have a hole in the upper.
  5. Cleaning your boots ensures the upper stays soft and pliable, making the boot more comfortable and allowing for greater freedom of movement.
  6. Cleaning some of the high-tech materials on the inside of the boot can increase breathability, reduce the risk of blisters and increase overall lifespan.

Immediately after a walk

As soon as you finish a walk, you want to remove as much mud and dirt as possible before it dries. Dried mud is much harder to remove and you save yourself considerable time and effort by acting quickly. Some people prefer to remove the shoe laces and soak them. Others are happy to leave them in.

If outside, you can dunk the boots in a river or stream or bang the soles together. At home, you can use a soft cloth and water to remove the mud. Don’t be too rough or use abrasive materials, as you can damage the material.

Remember to clean the inside of your boots if they feature Gore-Tex waterproofing and remove the insoles to scrub and dry them if wet.

Dig out the soles

It’s easy to forget the soles and leave them clogged with dried mud. If still fresh, rinse the soles and remove any dirt with a soft brush – a toothbrush or scrubbing brush will work fine. If dried, you may have to lever out the mud with a screwdriver or similar object. Just make sure you don’t damage the soles in the process.

Using cleaning products

In most cases, water and a little elbow grease should tidy up your boots nicely. However, there are plenty of boot-cleaning products out there that promise to leave your boots looking as good as new. We would avoid using any specialist cleaners unless recommended by the boot manufacturer. This is especially true of synthetic boots, as cleaning products may interfere with the waterproofing or the material’s finish.

Drying is essential

If you don’t want your boots to smell damp, the drying stage is just as important as the cleaning process. Whenever possible, leave them to dry at a normal temperature in a room with low humidity. Avoid leaving them by a radiator or other source of high heat, unless you desperately need them to dry. Excessive heat and rapid drying can damage the material. Stuffing the boots with newspaper can speed up the drying process, as can using a fan.

Waterproofing and other long-term protections

You may find your manufacturer recommends using certain polishes or treatments to protect the boots. In these cases, use the suggested product. You should probably re-waterproof your boots at least once a year, depending on how much use they get. Make sure you get the right waterproofing treatment for your upper (leather and synthetic treatments differ) and only apply the treatment to clean boots. Most waterproofing products require you to use the treatment on wet or damp boots, but check the instructions to make sure.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to put your walking boots to good use, why not check out our guided walks on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)? Alternatively, our Climb Snowdon experiences offer walkers of all abilities an opportunity to do something totally unique.