Leather boots offer a great degree of versatility, durability, and comfort when trekking, hiking, or enjoying any other type of outdoor activity. As they are typically worn on various terrains and in different weather conditions, they can easily get muddy.
As leather is a sensitive and porous material, it’s important that you care for your boots when they get soiled from mud and dirt. Failing to do so can cause the leather material to dry out and eventually crease and crack.
In this guide, we’ll be teaching you the best way to clean mud and dirt off your leather boots with a step-by-step process that you can follow. This will ensure that they look as good as new and will remain protected for your next outdoor adventures! Let’s jump right in!
1. Remove As Much Mud As Possible
First, you’ll want to remove as much mud as possible so that you’ll be able to clean the remainder more effectively using a cleaning solution. To do this, simply use your hands (you may want to use gloves for this) and remove as much mud and dirt as you can.
2. Allow the Mud & Dirt to Dry
After removing as much of the surface-layer mud as possible, allow the mud on your leather boots to dry completely before attempting to clean them. It may seem counterintuitive, but cleaning wet mud from leather boots can force the mud to lodge deeper in the leather.
This can affect the quality and appearance of your leather boots and also makes brushing them in the following steps more difficult. Therefore, simply let it dry before you proceed.
Important Note: Never let your leather boots dry under direct sunlight. Instead, leave them in shaded areas or next to an open window.
3. Remove & Clean the Laces of Your Boots
Before you start cleaning your leather boots, you’ll need to remove and clean your laces first. Here’s how to do this:
Remove and Soak Your Laces in a Mixture of Soap & Water
Take a small bowl filled with a quarter or half a gallon of warm water (around 100°F) and 1 to 2 tablespoons of detergent. While laces vary in material, most of them are made of synthetic fibers such as nylon or polyester.
This means that they are quite resistant and any type of soap will be fine. Mix the solution well and soak the muddy laces for about 5 to 8 minutes. If your boot laces are made of leather, then it’s best to use a leather-friendly cleaning solution instead.
Scrub The Laces with a Brush
Once they’ve finished soaking, you will need to scrub the laces with a brush (even an unused toothbrush will do the trick) to remove any lodged dirt. Ensure to scrub the laces gently, so the fabric of the laces does not get frayed or damaged in the process.
We recommend cleaning the aglet (the small metal sheath of the laces) with a separate cloth to prevent scratches from occurring. These are typically easy to clean.
Rinse The Laces with Some Water
Once you are satisfied with the results, you can proceed to rinse off the cleaning solution from the laces under fresh running water.
Dry Your Laces
Lay out a dry cloth or towel and place the wet laces on top of them and let them dry naturally. Remember not to wring your laces in the process as this can misshape them or cause them to fray.
4. Knock Off Dried Mud From Your Leather Boots
After the mud on your boots has dried completely, you’ll need to knock off larger chunks by lightly knocking the soles against one another. You can also lightly knock the soles against any hard surface, such as the pavement or a stair.
This will allow you to remove the bulk of the mud with less effort and without getting your hands too dirty. Ensure only to knock the soles against a surface and avoid hitting any part of the leather.
5. Scrape Off the Remaining Mud
Next, you should brush off the remaining dried mud and dirt with a coarse, bristled brush. Using a horsehair brush is ideal for this, as the soft texture is gentle enough not to damage the leather material.
Remember to use firm back-and-forth motions and go over the entire leather surface, ensuring to clear away any dirt trapped in the crevices.
6. Wash & Clean Your Leather Boots
Let’s move on to washing your leather boots. Here’s a quick tip; place a cedar shoe tree into each leather boot to help them maintain their shape during the cleaning process.
To clean them, use saddle soap with an applicator brush or a white vinegar and water solution. Lightly apply the cleaning solution to the entire leather surface of the boots so that you have an even layer.
Then, use a fine microfiber cloth to remove the remainder of the mud from your shoes through light rubbing motions. Both cleaning agents mentioned above (saddle soap and white vinegar and water solution) are safe to use on leather and can help restore your leather boot’s original shine!
7. Dry Your Leather Boots
It’s now time to dry your leather boots. Start by wiping away suds and any excess cleaning solution that’s left over using a clean, dry microfiber cloth. Once that’s done, leave your leather boots to dry for at least 15 minutes before a final inspection.
Check your boots to confirm if all of the dirt and mud have been removed. If not, repeat the washing and drying process until you are satisfied with the results.
8. Condition Your Leather Boots
We always recommend conditioning your leather boots after cleaning them, as most cleaning agents, including saddle soap, often strip away natural oils from the leather material.
Conditioning your leather boots will help restore these natural oils allowing them to remain supple and healthy – it prevents the leather from cracking, peeking, and drying.
We recommend using a dedicated leather conditioner since they usually contain natural ingredients that are safe for use on most types of leather. Nevertheless, it is always good practice to test the product in an inconspicuous area to ensure it does not leave any stains or marks.
Quick Tip: You can do a spot test under the tongue of your leather boots, where it won’t be visible. Allow the product to dry completely and observe if it stains or darkens the leather. Remember to use specially formulated soft leather conditioners for nubuck and suede leather!
If the test went well, use a soft microfiber cloth to apply the conditioner on all areas of your leather boots, using gentle circular motions. Apply an even layer and try to rub in the product to ensure that it penetrates the leather.
After applying the conditioner, wipe away any excess product and let your leather boots dry naturally. Remember to keep them out of direct sunlight!
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve been sent several questions from our readers on how to remove all types of dirt and mud stains from leather boots. You’ll be able to find our answers below.
Can I Clean Mud Off My Leather Boots Without Letting the Mud Dry?
We recommend against this, as the cleaning solution will get mixed into the mud, rendering it ineffective. After removing larger chunks of mud, it’s best to brush and scrub off the remainder – this only works when the mud has completely dried.
Can I Polish My Leather Boots After the Mud Removal Process?
Absolutely! Although it’s optional, we encourage you to polish your leather boots, as this can add a protective layer (sometimes even a waterproofing layer, depending on the product) and keeps them looking their best.
Select a leather-friendly polish that closely matches the color of your leather boots and start applying it evenly. You may also choose to buff your boots with a clean horsehair brush.
We’ve also written a comprehensive guide on polishing your leather boots, ensuring that they remain lustrous and shiny for a long time. Make sure to check out that guide!
Co-Founder, Researcher & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast who spends most of his free time crafting, researching, and writing about the many facets of this versatile material. Thanks for reading!