How to Clean Smelly Hiking Boots

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No one likes a stink bomb, especially not after a long successful hike up a challenging trail on a mountain range. Unfortunately, moisture and microbes, the main culprits behind stinky boots, beg to disagree. If you find that your favorite pair of hiking boots stink to the high heavens, then it's time push back.

In most cases, you have the cushioning insoles to thank for that stench. See, if you have sweaty feet and your preferred pair of socks wick away moisture, the sweat makes its way to the insoles. The hot and wet conditions inside the boot create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Removing the insole is the easiest way to get ahead of the stinky boots problem. Doing so allows the insole to dry up while allowing the boot some breathing space. Leaving both the boots and the insoles under direct sunlight not only dries the moisture but also kills germs. The rest of this guide details how to clean smelly hiking boots and leave them smelling fresh and clean.

How to Clean Smelly Hiking Boots

Mud and grime are an indispensable part of the hiking experience. However, you need to clean them as soon as you can to avoid ruining your precious hiking boots. Ideally, you should clean the inside and outside surfaces of your boots after you’re done with the hike, especially if you happened to have walked over water-covered surfaces. If not, make it a priority the following day as leaving them any longer presents you with a stinky problem. It also increases the likelihood of a mold infestation.

If you can’t clean them right away, let the boots dry in an airy place or in direct sunlight and clean them as soon as you have a chance.

Cleaning Your Hiking Boots

The first step in eliminating strong odors from your precious hiking boots is to remove the insoles (if they are not sewn in). Dunk them in a solution of water and cleaning detergent and work the soap into the fabric. The detergent cuts through the accumulated grime to leave them clean and free of odor. Be sure to rinse every last bit of the detergent from the insoles before hanging them out to dry. Soap residues on insoles can leave you with a foaming disaster next time you hit the road.

Next up, clean the interior of the boot with a mild soapy solution.  You can dunk the entire boot into the soap solution or wipe it down with a soft cloth. More than eliminating the bacteria and bad smell, cleaning the insides of your boots eliminates the salts from your body sweat that can reduce the boot’s lifespan. Use a soft brush to remove any stubborn stains and patches. Dabbing stubborn stains with a little bit of white vinegar removes them as well.

Ridding Your Hiking Boots Of Offending Odors

Sprinkle some baking soda inside your hiking shoes and stash them in a cool, dry place. If you’re not keen on getting the white powder on the boots, fill a clean pair of socks with the baking soda and stuff them inside each boot. Let the baking soda sit overnight and it’ll absorb any residual moisture as well as the offending odor.

If the odor persists in the morning, then you need to take additional steps to be rid of it. For starters, you can leave the boots out in direct sunlight and have the combination of fresh air and sunshine kill the remaining bacteria.

Alternatively, dip a clean cloth in white vinegar and clean the inside of your boots then leave them in a cool, dry place to dry. Never set the boots to dry near a heat source such as a heater or a fireplace as that might lead to a mold infestation.

For good measure, use an antimicrobial spray on both the boots and the insoles, after the boots have dried, taking care to let the spray soak into the boot’s fabric. An antibacterial spray freshens the boots while killing any germs left on them.

Stuffing your wet boots with crumpled newspaper can help speed up the drying process. Just be sure to replace the newspaper as soon as it gets wet. Stuffing stinky boots with newspapers for up to 48 hours can also help to eliminate any odors.

Once you’re satisfied that your boots are clean and odor-free, stuff them with fabric softener sheets and leave them overnight. Doing so lets your favorite smell cling on to the fabric of the boot to give the shoe a refreshing scent.

What Can You Do To Avoid Stinky Boots?

Clean Your Feet Thoroughly

  • Keeping your feet clean is crucial to eliminating the offending smell from your boots. The accumulation of sweat and body salts creates a flourishing colony of germs, which will lead to smelly boots. Using an antimicrobial soap is an excellent way to combat foot odors.
  • If you have sweaty feet, be sure to apply baking powder, talcum powder, baby powder, or cornstarch. These range of powders absorb the extra moisture and leave your feet smelling lovely too.

Layer Your Hiking Socks

  • Sweaty feet are inevitable after spending long hours on the hiking trails. While your moisture-wicking socks help to keep your feet dry and comfortable by moving the sweat away from your body, they present you with another problem. They dump all the sweat on the boot’s insole, which kicks off the odor problem.
  • Layering moisture-wick socks with woolen ones can help you combat this problem. The inner layer moves the sweat away from your feet while the woolen layer keeps it from accumulating on the insoles of your boots.
  • That said, you need to put on a fresh pair of socks every time you’re going on a hike. Rewinding a pair of socks increases the sweat and bacteria build up in your boots, increasing the likelihood of smelly feet.

Smelly hiking boots can turn out to be a huge source of shame and embarrassment when out hiking with your friends. This detailed guide shows you how to clean smelly hiking boots and solve that problem once and for all.

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