Depending on the nature of the terrain that you hike, one of two things is likely to happen to your boots. It is either you get mud splattered all over the boots with a thick cake under your soles that fills up the lugs or you will get sand in your boots.
Now, imagine this scenario. You just spent two to three hours cleaning your hiking boots to get the mud or sand out but when it got dry, you examined and could still see patches of mud with some traces of sand inside.
Imagine how frustrated the person that first tried to wash his or her boots in a washing machine must have felt that he or she was willing to do whatever it takes to get the stubborn dirt out.
No doubt, the idea of tossing your boots into a washing machine is a scary one that not everyone may be willing to try. In fact, anyone that has spent hundreds of dollars to acquire their boots will be wary of trying this out for the fear of damaging the boots.
However, the big question here is, ‘Is washing hiking boots in a washing machine effective?’ Can you wash just any type of hiking boot in a washing machine or is this process reserved for boots made with a certain material?
If these questions have plagued your mind ever since you discovered this crazy idea, you will get all your answers today.
- Can you wash hiking boots in the washing machine?
- How to wash hiking boots in the washing machine
- Common mistakes with washing hiking boots in a washing machine
Can you wash hiking boots in the washing machine?
Without mincing words, the answer is yes, you can wash hiking boots in the washing machine—but there is a caveat.
Washing your hiking boots in a washing machine can either damage your boots or the washing machine if you don’t follow the right instructions which explains why a lot of people are against this idea.
Firstly, washing boots in a washing machine is not recommended for all types of boots. This method is mostly recommended for boots made of genuine leather.
Fabric boots made of cotton, nylon, or polyester can be safely washed in a machine. However, washing boots made of suede or other similar materials in a washing machine is a bad idea.
Also, when washing boots it is advised that you make use of the front loader rather than the top loader. The top loader has a more aggressive agitator that can damage your boots.
Another important point to mention is that when washing hiking boots in a machine avoid the use of detergents and bar soap which may contain additives that may fade off the colors or damage the fabrics.
If you have mold on your boot, using a mixture of 20 percent vinegar and 80 percent water will help to get it out. It is important to thoroughly rinse your boots to get rid of any residue of the cleaning agent
Properly drying your boots is also important to ensure the water that gets into the boots during machine wash properly dries out.
Can you wash steel toe boots in the washing machine?
Hiking boots usually do not come with steel toe caps. This feature is usually associated with work boots—but this has not stopped people from using boots with steel toe caps for hikes.
So, if you are one of those using steel toe caps for your hike, it is important to mention that you should not attempt washing them in a washing machine. The steel toe caps of such boots act as a super heavy load that bumps into every corner of the inner tub millions of times when it’s spinning, causing severe possible damage to the device.
You should only attempt washing boots with steel toe caps in a machine if the label says you can do so. Even at that, you need to take some precautions as we will highlight below.
How to wash hiking boots in the washing machine
The main reason why people attempt washing their boots in a washing machine is either because the boots are dirty or have developed an odor.
Before washing a hiking boot in a washing machine, you need to be sure that it will not affect its waterproofing properties. To safely wash your hiking boots in the machine, follow the steps we have highlighted below.
1. Prepare the boots
The first step you need to take when preparing your boots for machine wash is to take out the laces. If the insoles are removable you need to take them out also.
Nevertheless, if the insoles are not removable but you notice that the glue used to hold it down has become weak. For that reason, the insoles have begun to lift in some areas allowing sand to enter and hide under the insoles, you need to use a tool and pry out the insoles entirely. You will need to re-glue them after washing and drying.
2. Pre-clean your boots
Tossing dirty boots with caked mud under the outsoles or on the body into a washing machine is a bad idea. The dirt will wash off from the boots and get stuck in the washing machine.
Also, sand and debris can wash off from the boots and during the process of agitation by the washing machine will leave scratch marks on the boots as they rub against the boots.
Bang the soles of the boots together four or five times to dislodge as much mud or dirt as possible. The vibration from the banging also weakens the bonding of the mud to the soles of the boots making it easier to get them out.
Use a soft brush (an old toothbrush can do the trick) to gently brush off the loose dirt or mud from the body and soles of the boots. Furthermore, you can use a rag to gently scrub the boots all over to make sure there is no clump of mud or debris sticking anywhere on the boots.
If the dirt is tightly stuck to the soles, placing running water or tap over the soles of the boot can help to weaken the bond and make it easier for the dirt to come off.
Turn the boots upside down. Holding it by the soles, bang it together so that any sand in the boots will fall off.
Use a microfiber cloth to clean the inside of the boots to make sure there is no debris in the boots. When you prepare your boots properly, it makes the work of the washing machine easier.
If you have a tough stain, you should spend more time pre-cleaning it with mild soap and brush. Repeat the process until the stain is almost gone so that the washing machine can do the remaining job when you toss it in.
3. Prepare the washing machine
Make sure you set the temperature of the water to no more than 30 degrees.
Since you have already done the pre-clean section of your hiking boots with mid soap, it is enough to wash the rest in the washing machine with warm water.
4. Insert your boots into the machine
While you can toss leather boots into the washing machine, we suggest that you put the boots and the laces into a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase before placing them in the washing machine. There are two reasons why you should do this.
Firstly, this will prevent the boots from becoming snagged. Secondly, boots make a lot of noise when you wash them in a washing machine—especially those with a steel toe cap.
Placing them in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase will not only protect the boots and the washing machine but will also lower the level of noise that you have to endure.
For regular hiking boots, another smart thing you should do is to stuff the toe area with a cloth so that it maintains its shape during the washing process.
Turn on the washing machine, set it to gentle wash to prevent any damage to your boots, and wait for the timer to run out before taking them out for drying.
Common mistakes with washing hiking boots in a washing machine
While washing hiking boots in a washing machine is arguably the fastest and least time-consuming technique, there are mistakes that you should avoid which, sadly, many people fall for ignorantly.
1. Using warm or hot water
When you use water above 30 degrees to machine wash your boots, you risk having the color of the boots wash off. You may notice the discoloration of the washing water showing that the color of the boots has bled into the water.
2. Using just any detergent
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of using a mild soap to wash your boots instead of using just any detergent. Some people use any detergent on their boots because they live under the illusion that their boots are really tough or because they want to get rid of a tough stain.
This is a bad idea. If it doesn’t ruin your boots immediately, the wear will happen gradually over time.
3. Tumble drying
Tumble-drying hiking boots is one of the worst things you can do to your boots because some of the glue in your boots will melt from the heat of the tumble dryer. The best way to dry hiking boots after washing remains air drying.
We have an extensive article on how to dry your hiking boots. You should check it out.
Perhaps, the reason why you are eager to toss your boots into a washing machine is because of a thick stench coming out of them. Maybe you have washed your hiking boots several times by hand and the smell has refused to go away.
It may interest you to know that the insoles usually harbor odor-causing bacteria that have led to the stink in your hiking boots. Taking out the insoles and giving them a thorough wash can resolve this problem.
Alternatively, you can take out the insoles and replace them with new ones. We have another article that talks about how to get rid of stink from boots and you should check it out.
Regardless of the method that you are using to wash your hiking boots, always make sure that the boots dry properly before taking them for your next hike.