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How to Dry Wet Boots (and Fast)

Snow soak your boots? Rain ruin the leather? Let's fix 'em.

wet hiking boot
Mehmet Hilmi BarcinGetty Images

I'm all for getting outside and enjoying everything the open air has to offer no matter what comes with it. Sometimes, though, these trips — no matter how small or mundane (like commuting) — take a significant toll on your gear. You're walking, jogging, working, whatever it is you're doing, and then boom — it happens. Your boots are soaked to the bone.

You shouldn't freak, nor should you take them off. Tough it out until you can start drying them, which should be as soon as you get home. Depending on the boot — the materials it's made from, what size it is and what kind of wet it got — a complete dry could take a couple of days. But there are tools out there designed to accelerate the process; what was once a half-week project is now an afternoon's task. Follow along below. We'll show you the way.

1.

Start by cleaning your boots. We have an entire guide dedicated to teaching you how. Aren't you lucky? I know getting wet boots even wetter sounds like a contradictory first step, but letting dirt or mud or salt crust to the exterior while they dry won't make for a boot you're eager to put back on.

HOW TO CLEAN YOUR BOOTS

2.

Now you have to dry them. After all, that's why you're here, right? Take off the laces and remove the insole (if you can).

3.

Assess how wet your boots are. Are they dripping? Drastically heavier than they were before? Can you ring out the tongue? Does the leather feel flimsy? Does the footbed feel squishy? These are all relatively simple (maybe weird) questions, but they're important to ask nonetheless.

4.

Now it's time to dry your boots. But this guide comes with a serious warning: Placing your boots super close to a fire or inside an oven both seem like surefire ways to dry them, but they aren't. Avoid direct heat at all costs. You might think they'll be fine but melting a part you didn't know was rubber or warping a part you didn't know could bend are fast ways of ruining a fine pair of boots. TLDR: Avoid direct heat.

boots drying near burning campfire at night
Dan Rafla / Aurora PhotosGetty Images

5.

You're faced with a few options when it comes time to dry them: (A) stuff them with dryer sheets and leave them to sit on their own, maybe near an open window or in front of the air conditioner; (B) rack them on a boot dryer; (C) blot them with a towel; or (D) dredge them in a bucket filled with rice or cat litter. Never tumble dry your boots.

A.

Welcome to option A. This is best saved for thin, cheap boots, ones you're not feeling too attached to or boots you know for sure will survive if left to fend for themselves. Stuff both to the brim with dryer sheets or newspaper — whatever will absorb moisture. Dryer sheets will also impart a laundry-like smell, if you're into that. Leaving them for two days minimum will guarantee they're dry. Any shorter, in my opinion, and you risk missing moisture that could probably go undetected to your touch. Sure, they'll dry while you wear them, but who wants wet socks?

B.

On Amazon alone there are hundreds of automatic shoe drying racks. Some that look like props from Ghostbusters; others that look downright diabolical (like a giant squid getting ready to pull you under). Go with ones that have a lot of reviews; especially positive ones. Below are two that I can endorse. The instructions for both are fairly straightforward: slip the boots down onto the shaft and turn the dry cycle on. Remove them once they're dry. This is by far the fastest way to dry wet boots.

C.

If your boots are barely wet, why are you here? (Kidding. Please stay.) Blotting your boots down with a towel works fine with barely wet mesh, canvas or suede boots, but I wouldn't go this route with leather. Use an absorbent towel and press it down into the surface, (hopefully) soaking up some water in process. Repeat until dry.

a person washing a leather hiking boot
Chandler Bondurant

D.

Whenever your phone breaks, someone, without fail, will suggest dropping it into a bin filled with rice. "It'll work," they promise you. And it usually does! The same treatment can be given to boots, which are far less delicate than your new iPhone 13. Dredge your boots completely in a loose material of your choosing. Rice or cat litter work best — both of which a high percentage of people have on hand already. If not, stocking up on more won't break the bank; and it's worth it to save your boots. Leave them in the mix overnight and check on them the next morning. Repeat as needed.

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