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How to Make Your Hiking Boots Smell Fresh

How to Make Your Hiking Boots Smell Fresh

Getting your hiking boots dirty is an occupational hazard. In fact, if you’re not knocking mud or dirt off them after a hike on a regular basis, chances are you’re probably not venturing too far off the beaten track. In any case, it’s inevitable that over time – even if you clean the outside of your boots regularly – they are still going to collect enough sweat, grime and mildew to become highly offensive to the nostril. You might not notice straight away, but just try leaving them in the boot of your car and coming back to them the next day. Assuming the release of noxious gases doesn’t rob you of your eyebrows, you’re still going to want to know how to make your hiking boots smell fresh again. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered with this helpful guide.



Why Do My Boots Smell So Bad?


With over 25,000 sweat glands on each foot, it’s easy to see how your boots can take on a pungent aroma before too long. Housing your feet in such a warm and moist environment for long periods as you pound the trail is a perfect environment for fungi and bacteria to grow. Add in other factors such as external temperatures and humidity and you will start to understand pretty quickly the size of the task of keeping your boots smelling fresh. Let’s get straight into the best method below.



How to Make Your Hiking Boots Smell Fresh



Wash The Outside with Warm Water Water and Soap


Whilst most of the odour is coming from the inside of the boot, you should clean the outside first. Mud and dirt acts as an extra layer of insulation, further trapping moisture within. Soak the exterior of the boots in a bucket of warm, soapy water, using a soft brush to dislodge any stubborn dirt. Make sure to use mild soap so as not to degrade the waterproof element of the boot. 



Remove Insoles and Laces and Clean Them Thoroughly


The insoles of your boots harbour more than their fair share of bacteria, as they have the greatest surface area contact with your feet. Most modern hiking boots contain removable insoles, so you should be able to slip them out fairly easily. Remove the laces from your boots and submerge them, along with the insoles, into a fresh bucket of warm, soapy water. Knead them under the water with your fingertips to work the soap through the material, pushing out bacteria and therefore bad odour. You will need to repeat this process several times to get the full effect. Drape the insoles and laces over a radiator to allow them to dry out.



Wipe the Interior of the Boots


Next, take a cloth and wipe down the inside of the boots. You should remove any dirt or stains that have accumulated within the boots.  The cloth should be wet, but not dripping, as this will prolong the time required for them to dry. 



Allow Your Boots to Dry Out Completely


Pull the tongues of the boots forward, allowing them to rest on the toe box to promote maximum air circulation within the boot. This will take a while, depending on how wet the boots are, so be prepared to wait. You can speed up the process in a number of ways, which are outlined here.



Soak Your Hiking Boots in Baking Soda Overnight


Once your hiking boots are completely dry inside and out, it’s now time to work on the odour. You need to sprinkle two heaped tablespoons of baking soda into each boot. Make sure the baking soda has good coverage of the boot from heel to toe. You now need to leave the baking soda to work its magic overnight. It will absorb the bacteria living in your boots, and therefore neutralising the smell in the process. Wait until the morning and knock your boots outside to remove the leftover baking soda. If the smell remains, repeat the process once again. Once you are happy with the results, replace the laces and insoles.



Spray Your Hiking Boots With Disinfectant


As a further measure, use disinfectant spray on the inside of the boots. This will kill any lingering bacteria waiting to fester once your back is turned. If you don’t have any disinfectant to hand, vinegar or pure alcohol can be used instead.



Mask Lingering Odours


By now you should have eliminated the foul odour from your boots, or at least minimised it. Your hiking boots take some serious abuse over their lifespan, so you can’t expect them to smell like new. You can however put a few drops of essential oils in each boot to freshen them up further. This won’t mask a strong odour but once you have cleaned them out properly it will make all the difference.



Treat the Outside of Your Hiking Boots


Your hiking boots are now clean and hopefully mostly odour-free. You might want to take this opportunity to treat your hiking boots with a specialised waterproofing solution. This will keep your feet comfortable and dry on the trail. Whilst you can never stop your feet from sweating, keeping water out from the outside will go a long way to keeping your boots smelling as fresh for as long as possible. You need to apply the correct type of solution for the material of your boots, so make sure you get the right one.



Can You Just Spray Deodorant into Your Hiking Boots?


You should remember that spraying a deodoriser into foul smelling boots won’t get rid of the smell. It might mask it for a short period of time, but without getting to the root of the issue, the stench of the bacteria will quickly overpower the deodorant and you will be back to square one. The fading smell of the deodoriser combined with the existing malodour of the boots can actually be more unpleasant, so it really is a pointless exercise.



Final Thoughts


Hopefully you now know how to make your hiking boots smell fresh again. With this knowledge, you are sure to please your fellow hiker, who will thank you for keeping on top of things in the boot department. Not only this, but a clean pair of boots will last you a lot longer, be more comfortable and make you look more presentable as you lace them up and head out onto the trail for your next adventure.