How To Clean Work Boots?

If you want your work boots to last for a long time, it is essential to take the time to care for them. This article will walk you through effective ways how to clean work boots.

I have used my work boots in various harsh and hostile situations. These include dirt, dust, mud, sand, and trash, among other wear and tear. So, at the end of the day, I would not be surprised if my boots were dirty. However, all of these can degrade the quality of my shoes to a great extent.

Hence, it is essential to clean work boots regularly. Doing so can keep them from wearing down inside and out. Fortunately, this article will give you tips on how to keep your safety shoes in tip-top shape.

I will also discuss how to clean different stains and prevent foul odors. Moreover, I will share the importance and process of polishing and conditioning boots.

So, without further ado, let us get on with the article!

How to Clean Work Boots?

how to clean work boots featured photo

Work boots are relatively easy to clean. Simply follow the instructions below to achieve polished boots.

Remove the Insoles and Laces

The first thing you need to do when cleaning dirty leather boots is to take off all their removable parts. This step involves removing the boot laces because they can prevent you from cleaning the surface properly.

You might also want to take out the insoles and any inserts found inside the work boots. Doing so can make it easier to brush off any debris or stains left in the boots.

Once you separate these removable parts of the work boots, you can clean them apart afterward.

Get Rid of Loose Dirt and Debris

Now that you have removed the insoles and laces, you can now proceed to clean the exterior of the steel toe work boots.

Take a horsehair brush or a soft brush like a toothbrush. But if you do not have any of these tools, you can also use a soft, lint-free cotton cloth.

The next thing to do is brush or wipe off any loose dirt and debris stuck on the surface of the work boots. Do not be afraid to use rigorous motions to remove all the dirt and any stubborn stains.

It is also best to go deep into the pores and other hard-to-reach areas of the boots, including the corners. This way, you can clean the small spaces where the dirt might have settled in.

Apply the Soap Solution

If you still see a few stains on your work boots, do not worry. You can remove these more stubborn marks by applying a soap solution.

Simply mix detergent or saddle soap with a bowl of water. Now, grab a soft-bristled toothbrush, horsehair brush, or a soft cloth that is lint-free. Dip any of these tools into the soapy water solution.

Once soaked in, work these tools over the leather exterior of your work boots. Use slow circular motions to remove any stains effectively. Do not forget to go deep into the pores of the leather fibers with a toothbrush.

Finally, take extra care of the sides and edges of the boots. That is because these parts are usually delicate and easy to damage.

Dry the Boots

The final step on how to clean work boots is to dry them. There are several effective methods to dry the boots quickly.

One of my favorite techniques is to use a boot dryer. As its name suggests, this device can dry boots by introducing cool air. All you need to do is leave your shoes in the ports and wait a few hours until there is no more moisture.

But if you do not have the budget for this device, you can simply opt to put your boots under a table fan. You can also consider using shoe inserts to absorb excess moisture. Finally, do not underestimate the power of sunlight if you want to air-dry your boots naturally.

How To Clean The Insides of Work Boots?

Besides the exterior, the interior of your work boots also requires regular cleaning. This interior part is prone to become a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. The reason behind this is your sweat, which usually accumulates inside the shoes whenever you are out and about. So if you want to avoid wet spots and other complications, clean the boot interior regularly.

Start off by taking out the insoles of these leather work boots. Throw them into the laundry or wash them with your hand. Do not forget to use a mild detergent to remove any sticky residue or stubborn stains.

As for the other interior parts of the work boots, you can create a cleaning solution to target them. Simply mix equal amounts of water and soap in an empty spray bottle. Shake this bottle and spray the solution on the entire interior surface of the boots. If you can, spritz a generous amount on the toe area because that is where most of the sweating accumulates.

Once done, you can grab a clean cloth or paper towel. Use it to dry any excess moisture that has collected inside the boots.

Finally, leave the wet boots to dry in a cool and well-ventilated area. Avoid placing them under direct heat to prevent damaging the leather fibers.

How to Clean Different Stains from Work Boots?

It is likely that you came across various conditions when wearing work boots. Unfortunately, some of these environments can leave your shoes with stains.

Below are some ways how to remove different types of stains from your work boots.

Ink Stains

If you want to remove ink stains from your work boots, you need a nail polish remover or a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Get a cotton swab or cotton pad and soak it with the solution.

Then, apply it over the exterior of the leather boots. Wait for a few seconds or up to a minute until the shoes have semi-absorbed the cleaning solution. Avoid rubbing the swab or pad because the ink stain might spread across the other areas of your boots.

Afterward, use a dry cloth or rag to rub off the ink stains.

Finally, leave the work boots overnight to dry them off completely.

Grease or Oil Stains

Grease or oil stains can be relatively difficult to remove on leather work boots. It is essential to clean them right away if you ever encounter them.

The most effective way to remove grease stains in boots is to apply cornstarch or baking soda. Gently rub these ingredients over the entire surface of the boots.

Wait overnight or at least eight hours to let the ingredients sit in. This way, the solution can absorb all of the oil or grease stains stuck in the work boots. 

After that, you can proceed to wipe off the boot exterior with a damp cloth. You should make sure that there is no residue to prevent bacteria and odor from forming. 

Finally, leave the boots to dry in a cool, well-ventilated area.

Scuff Marks

To remove scuff marks, all you need is toothpaste and dry cloth. Squirt a small amount of toothpaste on the cloth. Then, rub it over the part of the boots filled with scruffs. After, get a clean towel to wipe the cleaning solution away.

But in case the toothpaste solution does not work, you can create your very own abrasive paste. Combine baking soda with warm water. Then, wipe this solution over the entire boot surface.


When removing tar on your work boots, it is best to use a gentle hand. If not, you might risk damaging the shoes.

Start by scraping the tar off the exterior and sole of the boots with a knife. Next, treat hidden tars using boot oil conditioners or olive oil. Simply get a brush to apply any of these solutions over the boot surface.

Finally, consider using WD-40 to target particularly stubborn tar stains.

How to Clean Smelly Leather Boots?

When you do not clean your leather work boots properly, you might notice them smelling funky. Fortunately, there are effective ways to prevent this foul odor.

The first method you can try is to create a soap water solution. Mix a few tablespoons of soap in a bowl of water. Then, grab a soft-bristled toothbrush or a soft, lint-free cotton cloth to dip into the water solution. Apply it over the leather fibers in slow circular motions.

Another way to clean smelly work boots is to dry them properly. Sometimes, the reason behind the foul odor is excess moisture. Use a boot dryer, fan, or even shoe inserts to keep the boots dry.

You can also try sprinkling baking soda on and inside the boots. Leave this ingredient overnight to keep foul odors at bay. After that, you can take it off using a damp cloth.

Finally, you can create your very own boot deodorizing spray. All you need is half a cup of water and distilled white vinegar, tea tree oil, and a spray bottle. Mix all these ingredients and put them inside the bottle. Then, spray the solution over the entire work boot surface to prevent the funky smell.

How to Polish Work Boots?

Once you clean your work boots and ensure that there is no smell, you can proceed to polish them. This step is essential because it can help eliminate scuff marks and other small scratches.

But before you start, make sure to remove the laces and store them separately.

Then, get shoe polish and a cloth. Apply the polish on the cloth and gently dab it around the different parts of the work boots. Make sure to cover the whole area.

Once you have distributed the polish around the boot, you can get another rag or brush. Use any of these tools to buff the surfaces of the work boot thoroughly.

After doing these steps, you can expect to achieve polished work boots.

How to Condition Leather Boots?

Besides polishing, you might also want to condition your leather work boots. Doing so can prevent the leather exterior from cracking and drying.

Conditioning leather boots is relatively easy to do. Just make sure you have the proper tools to do the job. These include a piece of old cloth, a leather conditioner or balm, a small applicator brush, and two clean rags.

Before anything else, use the dry rag to remove any remaining dirt or dust clinging to the leather boots.

Then, dip your applicator brush into your chosen leather conditioner or balm. Apply this solution to an inconspicuous area of the boots, such as the tongue.

Afterward, pour a quarter-sized amount of leather conditioner or balm onto the second rag. Then, rub it over the boot exterior using circular motions. Just make sure to avoid pushing down hard. Instead, go back and forth along the entire surface of the boots. This way, you can target all crevices and creases.

Finally, wipe off any excess product using a clean cloth and let the boots dry for half an hour.

How Often Should I Condition My Work Boots?

It is best to condition your work boots every month. Doing so can help maintain the natural oil of the boots, so they can remain soft and supple. But if budget or time is a concern, you can do the conditioning after three or six months.


Work boots undergo various harsh conditions, including dirt, mud, trash, and other debris. It is essential to keep them clean regularly if you want to prevent them from wearing down. Hopefully, this article helped you learn the proper ways how to clean work boots.