Clean Your Winter Boots To Look Like New

Key Points

  • Protecting your winter boots helps you to avoid extensive cleaning sessions.

  • Consider the materials before choosing the proper method to clean your winter boots.

  • To clean your winter boots, focus on the interior to avoid bacteria growth and foul odors.

The winter months are slushy, mushy, wet, muddy, and everything in between. Your everyday shoes take a beating, which is often why people buy boots. Winter boots keep your feet warm and combat the winter conditions with ease. Plan to clean your winter boots frequently to enhance their durability and longevity.

Even though boots keep your feet warm and dry all winter long doesn't mean they aren't going to have issues. The exterior, for example, faces winter conditions in full force. No matter what materials you choose, your boots get dirty and muddy each time you wear them. To make your boots last as long as possible and look good simultaneously, figure out the best way to clean your winter boots.

Emma Stessman, an associate editor for Shop TODAY, says, "Nothing ruins a new pair of shoes faster than getting stuck in bad weather. And unfortunately, the winter season, with all of its unexpected flurries, downpours, and puddles, brings plenty of moments that can wreak havoc on that fancy new pair of shoes you got this holiday season."

Boots work better in the winter, but they can’t avoid the winter grim. Investing in a nice pair of winter boots is in your best interest to maintain them well.

Protect Your Boots After Each Wear

One of the most uncomplicated preventive measures to keep your boots looking new is lightly cleaning them after each use. This strategy also eliminates necessary deep cleanings later on.

If you do a few small things for your boots each time you take them off, you won't have to clean them because you keep up with the dirt and take care of minor issues as they arise.

Wipe the Boots Down

After you wear your boots out in the snow, through the mud, and over the salt-strewn driveway or sidewalks, wipe the boots down with a damp cloth. Remove the dust, dirt, grime, and salt from the boots; if they settle into the crevices and harden, they become much harder to remove.

Wiping down the exterior is easy and fast and saves you time in the future.

Winter boots by fireplace

Apply Protective Coatings

Winter boots often come with waterproofing elements, although they drastically differ in the level of protection. Invest in waterproof winter boots instead of water-resistant ones because moisture eventually gets through boots that only resist water.

Waterproof boots keep your feet nice and dry, but the waterproofing elements don't last forever; you need to occasionally re-apply the waterproof coatings to ensure your boots will continue protecting your feet.

Not only do waterproof sprays, waxes, and pastes aid your feet in staying dry, but they also repel dirt and stains. When your boots get dirty, wiping them clean is much easier as the mud can’t penetrate the materials.

Know Your Materials

Boots come in various materials, from synthetics and rubber to leather and suede. When you purchase new winter boots, pay close attention to their materials and refer to the tag to determine their specific maintenance requirements.

When the time comes to clean the boots, you'll know exactly what to do — and not do. You aren't going to throw leather boots in the washing machine, and you won't try to wax synthetic boots. Know and understand the materials so you know how to protect and clean them.

Fight the Smell

One of your biggest complaints may not be the dirt on the outside of the boots but rather the smell inside. Winter boots keep your feet nice and warm due to their insulation, and when your feet warm up and start sweating, odors start to appear.

Allow your boots to dry out after each time you wear them. Wash the insoles if they're removable, and wear moisture-wicking socks when you wear them. Clean your feet so they don't carry any unwanted bacteria that can transfer to the boots.

If you still have issues, consider odor-eating insoles that prevent and cover up any smells that appear. These small steps go a long way in avoiding and fighting off any odors that your boots might carry.

Cleaning Your Winter Boots

No matter how well you maintain your winter boots, dirt and grime build up over time. This is especially true for hardworking boots. Eventually, you'll have to hunker down and clean those boots.

You don't want to drag mud and grime into your house or car, and cleaning the boots also helps them last longer. Here are some tips on cleaning your winter boots:

Winter boots and snow shovel

Start with a Rinse

Depending on your boots' materials, you may want to start by rinsing them off with water. If your boots feature leather or suede materials, try rinsing the soles, as that is the part that cakes the most mud and grim.

Rinsing boots made from synthetic materials, like moon boots, might be all you have to do to wash away the debris stuck in the tread, on the rubber soles, and up the boots. Once you rinse the dirt off the boots, pat them dry and allow them to sit and dry before you wear them again.

Brush Off the Dirt

Avoid cleaning your boots under running water if they’re made from leather or suede because you'll ruin the material or create hard-to-remove stains. Instead, use a soft brush to remove as much dirt as possible.

You don't want to move forward with this method if the boots are wet and the mud is recent, as it just smears the mess around on the boots. Wait until the dirt is dry; it flakes off with the brushing.

Using a brush also removes light dust and dirt you may not see with the naked eye. When dirty, the leather’s color looks different, and brushing that dirt away restores it to its original colors.

Rub in Soap and Water

Since some boots are better off against water than others, use water when applicable. Place a small dollop of gentle soap on a damp rag and rub it into your boots to remove stubborn messes.

Removing large chunks of grime makes it easier to notice smaller areas that need attention. For example, stains are much easier to spot when the boots are relatively clean. After you rub soap and water on the boots, use another damp cloth to remove any excess soap. Let the boots air dry before you wear them again.

Add Wax or Polish on Leather and Suede

Once your leather or suede boots are clean, they'll still look lackluster because the materials are dull from the cleaning. If the grime on the boots has dried, they'll look even worse.

Cleaning is only one step of the whole restoration process. Try rubbing in a leather or suede wax or polish to make the material shine. Most products require a rag to apply the material evenly.

Once the wax or polish dries, the materials will glisten, looking good as new. Waxes and polishes are often waterproof, adding another layer of protection against the elements.

Boots and cleaning supplies

Use the Washing Machine

This method doesn't work for all materials, but some boots are sturdy enough to survive trips through the washing machine. This option is easy and efficient and cleans the interior and exterior of the boots at the same time.

Consider using the washing machine with winter boots made from synthetic materials. The only downside is that some washing machines have harsh cycles and break down boot materials faster.

Using a gentle cycle is a suitable method to clean children’s boots. Your child grows quickly, and you know they won’t wear the boots for over a season or two. Try washing the boots with sheets, towels, or something soft and large. Dry them on low heat or let them sit and air dry.

Never Forget the Soles

One of the messiest parts of most boots is the sole. Winter boots have deep tread, and mud, salt, and grime often stick in every crevice. You want the materials to look nice and function well, so ensure the soles are also clean.

When mud cakes on the tread, get out a stiff brush and remove it. Find a stick and dig the mud out if you're still outside. Walking through the snow or a puddle also helps free dirt from your soles.

Keep Up with Interior Cleaning

Of course, the exterior of your boots gets dull and dirty fast against the winter conditions, but feet aren't generally the cleanest part of anyone's body, and they sweat and stink, too. If you wear your boots enough, the interior needs cleaning.

You may not have mud and salt inside the boots, but if you ignore cleaning them, the stink quickly becomes overbearing, and they'll transfer bacteria back to your feet every time you wear them. Check out these tips to clean the interior of your boots.

Wipe Them Out

The most significant cause of odors within winter boots is bacteria. To prevent bacteria from growing in that sometimes damp, dark space, wipe the boots out with a damp cloth whenever you notice they're starting to smell. Better yet, wipe them out after every time you wear them.

If you get into the habit of giving them a quick wipe-down, they'll remain sanitary without requiring major cleaning sessions.

Winter boots in the snow

Spray Cleaners

Antibacterial sprays work wonders in keeping bacteria and foul scents at bay. If you notice your boots aren't as fresh as when you bought them, spread them as wide as possible and spray them with anti-bacterial products. Let them dry, and move forward with your next outdoor adventure.

Try wiping your boots with anti-bacterial wipes. Many of these cleaners have scents, making the boots smell great while removing the bacteria.

Cover Scents with Natural Oils

Your main goal is to eliminate any bad smells, which means removing bacteria that cause the odors to grow. You can also put a few drops of natural oils into the boots.

Choose a scent you enjoy and drop some of the oils in the boots between uses. If there isn't a smell issue yet, keep it that way and enjoy a fresh scent on your feet when you use the boots.

Remove and Wash the Insoles

Many winter boots have removable insoles. Consider switching them out for something that has more support and cushioning. Alternatively, take the insoles out every few weeks and wash them.

Most insoles are hardy since they withstand much pressure from walking, and you can likely toss them into the washing machine and let that device do its job.

If you're in a hurry, wash them by hand and let them dry before you use the boots again. If time is an issue, try using a hairdryer on low heat to dry them out faster.

Trade Insoles for Odor-Reduction

Odor-neutralizers, often known as odors eaters, reduce the terrible smells you could notice in your boots as the season wears on. They eat those bacteria and allow your boots to maintain a fresh scent for much longer.

Regularly changing your old insoles for new ones helps remove bacteria. It's something to consider at the end of the season, so you start with fresh boots next winter.

Baking Soda

Do you have a small open container of baking soda in your fridge or freezer? You may not even know why you do that, but baking soda is a natural odor-eater and helps keep things fresh and clean.

Sprinkling baking soda into your smelly boots helps the natural, clean scent reappear as the foul odors take a backseat.

Tips for Cleaning Specific Winter Boots

While some boots are similar, plenty vary based on brand, material, and construction. The method for cleaning a pair of North Face snow boots differs from a pair of Sorel Winter Boots.

Try these cleaning tips for specific boot options.

Leather winter boots

Sorel Winter Boots

For leather winter boots from this brand, determine the type of leather. You may have waterproof leather — the most common option for winter wear — or oiled or dry-tanned leather.

Use a soft brush to remove dirt and debris for the waterproof leather. Consider buying a brush that is specifically used for cleaning leather. Once the large dirt parts are gone, wipe the boots down with a damp cloth and let them air dry.

Wipe the dust away with a dry cloth and use leather cleaner on the boots for oiled leather. Wipe them clean with a damp cloth after.

North Face Snow Boots

If your North Face snow boots are leather, the company recommends removing mud when you get inside to avoid letting it dry. Dried mud damages, discolors, and stains the leather on the boots.

Wipe the boots clean with a cloth or soft brush. North Face also carries synthetic boots, many of which have waterproof layers — scrubbing these boots with brushes damages that waterproof element. It's better to clean them gently with a wet cloth when possible.

Occasionally reproofing your boots helps them stand up against the winter weather year after year.

Suede Boots

Suede boots are stylish and lovely, but the material is soft and thin, making them susceptible to wear and damage. There are many types of suede, and you need to treat them with great care.

Get a brush that treats suede, and when the boots are dirty, brush the dirt off, going with the grain on the suede materials. If there are tough spots or stains, get a stain stick or suede eraser to work on those areas.

White vinegar is a natural cleaner that gently cleanses the material. Once the boots are clean, use a suede-protecting spray to prevent further dirt or damage from getting to the soft, thin material on the footwear.

Cowboy Boots

Cowboy boots are universal footwear that you can wear any time of the year. While their insulation isn't always heavy enough for the winter months, they still keep your feet dry in wet, mushy conditions.

Since cowboy boots often have intricate stylistic details, scrub carefully in the crevices around the stitchwork. Dust the boots with a clean, slightly damp cloth. Add the proper conditioner, wax, or polish to the boots to restore the material to its like-new condition.

Work Boots

Boots you regularly wear for outdoor work are going to get dirty fast. It's essential to clean them regularly so they continue keeping your feet warm and dry. Work boots are generally hardy and long-lasting and can withstand rigorous cleaning.

Use a stiff brush to remove any mud and dirt. Make it a habit to clean weekly — or even daily — so you can enhance their function and protection. It's hard to keep work boots clean and shiny, but getting as much dirt as possible helps the boots serve your feet well.

Spray the interior of the boots with anti-bacterial and wipe them out to prevent smells after a long day of work.

Choose a Quality Pair of Boots

Trends come and go, and while buying a new pair of winter boots each cold season might be easier, your budget may say otherwise. While some boots go out of style, some classics stick around.

When you're in the market for winter boots, consider what you need, the materials that last, and classic styles. As long as you take care of your boots, they'll take care of your feet for many seasons.

No one wants to wear muddy boots when they're out and about, whether you're sledding with your kids, going to work, or running errands. Spending a little time cleaning protects your boots and your style.

Check out your boots' materials and buy the right cleaning products. If you keep up with small things, like eliminating light dust and daily dirt, you won't have to break your back performing a deep scrub very often.

Winter boots

Time To Clean

Winter boots will only stay pristine and clean if you only wear them inside your home. Instead, you must learn how to clean your winter boots so their materials look sleek and function well. Many winter boots have waterproof elements, and those coatings break down over time, especially if the boots aren't kept clean between uses.

As you clean the boots' exterior, remember the interior. That's where your feet go; they transfer plenty of bacteria into the boots. If you don't want the boots to stink and to bring that smell back to your feet each time you wear them, spend some time each week deodorizing and maintaining the interior of your boots.

Different products require different cleaning methods. You don't want to stick your leather boots into the washing machine, and you aren't going to put polish or wax on your moon boots. Pay attention to manufacturer instructions and recommendations to get the best clean on your boots. Keeping your winter boots clean enhances their look and lengthens their lifespan.

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