How to Clean Walking Boots, Backpacks and Clothes

Summer is over, and it’s time to put away your hiking gear for another year if you’re not going to be using it over the winter. Personally, I don’t tend to do much hiking over the winter as I’m not a fan of hiking in the snow and such, all my summer hiking gear is stored away. Before I store it away, I like to clean it thoroughly and check any zips or stress areas for problems.

Maintaining your hiking equipment is often overlooked but vitally important. Your gear will only serve you well if you keep it in good condition. Letting your boots and backpack fall into a state of disrepair will end up costing you money when you need to replace them. To help you stay on top of gear maintenance, here’s how you should clean your walking boots, backpack, and clothes.

How to Clean Your Walking Boots

You are back from a hike, and your boots are caked in mud and dirt. It can be daunting trying to figure out how to get them clean and ready for your next adventure. Luckily, it’s straightforward. Here is what you will need.

  • A soft cloth or sponge
  • Cleaning gel
  • Waterproofing spray
  • A dry cloth or towel

That’s it. You will probably only need to buy the cleaning gel and waterproofing spray. These can be purchased online or from a local outdoors shop. The brand of boot you own often will have a corresponding cleaning gel and waterproofing spray, so make sure you do your research before buying anything.

Step-By-Step Guide

  • Step 1– Remove any large pieces of debris. You can do this with a stiff brush or just by banging your boots together. Do this outside otherwise, it will make quite a mess. If your walking boots are particularly muddy, it can be advantageous to let them dry out first.
  • Step 2– Remove your laces. This allows you to open the tongue, providing you with more access. You can also remove the insole for washing which can help reduce any unpleasant smells. Give your boots an initial rinse outside to remove any dirt, as this can easily clog a household sink. Apply your cleansing gel and begin scrubbing with your sponge. You can give the soles a good scrub but be more delicate around the uppers as the material is more delicate. Rather than submerging your boots, hold them above your sink and dip the sponge in the water. This will help prevent your boots from getting excessively wet.
  • Step 3– Rinse your boots with clean water. This will give you a chance to double-check your work and make sure your boots and now clean. If you missed a spot, just grab your sponge and give it a clean.
  • Step 4Re-waterproof your boots. Cleaning your boots should be done whenever they get muddy. You don’t need to waterproof your boots every time you clean them. Typically, once every six months or so is fine, depending on how heavily you use them. If water starts getting absorbed by the fabric and stops beading off it, then it’s time to re-waterproof. There are several products available, and exactly what you should use depends on the material of your walking boots. Nikwax makes some great products for fabric and leather boots. Most waterproofing should be applied to damp, clean boots, but always follow the instruction provided.
  • Step 5- Allow your boots to dry naturally in the air. Don’t use artificial heat sources as this can weaken the glue and seams. The only thing you can do is shove newspaper down your boots to absorb water.

How to Clean Your Walking Backpack

Cleaning your boots is easy, thankfully your backpack is no more complicated. Typically, you should clean your backpack once a year or if it gets filthy on a particular hike. You need to pay special attention to the zips on your backpack, making sure they are clean and rust-free. Opening a jammed zip is very difficult because you did not bother to clean it and dry out your backpack before putting it away for the winter.

Step-By-Step Directions

  • Step 1– Remove large pieces of dirt and mud. This should be done outside with a bring or cloth. The aim is to knock off large chunks of dirt. It’s also a good idea to open all your pockets and wipe them out, making sure your backpack is completely empty.
  • Step 2– Now is the time to read the label of your backpack or go online. You need to find out if your bag is machine washable or not. If it is, then washing it is going to be very easy. If you can’t find out if your backpack is suitable to machine wash, then assume it isn’t and hand wash it. Never tumble dry your backpack. Always let it air dry.
  • Step 3– Wash the inside. Do this by using a soft, damp cloth or sponge. Use hot or warm water with a very small amount of soap. The inside of your walking backpack is hopefully very clean so it shouldn’t take much cleaning, just a quick wipe around.
  • Step 4– The exterior of your walking backpack will take a little bit more effort to clean. Start by taking a damp sponge and scrubbing all the dirt off the main panels of the bag. Then take a toothbrush and gently scrub the zips, don’t be too aggressive. You only want to remove small particles of dirt. You can use a small amount of soap or a technical backpack cleaner. Again, Nikwax is an excellent company for these types of products. If you have used some form of soap to clean the exterior of your backpack, give it an extensive wash with cold, clean water.

That’s all there is to it. It isn’t very complicated to keep your backpack clean. Like your boots, it only takes a handful of very basic tools to clean a walking backpack.

How to Clean Walking Clothes

This is quite a broad area, in that there are so many different types of garments it would be impossible to tell you how to clean them all. The best advice is to follow the manufacturer’s guidance, which can usually be found on the inner labels of clothes. If you are ever in doubt, always hand wash your clothes to ensure you don’t damage them.

Your most vital piece of clothing as a hiker is your waterproof jacket and trousers, as they protect you from the elements allowing you to stay warm and dry. Typically waterproofs require hand washing. It’s often just a case of wiping down any dirt or stains to prevent long term damage to the fabric. Some jackets are suitable for machine washing. If yours is, always using the correct type of washing detergent, do not use your normal household laundry detergent.

Final Thoughts

Hiking gear is expensive, and as such, you need to look after it. If you clean and look after your gear correctly, it should last for years to come. Personally, I have some old walking boots that must be 25 years old. I clean them every year and store them in a dry cupboard. While I don’t wear them as much these days, I’m sure if I looked after them, I could use them every day, and they would last for the rest of my life.

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