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How to Clean Work Boots Spotlessly Without Damaging the Leather?

Fact checked by Andrew Carnegie

how to clean work boots

After a period of use, your work boots will get caked with dirt and oil. It is unavoidable. To be honest, I used to delay cleaning work boots until the last minute. But when they are clean and polished, every day at work feels fresher and more productive. Regular cleaning has completely changed my experience with uncomfortable work boots.

Been wearing work boots for years, I learned the quickest and most effective way to wash them. Firstly, wash the footbed separately and wipe the interior with a cleaning solution. Then, wash the boots’ exterior using a leather cleaner and a toothbrush. After that, wipe all lather off the boots and leave them to air dry. Optional steps are to spray a shoe deodorant and apply a leather conditioner.

But what cleaning solutions should you use? What are the techniques to clean leather effectively without damaging it? Dive in for a step-by-step guide on how to clean work boots.

What You Will Need


When used and maintained the right way, work boots can be super long-lasting. If you own a few pairs of safety boots and make good use out of them, it’s worth investing in special boot care products. Quickly gather the following to proceed.

1. Your work boots

You will certainly need your work boots. Go ahead and grab them. When you have the boots, consider how deep you want to clean them. In some situations, all you need is just to clean the boots with a damp cloth and mild soap. The procedure we are going to provide is for deep cleaning. We recommend only doing it once every three to six months. Too much cleaning can damage and shorten the boots’ lifespan.

In addition, read the care label on the shoes. The label will indicate whether the products are machine-washable or not. But most of the time that is not the case as leather can easily be damaged in the washing machine. Also, our procedure is not for any specific product. Please be mindful to avoid any step that is not aligned with your boots’ care label.

2. A leather cleaner

Some household products like vinegar and rubbing alcohol can be used to clean leather. But they are just a quick fix, not for the long term. It is because leather cleaner products like saddle soap are designed to clean more effectively while moisturizing the leather. Without a proper cleaner, leather can look bad quite quickly.

Work boot cleaners come in a variety of forms like liquid, spray bottles, or soap bars. All of them will work well. Some popular leather cleaning products are Fiebing’s saddle soap, Bickmore saddle soap, and Lexol leather cleaner.

3. A soft shoe brush or toothbrush

You need a brush to get rid of the grime on the boots. Make sure the brush is soft so the leather surface is out of harm’s way. A shoe brush is the most ideal. But if you don’t have one, a toothbrush can be a nice replacement.

4. Cloth

Any type of cloth will work. But if you want to quicken the process, grab several pieces of lint free cloth while you’re at the store. Basically, it is a special type of cleaning cloth that doesn’t leave any fluff or lint behind. This type of cloth will make boot cleaning easier and quicker.

5. Mild detergent

Prepare a mild detergent to wash the interior of the boots. Since this part of the shoe is usually made of fabric, foam rubber, or cellular polymer, you can’t use leather cleaners.

6. A deodorant spray

This is optional but highly recommended. After washing, your boots won’t stay odor-free for long without deodorant sprays. Also, applying deodorant sprays daily will help absorb moisture, remove the odors, and make the boots more comfy. It is a must-have product for heavy-duty boot wearers.

7. A leather conditioner

Leather will naturally look dull over time. A leather conditioner instantly makes it more polished and pleasant. Moreover, it protects the leather from cracking and damage.

Remember that once cracked, leather will lose its form and safety functions. For example, if the leather surface of waterproof boots cracks, water will easily leak in. Leather conditioners are imperative to keep your boots in top shape.

Steps to Wash Work Boots


Step 1: Clean the boots’ interior

As mentioned above, our procedure is for deep cleaning. Hence, we will start by cleaning the boots’ interior. It might take up to one day for the interior to completely air dry. Only do this if you don’t need your boots the next day.

Firstly, take out the insoles if your boots have separate footbeds and wash them by hand using a mild detergent. Then, make a mixture of washing detergent and water. Soak a cloth into the solution and rub it against the interior of the boots. Don’t forget hard-to-reach areas like the tip of the toes. After that, use a clean damp cloth to get rid of all soap residues. Finally, wipe it off with a dry cloth to remove most moisture.

Step 2: Clean the boots’ exterior


Before applying the leather cleaner, take your time to remove the grime and dust off the boots’ surface. Use a dry cloth or a soft toothbrush. Old, stretchy leather can be damaged more easily. If you are working with old boots, use a soft cloth instead of a toothbrush.

Now, you can apply the cleaner. If you choose a liquid spray cleaner, go ahead and spray it all over the boots. If you go for liquid or bar soaps, cover a wet toothbrush or shoe brush with soap. Then, gently rub it against the leather surface using circular motions.

We always recommend circular motions when it comes to cleaning leather because it can build up a foamy lather and protect the leather from scratches. Apply more soap as you go. Don’t forget the outsoles. When the boots are clean, use a damp cloth to wipe off the remaining lather.

Besides assisting with cleaning, leather cleaners also nourish and moisturize the boots. They should look polished and spotless by now.

Step 3: Dry

Don’t expose your boots to any external heat source as heat can dehydrate and crack leather. Instead, leave them air dry in a cool, ventilated place. To maintain the boots’ shapes, it’s best to hang them upside down while drying.

If you clean both the interior and exterior, the drying process can take up to a day. If you skip the steps to clean the inside of the boots, they only take two to three hours to completely dry.

Step 4: Spray the shoe deodorant


As said, deodorants are crucial to keep boots odor-free and breathable. In case you don’t have shoe deodorants, baby powder can get the job done. You should spray the deodorant inside the shoes.

Besides applying deodorant after deep cleaning, we recommend using it daily before you put your shoes on. It will help cut down on the accumulation of sweat, odor, and dead skin. So, you won’t need to wash the boots that often.

Step 5: Apply the leather conditioner

Your boots won’t be clean for long if you don’t use leather conditioners. Remember the boots must be thoroughly dry before applying.

Work the conditioner onto the boots with a dry clean cloth using downward motions. Use a decent amount of product and wipe off the excess along the way. Some boots feature embossed stitching, you should make sure the conditioner is well-distributed on rough areas. To reach the leather along the boots’ edge, you can use a soft toothbrush to gently apply the product.

If you wish, you can buff the leather. After applying the conditioner and getting rid of all excess, use a clean cloth or shoe brush to constantly buff the surface back and forth. This buffing step only takes two minutes. But it will allow the polish to sink deeper and stay longer, keeping your footwear clean for a prolonged period.

Once it is done, your boots should look shiny and unblemished. With the conditioner layer, dirt, and dust won’t be able to stick on the surface. It also protects the leather from the sun, humidity, and other elements.


Within five simple steps on how to clean work boots, we guarantee your brand new boots will be back. Heavy-duty footwear might require a little extra effort to maintain. However, they are for your safety and comfort. Proper cleaning techniques help elongate the boots’ lifespan and enhance their comfort level. Don’t blame your dirty, sweaty work boots for foot discomfort. Take care of them and they will take care of your feet.

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