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How to Clean Every Kind of Boot

The dos and don'ts of removing dirt and dust.

a person washing a leather hiking boot
Chandler Bondurant

"Boots always seem to get more done than shoes." We've argued this a million times. And there's plenty of reasons for it. They're harder-wearing, made from heftier materials, and build to last rather than suffice hype. Sneakers fall short in the tougher seasons. Fine for summer but inferior to boots by the time winter arrives (for those of us that face it annually).

As such, though, boots are asked to brave tougher terrain — and surface with deeper scars. From the remnants of wet and slippery snow (or better yet the salt we use to melt it) and mud stains and to dust and dirt, everything, it seems, leaves a mark. Look to our guide to cleaning boots of all kinds for practical play-by-play and plenty of must-buys. You'll be glad you found it. Just be sure to study it before diving into your project.

How to Clean Leather Boots

What you'll need: Soft bristled brush, leather cleaner or leather soap (or a solution made from two parts white vinegar and one part water), two soft cotton towels, leather wax and polish, and a shine brush
  1. First, take out your laces (if there are any). Then take a soft bristled brush to your dirty boot. Break any crusted clumps loose and remove visible debris. Any leftover sediment can scratch leather when scrubbed in too firmly. This step saves you from accidentally damaging your boots.
  2. Second, apply your leather cleaning or your leather soap (they make bars) to your damp towel. Don't make it too wet. Clean the boot in a circular motion so that the solution lathers. A note for the frugal: vinegar and water won't.
  3. Wipe the boot dry with a new towel. Always let your boots air dry completely before touching them again.
  4. Use a towel to apply a leather conditioner. Follow the instructions provided on the packaging before applying it.
  5. Then, add wax or polish, if you prefer either look. Wax can barely be seen but it acts as a weatherproof coating between the leather and, well, rain or snow. Polish gives boots a high shine. To apply it, buff your boot with a fast back-and-forth motion of your shine brush.


    How to Clean Suede (including UGG) Boots

    What you'll need: crepe block eraser, shoe cleaner (or your soap concoction), a towel, waterproof protector, suede brush
    1. First, clean your outsoles. You can follow roughly the same steps you did above. Apply soap to a damp towel and wash the leather or rubber parts. BUT...suede boots cannot — well, should not — get wet at any point in the process.
    2. Brush off any visible dirt or debris with your suede brush. Suede's soft. It's delicate. Don't use just any brush. Ones designed specifically for the material lessen the likelihood of damaging it. For caked-on stuff or deep stains, use a crepe block eraser. These work out even the most stubborn blemishes.
    3. Lastly, apply a waterproof protector to your suede boots. There are plenty of different kinds, just be sure the one you choose is both made for suede and well-reviewed. As expected, we'll have a recommendation below.


      How to Clean Cowboy Boots

      What you'll need: soft bristled brush, saddle soap, two soft cotton towels, leather wax and polish, and a shine brush
      1. Most cowboy boots are made from leather. So, follow the same rules for leather boots as you would cowboy. They're one and the same. However, cowboy boots often come with intricate details: new nooks and crannies and other adornments. But they're cowboy boots — and meant to be worn! So don't stress too much about damaging yours during the cleaning process.
      2. Apply your conditioner and wax, and polish if you wish, but check that your preferred formulas work for exotic leather, if yours are made from one.


        How to Clean Rain (or Duck) Boots

        What you'll need: a cotton towel, a sponge, shoe cleaner, tire cleaner, and a scrubbing brush
        1. Rain boots are easy. Duck boots, too — but some come with leather uppers, so be mindful of those. Mostly because they're usually made of rubber, but also because they're designed to endure exposure to water.
        2. To clean them, take some shoe cleaner (others have used dish soap) and apply it to a towel or sponge and apply it in circular motions into the boot's exterior. Do so over any stains or scuffs.
        3. For bloom, a white film that forms on high quality rubber over time, apply a tiny bit of olive oil to a towel. Work it into the boot's exterior with a towel, hydrating it and eliminating the film. Using tire cleaner and towel and the same process proves just as effective.
        4. Rinse them off, and dry them off or let them air dry. Easy!


          How to Clean Timberland Boots

          What you'll need: suede brush, crepe block eraser, and baby wipes (or Timberland's specialty kit)
          1. Timberland's most popular boot is made from waterproof leather. People freak out about cleaning them, though. The best way to avoid any unwanted discoloration or stains? Use a dry cleaning kit.
          2. Treat the leather like suede. Brush it with a suede brush, scrub it with an eraser, and wipe down the outsoles with baby wipes.


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