How to Clean and Protect Your Snow Boots So They’ll Survive Many Winters


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Winter boots are a literal lifesaver when it gets to those cold and icy months. But after days and days of keeping your toes dry and providing ample grip, so you don’t slip on the ice, your precious boots can accumulate some wear and tear. If you’re considering replacing your destroyed boots with a brand new pair, you should know that your winter footwear can be cleaned at home and restored to the quality that they once were.

Dirty sidewalks, salt, and wet snow all contribute to beat-up snow boots, and while it’s tempting to just throw those soiled shoes in the back of your closet, it’s actually better to clean them after wearing them in dirty conditions. Doing so can actually help preserve weatherproof qualities and ensure longevity. And if you do have brand new boots, you can ensure that they last years by protecting them with certain measures because there’s nothing worse than marking up your new and expensive shoes after wearing them just a couple of times. The method you employ to clean your shoes will depend on the material they’re made from, and learning the proper technique can help stop your boots from falling apart or looking like they survived a natural disaster. 

Here are the best ways to protect and clean your winter footwear so that it lasts you many winters to come. 

How to Wash Winter Boots

Take preventative measures

Before we dive into how to clean winter boots according to material, you should protect your shoes before you wear them out in the wild. You can buy products like aerosol sprays to waterproof your material. This is found online or at shoe stores. There are also waxes, rubs, and oils that create a protective layer on the boot. This is commonly done for leather or suede. Be sure to read the instructions and requirements before applying it to your shoe. Always test on a small area beforehand. 

Remove salt stains, stat!

If salt s used where you live, your boots will inevitably pick it up. Stains both ruin the look and fabric on your boots, as well as rusting metallic parts like zippers and hooks. Use a cleaning or desalting agent as soon as possible. Parts that are still wet can be wiped with a warm, damp cloth. Dried-on salt can be removed with commercial products, or a solution of water and vinegar wiped on with a cloth.

Dry them properly

Avoid open heat sources when you’re drying your shoes after you’ve removed the salt. This can overly dry out shoes and cause them to crack. Instead, stick to a warm and dry place. Ideally, they should be hung upside down on a boot holder, but if you don’t have one, you can hang it on a similar shape or stuff with newspaper to hold the shape. 

Get out the scuffs and oil stains

To remove scuffs from your winter boots, use baking soda. It’s safe on leather – just dip a damp cloth in baking soda and wipe over your scuffs. Oil spots can be eliminated from suede by rubbing with talcum powder or cornmeal. Let it set for several hours, and then brush it off.

Deodorize boots

Unfortunately, it’s not just the exterior of boots that can get dirty over the years. To deal with stinky winter boots, remove insoles or liners. Fully wash and dry them. Then, add a liberal sprinkling of baking soda to the inside of the boot, which will kill bacteria. Then, vacuum or wipe it out. 

Can You Wash Winter Boots in a Washing Machine?

If the above steps sound like a heading, you might wonder if you can just toss that gross old pair of boots into a washing machine and have them look brand new. The short answer is no. It can damage and warp them, especially if you place them in a top-loading machine. While we definitely don’t recommend washing winter boots in a washing machine, if the manufacturer states that you can, you can remove all outer dirt and residue before placing boots in a mesh laundry bag. Add towels to the load to protect and balance the weight of the boots. Then, set to the most gentle cycle. Never place boots in a dryer. Instead, let them air out.

How to Clean Different Kinds of Winter Boots

Columbia and Northface are both popular places to buy winter boots, and knowing how to clean Colombia snow boots or Northface snow boots doesn’t require a ton of special knowledge. Based on the info provided on the Colombia website, stains can be removed with a mild dishwashing detergent. Isopropyl alcohol can degrease and be used as a spot cleaner on oil and grease and can be removed with a toothbrush or soft-bristled brush. North Face boots can be cleaned the same way, and you can also use gentle Castille soap or cleaning formulas designed specifically for boots. While this process is relatively low maintenance, figuring out how to clean suede shoes is a little trickier. 

Suede boots require their own kind of treatment, so we recommend using a waterproofing spray if you buy them to wear in the winter. A suede brush or Terry-cloth towel can be brushed with the grain to remove dirt, while spot removal can be done with a suede brush and a pencil eraser. For deeper stains, you might need to buy suede shampoo. Salt can be removed by blotting with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water. If you’re trying to figure out how to clean snow marks off Ugg boots, the same vinegar and water blend should do the trick. Just keep in mind that over the years, suede boots will accumulate more wear and tear than leather and synthetic materials.

Additional Tips To Clean/Protect Winter Boots

  • Leave boots unzipped or with laces pulled loose after wearing to ventilate
  • Wipe synthetics boots down with warm water and polish leather boots regularly
  • Use a shoe-protecting spray or wax
  • Don’t let salt set in over time
  • Add tea tree oil when deodorizing to remove odors
  • Invest in a cleaning gel

Finally, here are the best products on the market to help your shoes look brand new for years to come. 

The Best Hacks to Clean/Protect Your Snow Boots This Winter

Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel

Along with being masters in helping you figure out how to wash a down jacket, Nikwax is an expert in cleaning winter footwear and helping you learn how to clean snow boots without cleaning them professionally. This set comes with gels that can be used on suede, leather, or fabric. 

Gear Aid Revivex Fabric Cleaner

Gear Aid Revivex Fabric Cleaner

A must-have for anyone looking to clean snow salt off suede boots, this kit by Gear Aid even comes with a boot brush and eraser, making it ideal for newbies who have never learned how to clean snow boots previously. It also includes a waterproofing spray, so after you get those suede boots spic and span, you can protect them from the elements.

Castile Liquid Soap

Castile Liquid Soap

As an alternative to chemical-filled sprays, laundry detergent, and commercial products, you can use Castille soap, which is an effective cleanser but gentle enough to be used as a cleanser when combined with warm water. It can also be used on sensitive skin and makes a popular body wash, so don’t be afraid to stock up!

Jobsite Boot Scrubber

Jobsite Boot Scrubber

While you could spend hours scrubbing with a tiny toothbrush, this boot scrubber by Jobsite is a little-known hack that can dislodge salt, snow, mud, and more.  Made from heavy-duty plastic, this scraper can survive extreme heat and cold conditions, so you can even bring it camping with you. 

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