How to Clean Smelly Hiking Boots: The Art of Taming Foul Odors

The importance of a reliable and durable pair of hiking boots is paramount. They protect your feet, provide traction on challenging terrains, and they can make or break your hiking experience. But what happens when your trusty boots start to stink? No one wants a smelly pair of boots stinking up their closet. It can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation that can even lead to foot infections. This is why it’s essential to know how to clean smelly hiking boots.

Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash

Kick your boots off and enjoy this comprehensive guide on how to clean hiking boots. We’ll cover the different causes of smelly hiking boots, the pre-cleaning preparation you need to do, the cleaning process, and how to dry and store your boots correctly. I’ll also provide tips and tricks to prevent smelly hiking boots in the future.

The Culprit: Understanding the Causes of Smelly Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are designed to withstand tough conditions, but even the most robust pair can succumb to smelly odors. There are several reasons why hiking boots can become a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to unpleasant smells.

One of the primary causes of smelly hiking boots is sweat. When you’re hiking, your feet sweat, and the moisture can get trapped inside your boots, creating a damp environment that bacteria love. Not letting your boots fully dry is a surefire way for continued bacteria growth, which will only make the smell worse.

Another culprit for smelly hiking boots is bacteria. Bacteria can quickly accumulate on your boots, particularly if you hike in warm and humid conditions. The bacteria can produce a foul odor that can be challenging to eliminate.

Finally, environmental factors can also contribute to smelly hiking boots. For instance, if you hike in wet conditions or through water, your boots can absorb moisture, leading to the growth of mold and mildew. If you let your boots get to this point it’s a very good possibility that your boots will produce a musty smell that can be tough to remove.

Photo by Tanya Pro on Unsplash

Understanding the causes of smelly hiking boots is the best way to fight the stink. In the next section, we’ll cover the pre-cleaning prep recommended before you start cleaning your hiking boots.

Pre-Cleaning Preparation: Getting Your Hiking Boots Ready for Cleaning

Before you start cleaning your hiking boots, you need to do some pre-cleaning preparation. Here are the essential steps to get your hiking boots ready for cleaning:

  1. First things first, check the label! Most hiking boots come with care instructions. Make sure to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning. This could save you from possibly damaging them.
  2. Grab a soft-bristled brush and use it to remove any dirt, dust, or debris that built up on your boots. Pay close attention to the crevices and seams, as these are the areas where bacteria and odor can accumulate.
  3. It’s essential to dry your boots thoroughly before cleaning them. If your boots are wet, stuff some newspaper or a towel in there and let them air dry. Avoid using a heat source, as the potential for damaging the boots is high.
  4. Take the laces out and wash them separately from your boots. You hand wash them or toss them in the washing machine, whatever you prefer.

Following these pre-cleaning prep steps can ensure that your hiking boots are ready for a good, thorough cleaning. Next, let’s dive into the cleaning process. Plus, some tips on how to clean smelly hiking boots effectively.

The Cleaning Process: How to Clean Your Hiking Boots

Cleaning your hiking boots is essential to eliminate smelly odors and keep them in top condition. There are several methods to de-funkify your boots that you can use, depending on the type of hiking boots you have and the severity of just how bad they smell. Here are the different cleaning agents you can use:

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
  1. Mild soap and water: This is the most basic and gentle way to clean your hiking boots. Mix a small amount of mild soap with warm water and use a soft-bristled brush to clean the surface of your boots. Make sure to avoid getting the interior of your boots wet, as this can damage the materials.
  2. Vinegar and water: Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and can kill bacteria that cause smelly odors. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water, and use a soft-bristled brush to scrub your boots. Let the boots sit for a few minutes before rinsing them with water.
  3. Specialized cleaning products: There are several hiking boot cleaning products on the market that are designed to eliminate odors and bacteria. Disclaimer: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these as they can vary.

Whatever you choose to use to get your boots clean, here are the steps to follow so you can clean your hiking boots effectively. Note: be sure to test any new cleaning agents on a small, inconspicuous area of your hiking boots before applying it to the whole boot. You don’t want any unplanned damage or discoloration.

  1. Apply the cleaning solution to a soft-bristled brush or a clean cloth.
  2. Scrub your boots: Use the brush or cloth to scrub your boots thoroughly. Pay close attention to the seams and crevices, where bacteria can accumulate.
  3. Rinse with water: Rinse your boots with water to remove the cleaning agent. Make sure to remove all the soap or vinegar residue.
  4. Dry your boots: After cleaning your boots, dry them thoroughly. You can stuff them with newspaper or a towel and let them air dry. Avoid using a heat source, as this can damage the materials.

Now that you know how to clean your hiking boots, it’s time to learn how to dry and store them correctly. The next section will cover these crucial steps.

Drying and Storing Your Hiking Boots

Drying and storing your hiking boots correctly is just as important as cleaning them. If you don’t dry your boots thoroughly, bacteria can continue to grow, and the odor will return. Steps to dry your hiking boots:

  1. Take out the insoles from your hiking boots and let them dry separately.
  2. Stuff your boots with newspaper or a towel to absorb the moisture. Make sure to change the newspaper or towel every few hours.
  3. Let them air dry: Avoid using a heat source, as this can damage the materials. Instead, let your boots air dry in a cool, dry place.
  4. Avoid direct sunlight: Don’t leave your boots in direct sunlight, as this can cause the materials to shrink or fade.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Once your hiking boots are dry, it’s essential to store them correctly. Keep these in mind:

  1. Keep them dry! Store your hiking boots in a cool, dry place. Obviously, avoid storing them in a damp or humid area. Regardless of how well you clean your boots, if you store them in environments like this, you have a very high chance of getting mold and mildew.
  2. Use shoe trees: Consider using shoe trees to help your hiking boots maintain their shape.
  3. Don’t store your boots in plastic bags. It might seem like a good idea, but storing your hiking boots in plastic bags can trap moisture and we’re back to growing bacteria and making them stink.

The above will ensure your hiking boots stay in great shape when you’re not using them and are ready for your next adventure. However, it’s essential to take steps to prevent smelly hiking boots in the future.

Tips and Tricks for Preventing Smelly Hiking Boots

Preventing smelly hiking boots is a lot easier than dealing with them. Fight the stink and keep your hiking boots fresh and odor-free:

  1. Rotate your boots: Consider having two pairs of hiking boots and alternate between them. This will allow each pair to dry thoroughly between uses, reducing the risk of bacteria growth.
  2. Store your boots with an odor absorber. There are products you can buy or you can use as activated charcoal or baking soda. This is a great way to keep your boots smelling fresh when you’re not using them.
  3. Let your boots dry thoroughly. As we covered in the sections above, make you let your boots dry thoroughly after trekking around in them. If they’re wet, stuff them with newspaper or a towel and let them air dry.
  4. Moisture-wicking socks are a thing and they can both help keep your feet dry and reduce sweat making it into your boots.
  5. Use foot powder: You can use foot powder to absorb moisture and reduce sweat. Make sure to apply it before putting on your socks.

By following these tips and tricks, you’ll reduce the risk of smelly hiking boots and ensure that your boots stay in top condition for longer.

How to Clean Smelly Hiking Boots

In conclusion, cleaning your hiking boots is a crucial step to keep them fresh and odor-free. By understanding the causes of smelly hiking boots, doing the pre-cleaning preparation, using the right cleaning agent, and drying and storing them correctly, you’ll be able to maintain your boots’ quality and longevity. Go on the offensive, and take preventive measures against smelly boots.

A Wrap on Smelly Hiking Boots

In this article, we’ve shared our personal experience and provided a nice comprehensive guide on how to clean smelly hiking boots. Hiking boots are an essential part of any outdoor adventure, and it’s crucial to keep them clean and fresh to ensure they serve their purpose.

If you understand the causes of smelly hiking boots, do the necessary pre-cleaning preparation, use the right cleaning agent, and dry and store them correctly, you’ll be able to keep your hiking boots in great condition and best of all, free from stinky smells! Once you’ve got them cleaned, read up on how to store hiking boots.

Just one last reminder to test any cleaning agents on a small area of your hiking boots before applying them to the entire boot. Take your time, be gentle, and don’t rush the cleaning process. Take advantage of the right tools and techniques to keep your hiking boots fresh and odor-free for years to come. Happy hiking!

Scroll to Top