Want to know How to Clean Work Boots? Your Complete Guide for Leather, Suede, Nubuck and everything in between

Learn how to clean your work boots

For those working in fields that require them to wear work boots, they’re probably used to seeing them get dirty and nasty.

Not only can this really reduce the length of time your boots last, but it can cause health hazards, depending on what’s on them.

With that said, it’s extremely important to know how to clean your work boots and what to do in various situations.

We’ve put together this guide to help you out and help you extend the life and look of your boots.

Why Should You Clean Your Work Boots?

The most important reason to clean your work boots is because you want them to stay in the best shape possible.

This is even more true when you think about the average cost of a decent pair of work boots.

Cleaning is even more important when you work in fields that really give them a beating.

Besides looking good, cleaning will help you make sure your boots are in good condition and don’t have any pieces that are broken or falling off.

How Often Should You Clean Your Work Boots?

In terms of actual cleaning, you only need to do it as needed.

This doesn’t mean you can’t do it every week or 2, but you should be fine as long as you clean them as soon as you notice they need it.

On the other hand, you should apply a protective coating or chemical for waterproofing every 2 to 3 weeks to ensure it doesn’t completely wear off before you put more on.

Identifying Your Work Boot Material

Before you begin cleaning your boots, it’s important to know what material it is.

The reason is because different types of materials require different instructions for cleaning.

If you try and clean a material in a way you aren’t supposed to, you can easily damage or destroy it.

Since you really don’t want that to happen, it’s important to know the exact cleaning instructions for your boots.

What Common Materials are Work Boots Made From?

While work boots can be made from several different materials, there are some that are used more than others.

With that being the case, we’ve listed those below and we’ll explain exactly what they are a little bit better.


The most common type of material is leather. Not only are these boots very durable, but they tend to have a longer life. Once broken in, these boots are very comfortable wear and they are often waterproof.


The great thing is that suede boots are usually extremely comfortable and lighter than normal leather.

They also have a decent amount of durability, which makes them last a decent amount of time.

The only issue is that they can get dirty very easy and some substances might be hard to clean off.


Nubuck is a type of leather that has been sanded or buffed in a way that makes it more grainy.

Not only does this increase the life, but it also tends to hold up well with several different kinds of wear.

Keep in mind, this type of leather is a bit harder to maintain and can be damaged much easier than normal leather.


Synthetic boots are any that are made from materials that aren’t natural, such as leather.

These types of materials usually hold their shape much better and do a better job of lasting against a lot of wear and tear.

They also tend to be more water-resistant than natural materials.


Rubber boots are great options for those that work in areas wit ha lot of water or moisture.

While they are waterproof and very easy to clean, they aren’t very easy to adjust and they can sometimes be quite awkward and bulky to walk in.

Do You Have New Work Boots?

When you get new work boots, it’s much easier to do what you need to in order to prevent damage than it is to have to go back and try to correct or fix it.

In order to help with this, the 2 main things you need to do are steps to help prevent issues and breaking them in well before wearing them for long periods.


Before you ever take your boots onto a work site or out and about, it’s important to make sure they’re protected.

For starters, make sure you apply some kind of protective covering or chemicals for waterproofing.

This will help ensure they don’t fall apart easily or get soaked.

The other thing you can do is make sure it’s stored in the correct place.

This will make it so the protective additives have time to dry completely and there’s less chance they’ll get damaged by the environment.

Breaking In

You’ll also want to make sure you break in your work boots before wearing them for long periods.

If possible, wear them for a certain amount of time a few times a day while you’re at home.

By doing it this way, you’ll be able to make sure they’re properly broken in and you can easily take them off if it becomes too uncomfortable or painful.

Are Your Work Boots Old/Already Warn and Dirty?

Most of the people who are getting information from this article will be interested in how to clean the work boots they already have.

With this being the case, the following topics are going to focus on that.

The main reason is because you don’t take care of them the same way and it’s important to know what to do once your boots have gotten some use.

Keep reading to see exactly how to clean certain materials, how to clean off certain types of dirt and what you can use at home to do so.

How to Clean and Condition the Outside of Your Work Boots

When you get ready to clean your boots, you want to make sure you pay close attention to the outside.

Besides actually cleaning, you want to make sure you condition them as well.

This will result in them lasting longer and possibly requiring less cleaning overall.

Cleaning and Conditioning

In order to make sure you’re cleaning your boots right, you need to make sure you’re following the steps.

While not following the steps doesn’t always spell disaster, it’s much better to just make sure you do it correctly.

This can prevent issues from happening and it will keep your boots in good condition for longer.

How to Clean Different Materials

When it comes to cleaning, it’s important to know how to take care of different kinds of materials. Not all work boots are made from the same thing, so they need to be taken care of in different ways. Keep in mind, not doing this properly could result in you needing to replace your boots. We’re going to talk about how to clean the most common types of materials below.

Leather Work Boots

For starters, let’s talk about how to clean and condition your leather work boots because they are the most common ones you’ll run into. The first thing to look at is what you’ll need before you actually start cleaning them. These things are:

  • Cleaner or homemade solution
  • A rag for cleaning
  • A damp cloth for rinsing
  • A towel to dry
  • A soft cloth for buffing
  • Some kind of protective coating

Before you actually start cleaning the boots, make sure they are dry as it will make the job easier. The exact steps for cleaning are listed next.

  • Get your cleaning solution ready.
  • Soak your rag into the solution.
  • Gently dab the dirty and stained parts of your boots.
  • Wipe the boots down with a damp cloth.
  • Wipe the boots with a dry towel.
  • Let the boots dry slowly on their own.
  • Once dry, use a soft cloth for buffing.
  • Apply the protective coating and let it dry by itself.

How to Clean Suede Boots

Next, we’ll talk about how to clean suede leather. You’ll need some specific tools to get the job done, but it’s a pretty simple process. The things you’ll need are:

  • A special suede brush
  • An eraser
  • A dry sponge or cloth
  • Paper or shoe trees
  • Suede protector

Before we talk about the steps to clean your suede shoes, remember do NOT polish them. This material is not made to be polished and it can destroy them. The steps for cleaning are listed below.

  • Make sure your shoes are dry and use your suede brush to brush off the dirt and grime. Remember to brush in the same direction instead of multiple ones.
  • Use an eraser for any stubborn scuffs that won’t come off.
  • For any stains, wet your suede brush and scrub the area.
  • Stuff the shoes with paper or shoe trees. Stay away from newspaper because the ink can transfer.
  • Once completely dry, remove the paper or shoe trees and spray with suede protector.
  • Let the protector dry completely before wearing.

Nubuck Boots

Nubuck is similar to suede, but it’s made from the outside of the cow hide instead of the inside. It’s a simple cleaning process, but does require some specific steps. The things you will need are:

  • A nubuck cloth
  • A nubuck brush
  • Nubuck cleaner
  • Leather degreaser
  • Nubuck protector

Once you have all of your materials, you’ll be ready to get to cleaning. The exact steps are talked about next.

  • Use your cloth to wipe away any dirt and grime. Wipe in many directions and make sure you’re using a circular motion.
  • Use your brush to brush the entire surface.
  • Spray the cleaner on areas that are quite dirty. Spray the cleaner on the cloth, then use the brush to get rid of any leftover residues.
  • Use leather degreaser for areas that have stubborn stains.
  • Wipe away any residue and apply the protector. Let it dry completely before wearing.

Other Types of Materials

If you have a material that’s different from the one listed above, the materials and steps will be different. For most other materials, the things you’ll need are:

  • Some kind of cleaning solution
  • A cloth to clean any stains and dirt.
  • A dry towel or cloth to wipe away residue.
  • Protector that’s specific to the material.

Once you have what you need, most materials are simple to clean. The usual steps will be:

  • Apply the solution onto the dirt or stains.
  • Use the cloth to wipe or scrub the areas that have the solution.
  • Use a dry towel to wipe away any leftover residue.
  • Once it’s dry, spray the protector onto the boots. Let it dry completely before wearing.

Cleaning the Soles

Most soles are made from the same materials, so they can all be cleaned in pretty much the same way. The things you’ll need are:

  • A stiff-bristle brush
  • A washcloth
  • Baking soda
  • A melamine-foam eraser
  • A clean towel

The steps you take to clean the soles will be talked about next. These steps are:

  • Use the stiff-bristle brush to scrub away any dirt, grass or mud.
  • Get the washcloth damp and scrub the sole.
  • If stained, sprinkle some baking soda on the problem areas.
  • Use the washcloth to rub the baking soda in.
  • Get the eraser damp and scrub any remaining stains or dirt.
  • Use a clean and dry towel to wipe away any remaining residue.

Waterproofing and Protecting from the Elements

Next, we need to talk about how to waterproof your boots and help keep them protected from the elements. We’ll talk about how to waterproof both the outside and inside, which means you shouldn’t have to worry even if the inside gets wet.


Before you go about waterproofing the outside of your boots, you want to make sure they are clean. Once they are, waterproofing steps can be done in a short amount of time. These steps are listed next.

  • Find the correct treatment based on the material of the boot.
  • Apply the treatment.
  • Apply an appropriate waterproof spray to your boots.
  • If you have suede or leather boots, get some wax. Warm it up and use a cloth to rub it in. Use a new towel or cloth to get rid of any excess wax.
  • Depending on the material, apply an appropriate cream. Use a clean towel or cloth to wipe any excess away.
  • Let the boots dry completely before wearing.


The good news is that most boots can be waterproofed on the inside the same way. You usually just need to get a protective spray that is appropriate for the material of the boots. You’ll want to spray the inside thoroughly and let everything dry before you wear them.

Cleaning the Inside of the Work Boot, Including Insoles

Now, we’ll talk about how to clean the inside of your work boots. This includes the insoles because it’s important to know how to clean work boots smell and how to get rid of it. In addition to talk about the exact steps, we’ll also talk about what materials you’ll need.

Getting Rid of Odors from Smelly and Stinky Leather Work Boots

In order to clean your boots and get rid of any odors, there are a few things you need to do. For starters, you want to make sure you have any required materials ready. These materials are:

  • A mild laundry detergent
  • Mild or baby shampoo
  • Clean rags
  • 2 socks
  • Baking soda

Now let’s take a look at the steps you’ll take to get your boots new and smelling clean. These are listed below.

  • Remove the insoles and wash them with the mild detergent and warm water. Rinse well to get rid of any leftover residue.
  • Mix warm water with the mild or baby shampoo. Use the solution to clean every part of the inside of the boot.
  • Fill the 2 socks with a couple tablespoons of baking soda. Tie the ends into knots and put them in the boots overnight.
  • In the morning, check and see if the smells have disappeared. If they haven’t, put fresh baking soda in the socks and leave for another night.

How to Clean Work Boots From

It’s important to know how you can clean your boots in various situations. With that being the case, we’ve put together a little guide on how to remove these things in the easiest way possible.


The easiest way to remove sand is to remove the insoles then beat the shoes together. Use water to rinse them thoroughly, then let them dry on their own.


For debris, you can use a brush, washcloth, mild dish soap and water. You’ll want to brush everything first, then put the dish soap on the washcloth. Wipe away any debris, then rinse and dry thoroughly.


To remove mud, you can either rinse it thoroughly with water, or use a brush or washcloth with a mild soap to scrub it away. Make sure it’s thoroughly rinsed and let it dry completely.


With rain, you’ll want to let your boots dry by themselves. Put them in a warm place and let them do their thing. Don’t force the process, though, because it can ruin the boots.


Let the snow melt, then do the same process you did for rain.


With salt and grit, your best bet is to use a brush or washcloth and mild soap. Apply the soap to the brush or cloth, then gently scrub away the residue. Make sure you rinse everything off and let the boots dry on their own.

Oil, Grease and Diesel

To remove these things, you should use a little baking soda or cornstarch on the problem spots. Use a damp cloth to rub it in and let it soak up the residue. Once done, wipe it away and do a thorough rinse if needed. Let the shoes dry completely.

Scratches and Scuffs

You can either use a special oil or an eraser to remove these things. Keep in mind, some materials like leather need oil that’s specifically made for it. As long as you double check the use, either of these will work great.

Ink Stains

Ink stains can be very hard to remove. You’ll want to first spray the spots with some hairspray. Let it sit for about a minute but don’t let it dry. If it doesn’t work, spray the area again and add a drop or 2 of clear detergent. Rub it in with your fingers, then rinse with water. If it still doesn’t work, you could try using rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover. Rub gently, then remove with a damp cloth. A last resort would be to use aerosol brake parts cleaner. Don’t use the kind that foams, but spray it on a cotton swab and rub the stain. Use a clean cloth to blot it away.

Cleaning Using Household Items

The great news is that there are some things you can use at home to help you clean your work boots. This means you don’t technically have to buy specific products when these can work just as well.

Baking Soda

Baking soda does a decent job at getting rid of stinky odors. Put a few tablespoons in a few socks and stuff them into the boot overnight.


Water can be used to get rid of loose dirt or debris and it can be used to wash away any extra residue.


Using a damp cloth can help wash away dirt or debris that’s a little stubborn. It can be done with just water or you could add a mild detergent.


A brush is a great tool to get rid of any loose dirt or debris. You can use a harder bristle brush, but a soft one works best.

Saddle Soap

Saddle soap can be used to clean and condition leather boots. You use it the same way you would leather cleaner and wax.

Hair Conditioner

If you don’t want to use a commercial conditioner, you could try using a mild hair conditioner.

Talcum Powder

Talcum powder will help remove and keep odors away. Put some into a couple socks and put them in your boots overnight.

Dish Soap(Washing Up Liquid)

A mild dish soap does a great job at getting rid of mild stains and dirt or debris that’s being stubborn.

Bathroom Towel

You could also use a clean bathroom towel to get rid of any loose dirt or debris.

Suede Eraser

A suede eraser can be used on suede shoes to buff out any scuffs or mild stains.

White Vinegar

You can apply some white vinegar on a wash cloth and rub any stains or dirt. You just let it air dry afterwards.

Maintaining Your Boots Once Cleaned

The best way to maintain your boots once you clean them is to make sure you keep them stored in a spot that won’t let any elements affect them. The best place is a warm area that stays dry. You’ll also want to make sure you do any spot cleaning and reapply sealer as needed. All of these things will make cleaning easier and help make sure it lasts a long time.

Cleaning Specific Brands

Some brands will have specific ways they need to be cleaned. We’ll talk about the materials needed and exact cleaning steps for a few different brands. Not only will we talk about how to clean Timbs, but we’ll also talk about how to clean Ariat boots.


When thinking about how to clean Tims, the first thing you want to do is get your materials ready. The things you’ll need are:

  • A soft brush
  • An eraser
  • Nubuck cleaner and sealer
  • Mild dish soap
  • A toothbrush
  • Sandpaper
  • Paper

The cleaning steps you’ll do are listed next.

  • Use a soft brush to get rid of any dirt and debris.
  • Use an eraser to remove any scuff marks.
  • Use the soft brush to go over the whole boot again.
  • Remove the laces and wash them with mild dish soap.
  • Use the nubuck cleaner to remove any stains or stubborn dirt.
  • Take the dish soap and scrub the soles with the toothbrush.
  • Run the boots under water to get rid of any leftover residue.
  • Use the sandpaper to buff out any stains that remain.
  • Put the paper in so they keep their shape while they dry.
  • Spray the sealant and let it dry completely.


Ariat boots are extremely easy to clean. For starters, you should wipe the shoes after every wear.

You can use a cloth and warm water. If they get wet, make sure you remove the insoles and wash them with mild soap.

Put paper in the boots to make sure they keep their shape while they dry.

Once they dry, make sure you apply a sealer or protective chemical to help keep them clean.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

As with everything, there are some common questions that people ask in relation to cleaning work boots. With this being the case, it’s important to answer some of them. Some of the most common ones are answered below.

Should I Use Oil or Creams to Condition my Work Boots?

Many oils or creams are made for specific materials that work boots are made from. You can use them as long as you make sure you’re using oils or creams that are made for the exact material of your boots. Keep in mind, some are better quality than others, so make sure you’re buying the best you can.

How Can I Prevent Excessive Dirtiness?

The easiest way to prevent excessive dirtiness is to apply protective coating on the boots. This will help substances fall right off and be removed relatively easily. Keep in mind, you’ll need to apply this again after a certain amount of time. In order to ensure they stay protected, you want to make sure you reapply it when you need to.

Do I Need to Deep Clean My Work Boots Every Time?

If the boots aren’t extremely dirty, you can get away with a mild cleaning. On the other hand, boots that are extremely dirty or stained will need to be deep cleaned. Keep in mind, while you don’t have to do a deep clean, you can if you want to.

What Chemicals or Tools Should I Stay Away From?

Most types of boots will have certain materials and cleaners that work well with them. In terms of staying away from things, you want to stay away from any tool that will tear your boots up and you want to make sure you use the right chemicals for your boot’s materials.

Doing these things will help you keep your work boots as clean as possible. With some fields, work boots are essential, so it’s important to do whatever you can to make sure they last a long time.

It’s much easier to maintain your boots than have to buy a whole new pair. If you still aren’t sure what you should do, try taking them to a professional cleaner that knows what they’re doing.

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We have an article dedicated to this question.

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