Cleaning and Conditioning Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are a vital part of any outdoor adventure gear. They offer the necessary support, protection, and comfort needed for various terrains and weather conditions. However, to ensure their durability and optimal performance, it’s crucial to clean and maintain them properly. This article, inspired by the tutorial video by Folkoutdoor, provides a detailed guide on how to clean and condition your hiking and backpacking boots.

Cleaning Your Boots

Step 1: Initial Cleaning

After returning from a hike, your boots are likely to be covered in dirt and mud. Begin the cleaning process by removing the laces, which allows you to clean the tongue of the boots and the area around the eyelets. Use a small trowel or similar tool to scrape off any dried mud or dirt from the soles of the boots. This initial cleaning helps to prevent the buildup of grime that can degrade the material of your boots over time.

Step 2: Washing

Next, fill a bucket with lukewarm water. Using a brush, give your boots a thorough wash. A nail brush or a larger masonry brush is suitable for this task. For hard-to-reach areas like the crevices and behind the eyelets, an old toothbrush can be quite handy. Avoid using detergents or soaps as they can strip away the natural oils in the leather, causing it to dry out and crack.

Step 3: Drying

Once the boots are clean, let them dry naturally. Place them in a well-ventilated area away from direct heat and sunlight. Using artificial heat sources like heaters or blow dryers can cause the leather to dry out and crack. If the boots are extremely wet, you can stuff them with newspaper or a towel to absorb the excess moisture. Remember to replace the stuffing as it gets damp.

Conditioning Your Boots

Step 1: Choosing the Right Conditioner

Conditioning your boots helps to restore the natural oils in the leather, keeping it supple and water-resistant. For regular leather boots, beeswax-based products are recommended. They nourish the leather without clogging the pores, allowing it to breathe. However, for nubuck leather boots, a special conditioner for nubuck should be used. This helps to maintain the soft, velvety appearance of the leather without causing dark spots.

Step 2: Applying the Conditioner

To apply the conditioner, simply rub it onto the leather of the boots, paying special attention to seams and stitching which can be areas of weakness in the boot. Make sure to apply a thin layer to ensure the boots remain breathable, especially if they have a Gore-Tex or other membrane liner.

Step 3: Buffing

After allowing the conditioner to soak in for about half an hour, use a brush or a clean cloth to buff the boots. This helps to distribute any excess wax and gives the boots a nice finish. It also helps to remove any excess conditioner that could attract dirt and grime.

Final Steps

The final step in the process is to replace the laces. Check the laces for any signs of wear and tear. If they’re frayed or worn out, it’s best to replace them. Well-maintained laces not only improve the look of your boots but also ensure they fit properly.


Properly cleaning and maintaining your hiking boots is a simple process that can significantly extend their lifespan. It ensures your boots remain comfortable, supportive, and protective for your outdoor adventures. So, before you set off on your next hiking trip, take some time to give your boots the care they deserve.

Remember, if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below. Enjoy your hikes and stay safe!

Disclaimer: This article is based on the video tutorial by Outdoorguru. The author is not being paid for this article and all opinions are their own.

Additional Tips

  1. Regular Maintenance: Don’t wait for your boots to look dirty or worn out before you clean them. Regular maintenance can help prevent damage and extend the life of your boots.
  2. Storage: Store your boots in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. This helps to prevent the leather from drying out and cracking.
  3. Inspection: Regularly inspect your boots for any signs of damage or wear and tear. This includes checking the soles for any worn areas, the upper for any cuts or punctures, and the laces for any fraying.
  4. Professional Help: If your boots have significant damage or you’re unsure about how to properly care for them, consider seeking professional help. Many outdoor stores offer boot maintenance services, or can recommend a reputable cobbler.

Recommended Products

Here are some of the best products available on Amazon for cleaning and conditioning your hiking boots:

  1. JOB SITE Jobsite Boot Scrubber: This outdoor shoe scraper cleaner brush is perfect for removing dried mud or dirt from the soles of your boots.
  2. Boot Guard Leather Dressing: This product restores and conditions leather boots, shoes, automotive interiors, jackets, and saddles. It’s unscented and comes in a 5-ounce jar.
  3. 4 Pcs Horsehair Shine Shoes Brush Kit: This kit includes polish dauber applicators for cleaning leather shoes and boots. It also comes with a suede cleaner brush and a microfiber shoe cloth.
  4. Bickmore Bick 4 Leather Conditioner: This product is excellent for preserving the color of your boots while also conditioning and waterproofing the leather.
  5. Cobbler’s Choice Leather Conditioner: This conditioner is highly recommended for overall care of your boots. It nourishes the leather, keeping it supple and water-resistant.

Remember, it’s important to choose the right product based on the material of your boots. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these products to ensure the best results. Your hiking boots are an investment. With proper care and maintenance, they can provide you with comfort and support on many hiking adventures to come.

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