Dirty Boots Are Snow Joke: How To Clean Winter Boots

Key Points

  • Your winter boots take a beating, but you must clean winter boots to protect your feet and increase the boot's longevity.

  • Clean the exterior of the boots and pay attention to the odors on the interior.

  • Various circumstances require different methods when you clean winter boots.

When winter comes, you change your shoe choices. The sandals go into the closet, and the boots come out. While you're glad to have your warm, cozy boots, your feet are not odor free, and those boots stink after a week or more.

Winter boots enclose moisture, body heat, and feet. They have an ideal habitat for odor and bacteria growth. Get new ones each time, but that is a waste. Instead, if you want your boots to remain as fresh as possible, clean them now and then.

Here are some steps to help you clean winter boots and get the best results!

Reasons To Clean Winter Boots

Winter boots take the brunt of the winter to protect your feet and keep them warm and dry, even during the coldest days. Boots get dirty often, so why clean them at all? Check out the following good reasons.

To Protect Your Feet

Winter boots keep feet warm and dry all season long. When they get dirty, and the dirt settles on the outside or inside of the boots, that dirt and grim break down the properties that keep your feet comfortable in the cold. The exterior of boots generally has a waterproof coating, for example. If you never clean the dirt from the boots, that waterproofing breaks down faster and stops working. When you wear the boots, your feet get wet and are no longer warm.

Winter boots in the snow

To Preserve Longevity

Winter boots are costly, and since your feet are no longer growing, it makes sense to wear them for many seasons before you get a new pair. If you want your boots to last, cleaning them is a necessity. Neglecting your boots causes them to wear out faster. Make the most of your investment and keep the boots clean so they last.

To Enhance Style

What looks better, boots caked with dirt or clean boots? If you want your winter boots to look nice, you need to clean them. Whether they contain fabrics, rubber, leather, or suede, they look better when new. Keep them in that like-new condition by cleaning them regularly. Keep an eye on the dirt and do small things, like wiping them down with a damp cloth, to prevent things from building up too much.

Cleaning Methods

Once the boots get dirty, it's up to you to clean them. You could try various methods to get the boots back in like-new condition so they look nice and function well for longer.

Determine what materials your boots contain before you begin the cleaning process. Fabric boots take different methods than leather boots. You could scrub rubber boots with soap and water, but suede is a different story. If you're unsure what the boots contain, research the product online to clean them properly for the materials they include.

Check out the following basic cleaning methods.

Scrub the Boots

Winter boots often contain waterproof materials, like rubber, and they get dirty quickly in cold temperatures. When your boots are muddy and dusty, clean them with soap and water. Use a mild detergent for tricky parts.

If the boots' insoles are removable, take them out and run them under water. Dip them into the soapy water and rinse them out. Let them dry, and wipe the inside of the boot with a washcloth to remove dirt. The boots need to dry, or more odor-forming bacteria grows again, defeating the purpose of the cleaning process. The soap and water help clean the dirt away, but odors may still be present.

Brush cleaning boots

Soak Up Odors

Baking soda eliminates odors, even in the bottom of your boots. Sprinkle the material into the boots and push some into the toe area. Let the boots sit for several hours or even overnight. The baking soda neutralizes any odors as they settle into the boots. Before you wear the boots again, shake the rest of the baking powder away.

Another option is to mix baking soda with absorbent cat litter. Cat litter absorbs moisture and odor.

Use Disinfectant Sprays

Buy some disinfectant spray or make your own at home with vinegar and essential oils. Spray the boots inside and out. Depending on what scent you get, the smell masks right away. The disinfectant portion of the product kills off bacteria, which is the cause of the smell. Use an air freshener to mask odors between thorough cleaning sessions. The scent is still there, but you do not notice it nearly as much.

Try Essential Oils

If your boots are in terrible shape, essential oils help to cover lingering scents. These natural fragrance extracts are potent and great at covering up bad smells. Choose between peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree oil. After you place the oils, let them dry and enjoy the scent on the boots the next time you wear them.

Remove Scuffs With an Eraser

Certain boot materials are going to scuff against the dirt and snowy conditions. Remove those scuffs with a special shoe eraser that gently cleans that dirt. Not every boot can be submerged in water without ruining its material. Leather and suede boots need spot cleaning. Use the eraser to rub the scuff mark off and erase the rest of the debris with a gentle shoe brush.

Try White Vinegar

You know what the salt in the street does to your vehicle; the same is true about your boots. They need cleaning and treatment, or the salt ruins them. Mix vinegar and water and use a rag to wipe the stains off. Let the boots dry before wearing them again.

Dirty boots on the street

Prevent Boot Odors

Clean your boots as many times as necessary, but you may not always have time to clean them and let them dry. Instead, you might want to focus on preventing odors from settling into your boots in the first place.

Clean Your Feet

One of the best things to do for your boots is to keep your feet clean. When you shower, pay special attention to your toes and the bottoms of your feet when washing. Many people stand in the shower and leave their feet alone, but there is dirt and oil on the feet that gets left behind.

Wash your feet daily and rewash them if you sweat a lot or take on hard physical labor. "I think the biggest problem when it comes to foot pain is that no one knows what to do or who to talk to about it," says Marian T. Hannan, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife. The same is true about cleaning your feet. Many people ignore their feet's cleanliness until they notice an odor.

Use Antibacterial Soap

Feet grow bacteria, and that bacteria transfers to your boots and causes the odors to grow. The bacteria festers when you place your feet in boots, allowing warmth and perspiration to settle into the enclosed space.

Use antibacterial soap on your feet to prevent bacteria from getting bad and transferring to your boots. If your feet sweat more than average, you may want to wash your feet more than once a day. Antibacterial soaps are often bar soaps but come in liquid form as well. Bar soap is not always the best option as it holds bacteria for long periods.

Spread Baby Powder

Sweaty feet stink, and your boots pay the price. Do your best to keep your feet dry. After you shower, place the baby powder on your feet to help them absorb moisture. Put a little in the bottoms of your boots as well. The powder takes away the moisture and prevents smells from occurring in the first place. Place the powder on your feet after showering, but you may want to powder them again before you put on your boots when you wear them for a long time.

Muddy boots

Keep Your Toenails Neat

If your toenails are long, they carry bacteria beneath them. When showering, getting that dirt and grim out from under your toenails is hard. Instead, keep your toenails short and watch for discoloration, which shows signs of infection, fungus, or other foot issues.

When your toenails are nice and short, there are fewer places for bacteria to hide. If there are no bacteria, there is nothing to transfer to the boots.

Change Socks

If you clean your boots and then pull on the same socks each time, the boots still form a scent. Your socks also stink, and their material absorbs your foot's sweat. They hold onto germs and transfer bacteria to your boots. Use fresh socks at least once a day. If you have a prolonged time outside in your boots, change your socks when you get in before you use the boots again.

Having high-quality, warm, moisture-wicking socks when you wear your boots is a good idea. They need breathability as well. They are harder to sweat through and keep your feet warm and dry. They also contain bacteria from your feet; when you take them out later, the scents go with them. Socks are easier to change and clean than boots, so use them as an excellent way to keep the boots clean.

Get Odor-Eating Insoles

Buy insoles that give you extra cushioning but also have odor-eliminating properties. They contain things like active charcoal and fight off any odor in the boots. Take out the regular insoles and add the odor-eating inserts instead.

If your boots are tough to clean, or you wear them often and don't want to clean them very often, this long-lasting solution helps. Be sure to change the insoles out occasionally, as the odor elimination won't work forever.

Dry Boots Between Uses

If you let the rain, snow, ice, and foot smells fester in the boots — especially ski or snow boots — they smell bad fast.

When you come inside, take the boots off and open them up so the air circulates the interior of the boots. Place them in a well-ventilated area, like by a vent, instead of in a stuffy closet. Put them in the sun from the window to help them dry faster, or even use a hair dryer on a low setting if you need to wear them again soon.

Boots drying by the fire

Use a Dryer Sheet

There is nothing like the smell of fresh laundry; your boots carry that pleasant scent if you place a dryer sheet in each boot overnight. The dryer sheets soak up moisture and trap any smells the boots carry, replacing them with a fresh scent. Doing this regularly after wearing the boots helps to prevent odors and prolong periods between cleaning sessions.

Cleaning Methods for Different Conditions

Many different things happen to winter boots during those cold months of the year. You may need to clean them in one way for a specific circumstance and another for a different situation. The same cleaning doesn't work for each circumstance.

Check out the following solutions for some different scenarios.

If the Boot's Interior Gets Soaked

Your boots keep your feet dry, but the boots could get soaked. Whether you stepped in a big puddle or snow seeped in through the top, boots sometimes get wet inside.

You don't want to let that water fester, but rather make some effort to dry the boots out when you go inside. Open the boots up to ensure air ventilates, and set them somewhere that is not stuffy. Place crumpled newspapers in the toes to soak up the water. It also helps add essential oils to the paper to add a pleasant scent while soaking up the moisture.

If the Boots Get Stained

Many things stain a boot, including water, salt, mud, and other things that hit it during winter.

Use a toothbrush to loosen the dirt around the stain, and try a water and vinegar mix to remove the stain. Wipe any excess water from the boot and try again until the stain is gone. Let the area dry before you wear the boots outside again. Some stains are harder than others, but if you let them sit for too long, they become permanent.

If the Boots Are Mud-Caked

You don't want to get out the hose or pressure washer during the wintertime, though that would be easier, so how do you get all that mud off? Grab a large bucket for the rubber boots and soak them for an hour or more. Once you remove the boots, wipe them clean or spritz them with vinegar water to make cleaning them easier.

If the Boots Have a Powdery Look

Blooming — that powdery look — happens when you have rubber on your boots. They are not necessarily old and need a replacement; they need a good cleaning. Use olive oil or Armor All furniture wipes to remove that powdery look. The boots are shiny and like new in no time. If you wipe them down after every few uses, you can prevent that powdery appearance from growing in the first place.

Clean new boots

If the Boots Scuff

If your boots scuff, try washing the scuff off with a bit of soap or water. Another option is to use a pencil eraser to rub the scuff away. Magic erasers also help buff the area so the scuff disappears and your boots are even and clean again. Scuffs happen when you rub against something. You most likely don't even notice it happening until you get inside and see the state of your boots.

Give Your Boots a Nice Life

Boots don’t last forever, but they are an investment. When you find good boots with the perfect level of insulation for your needs, breathable materials, just the right fit, and the style you prefer, they are not products you want to let go of quickly. Instead of buying new boots every season, keep your boots clean and odor-free.

Winter boots are essential items to combat those cold temperatures. Cleaning them doesn't have to take long or involve much, but going through that process regularly makes the boots look nice and last longer. Plus, you don't have to worry about the odors that feet carry, transferring them into the boots and making them hard for you to stand wearing. Professional cleaning processes are also available if you have a nice pair of boots.

What materials do you have on your winter boots? Determine the best cleaning methods for your boots and commit to cleaning them regularly or as they start to look dirty, and carry a scent wherever you go.

For more up-to-date info on the latest boot trends, styles, and purchasing options, check out BootAuthority.

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