Fact: Hiking boots smell. A lot. Unfortunately, smelly hiking boots are often a fact of life when you spend lots of time out on the trail. The good news, however, is that your boots don’t have to be super stinky.
Getting the smell out of hiking boots requires scrubbing the inside of your boots with an enzyme-based odor eliminator such as Mirazyme. Afterward, you’ll want to start a strict routine of airing out your boots after each adventure to keep that infamous hiking boot stench at bay.
If you struggle with stinky hiking boots, have no fear—we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to ensure that your hiking boots are as fresh-smelling as possible for all your future hiking adventures.
Why Do My Hiking Boots Stink?
Hiking boots are known to be particularly smelly pieces of gear. That’s because the fabric in hiking boots is particularly great at absorbing all the sweat and stench that comes off your feet as you traipse through the wilderness.
Additionally, hiking boots can become very stinky because they tend to harbor all sorts of molds and bacteria, more so than your average pair of running shoes.
Why, you might ask?
Well, since hiking boots will get wet when trekking through muddy trails or doing river crossings, they tend to create the perfect environment for odor-causing molds and bacteria. What’s more, many people don’t air their boots out properly at the end of a hiking trip, exacerbating their smelly boot problems.
In general, waterproof boots tend to be smellier than non-waterproof boots simply because those waterproof boots trap in any moisture that managed to sneak its way inside. Thankfully, there are ways to clean both waterproof and non-waterproof boots to minimize odors as you hike.
How Do I Clean The INSIDE Of My Hiking Boots?
Cleaning the inside of your hiking boots might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, cleaning the inside of your hiking boots should be a regular part of your gear maintenance routine. You can clean the inside (and the outside!) of your boots by doing the following:
- Prep Your Boots – The first step in cleaning the inside of your boots is to prepare your boots for the task. You’ll first want to remove the insoles of your boots and the laces and then set them aside. Cleaning the insoles and laces of your boots is also important, but you can do that toward the end of the boot cleaning process.
- Rinse The Outside Of Your Boots – Before you clean the inside of your boots, you’ll need to be sure that the outside of your boots is clean, too. Since the outside of your boots can quickly get caked with mud, take a few minutes to rinse off your boot’s upper fabrics and outsoles. You may need to scrub the exterior and outsoles of your boots with a brush to get the mud off.
- Fill A Tub With Water – Once your boots are clean on the outside, fill up a tub, sink, or large plastic container with warm water. The container should be large enough for your boots to be completely submerged in the water.
- Add An Odor Eliminator – Before you place your boots in the water, you’ll want to add an odor eliminator product (more on this in a bit) to the water itself. If you’re using a commercially made product, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how much to add per gallon of water.
- Submerge Your Boots – Take your boots and place them in your tub of water and cleaning solution. Using a small brush, give the inside of your boots a good scrub, particularly along the bottom of the footbed as this is where mold and bacteria tend to proliferate.
- Rinse Your Boots – After your boots are clean, take your boots out of the cleaning solution and rinse them off with clean, freshwater.
- Set Your Boots Out To Dry – Take your boots and place them in a warm, dry place until they dry off completely. Do not place your boots in the dryer or by an external heat source (like a fire or radiator) as this can damage the boots.
- Clean Your Boot Insoles – Your boots’ insoles are often a major source of bad smells. To clean them, submerge your insoles in the same cleaning solution water that you used for your hiking boots. Then, set them out to dry before inserting them back into your boots.
- Rinse Off Your Boot Laces – Boot laces can get very muddy, but they aren’t usually a source of bad smells. So, you’ll simply need to rinse them off with clean water and let them dry before re-lacing your boots.
- Enjoy Your Hike, Stench-Free – Once your boots are clean and smell-free, you can get out and hit the trail. To prevent odors in the future, be sure to let your boots dry out completely after each hike. When you do so, remove the insoles from your boots, too, to prevent mold from building up on your boots’ footbeds. Then, be sure to clean your boots with an odor-eliminator whenever necessary to ward off foul smells.
Hiking Boot Deodorizer Products
As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll need a hiking boot deodorizer in order to get the stench out of your boots. To eliminate odors from your boots during the boot cleaning process, you can try the following:
Gear Aid ReviveX
As of the time of writing, Gear Aid ReviveX is one of the only purpose-built hiking boot odor eliminators on the market. It’s specifically designed for use with outdoor equipment, so it’s safe to use on a wide range of boot fabrics such as leathers and nylon.
Plus, if you’re just looking to do a quick deodorizing of your boots before a hike, ReviveX can also be made into a solution for use in a spray bottle. You simply need to mix 2 oz of ReviveX with 16 oz of water, spray it onto your boots and then allow the boots to air dry.
The downside to this product is that it’s fairly expensive. But, while it’s a bit more expensive than some other options, ReviveX is a solid choice if you’re serious about de-stinking your boots.
Baking soda has long been a popular product for cleaning smelly equipment because it can remove stains and stenches with relative ease. To use baking soda, you can sprinkle a few teaspoons of it into your hiking boots and let the boots sit out overnight to eliminate any bad smells. You may have to repeat this process a few times.
The benefit to using baking soda to eliminate smells in your hiking boots is that it’s very inexpensive. However, it’s also not as effective as a dedicated product, like ReviveX, so it’s more of a short-term solution than a long-term problem solver.
Defunkify Odor Remover
Designed for use in between hiking adventures, Defunkify Odor Remover is a spray-based deodorizer that you can use to eliminate smells in your boots. Defunkify contains a mix of essential oils and ionic silver, both of which work together to eliminate smells and kill off mold.
Since Defunkify is designed to be sprayed onto your boots or other clothing, it’s a nice product to use for regular maintenance and upkeep for your gear. However, it’s not going to be as effective at eliminating years of built-up smell as ReviveX is.
So, Defunkify is an ideal choice for regular use. Meanwhile, a wash-in product, like ReviveX, is a great option for deep cleaning your boots.
Can You Put Hiking Boots In The Washing Machine?
Simply put, no, you should not put hiking boots in the washing machine. Washing machines are designed to agitate your clothing, which causes wear and tear over time.
For a t-shirt, this might not be a big deal, but for a big-ticket item, like your precious hiking boots, running them through the wash is not a good idea. Furthermore, the rough-and-tumble nature of washing machines is known to do major damage to the waterproof liner found in many hiking boots.
Plus, many of the detergents that we use in washing machines contain chemicals and other additives that haven’t been tested for use on hiking boots. While there’s no guarantee that these chemicals will damage your boots, there’s also no guarantee that they won’t, either. So, it’s best to play things safe and hand wash your hiking boots.
Oh, and as for whether you can put hiking boots in the dryer, the answer is the same: don’t do it!
The soles of many hiking boots are attached to the boot itself using a type of glue that melts with heat. So, exposing your boots to the high heat of a dryer can be a big problem as it can cause your boot soles to delaminate and fall off after just a few hikes. Additionally, all that heat can damage the exterior and fabrics of your boots (especially leather), which isn’t ideal.
Long story short, you should not put your boots in the washing machine or dryer. Only hand wash and air dry your boots if you want to make your gear last as long as possible.
Hiking boots have a bad reputation as foul-smelling pieces of gear. However, your boots don’t have to smell horrendous each time you put them on your feet.
In reality, there are plenty of great ways to deodorize your hiking boots. The challenge is setting aside the time to actually do so.
In an ideal world, you’d use a spray-on deodorizer for your boots after every hike to help keep smells at bay. Then, when it comes time to do a deep clean of your boots, you can use a purpose-build odor eliminator to get your boots as fresh-smelling as possible.
However, washing your boots frequently is only one part of the process of keeping your boots odor-free. You’ll also want to be diligent about drying out your boots after every hiking trip (don’t forget to remove the insoles!) in order to prevent damaging mold build-up.
That way, you can enjoy all your hiking adventures, stench-free. Happy trails!
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David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.
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