How To Wash Your Work Boots Effectivelly? (Without Ruin Them)

Are you ready to wash those dirty work boots? Whether they’re stinky or you simply want to give your work boots a wash to show them some appreciation (after all they keep your feet safe) … I wanted to share a few methods I use to wash my safety boots.

a wet pair of my safety work boots after being washed

These are all simple, step-by-step processes for each type of person. 

  1. The lazy one
  2. The control freak one
  3. The careful one

By the way, I just made up those terms. Let’s get into it!

3 effective ways to wash your work boots

I’m sharing with you the three ways I use to wash my work boots. Using one or the other will vastly depend on how careful you are with your boots, how much work are you willing to do, etc. 

If you’re lazy like me you’ll probably just want to throw them in the washing machine 🙂

Anyway, here’s how I wash my work boots, pick the best one for you:

1. Wash your work boots in the washing machine

a pair of work boots being washed in the washing machine

Some people will tell you not to do this because it can damage your work boots. And it might be true … BUT all I know is that I’ve washed my work boots in the washing machine for years and nothing happened to the boots.

Worst case scenario…my washing machine got a little dent in the drum. So it wasn’t even bad for the boots, but for the washer.

Step 1: Prepare your work boots for washing

You’ll want to remove all the dirt with the right brush. I have a kit that I bought on Amazon for very little money just to clean my work boots.

This is very important especially if you work in construction and industries where there’s mud, wet concrete, soil, etc … you want to remove all that from your boot’s upper and soles.

It’s not only better for the cleaning process but it’s also good for the washing machine. You don’t want all that dirt going into the machine’s system and ruining it.

Also, don’t forget to remove the insoles for a better in-depth wash.

Step 2: Prepare the washing machine

As I said above, the last time I put my safety boots in the washer, it ended up bad for the washer since the spinning of the steel toe boots inside the machine dented the drum a tiny bit (the wife was not happy about that).

So in order to avoid that, I’ve learned that I should simply add some extra used towels or bed sheets (or similar) inside the machine together with the boots. That will not only reduce the noise and the banging when the machine is spinning but it will also protect the drum and the drum’s paddles.

I caution you, DO NOT use hot water when washing your work boots in the washer.

This WILL damage primarily the soles if they are cemented and other parts of the boots where adhesives are used to keep the boot together.

Using hot water for long periods of time can potentially deactivate those adhesives and your boot will fall apart.

I wash my work boots using the short program on the machine: 15 or 30 minutes – cold water.

Should you put detergent?

It depends if your work boots are made of leather or synthetic. Leather and detergents don’t really like each other. So don’t put too much.

As an example, I put half of a cup of detergent when I wash my safety boots.

If your boots are made of synthetic material you can worry less but still don’t abuse how much detergent you put. Sometimes when I put too much, the washing machine will not rinse it properly and that overtime makes the boot stinky.

That’s it for this process. Simple & easy way to wash your work boots and bring them back to life.

I don’t think it’s the best idea to dry your work boots in the dryer for the same reason we’ve mentioned above. The heat can disarm the adhesives that hold your boot together. 

Just let them dry naturally and after that apply some mink oil or boot oil or any leather treatment that you prefer in order to moisturize the leather again and waterproof it. By the way, here are a few ways to waterproof your work boots.

2. By soaking them in water with rubbing alcohol

soaking a pair of work boots in a bucket of water in order to wash them

You’ve probably heard of people soaking their work boots before. I did this a few times. Once because I wanted to shrink my work boots and another time because I wanted to stretch my leather work boots.

Both times worked by the way.

If you don’t want to damage the washing machine or you simply want a bit more control of what’s going on with your boot in the washing process, this is best for you.

Just put some warm water in a tub (warm, not hot) and add some rubbing alcohol into the water. 

The alcohol will act as a cleaner and disinfectant.

And now submerge your work boots COMPLETLY and leave them in there for an hour or so. 

Then use a brush to clean the inside of your boot with some detergent if you want the boot to smell nice.

Now rinse the boots and leave them to dry naturally. Same thing here, when you finish, apply leather conditioner and waterproof the boots with mink paste or silicon or similar.

A word of caution: soaking work boots (especially leather work boots) in water and alcohol will make the leather very soft and malleable. That’s good. The bad thing is that as they get dry, they will adapt to whatever they have around them. 

So make sure you put some paper or towels or even a boot stretcher inside the boots so they dry nicely and they keep their shape.

3. Dry cleaning it (wash it without soaking the boots)

washing a pair of work boots without getting them soaked in water

If you’re worried that washing your safety boots will damage the material of the leather, washing your work boots this way is probably the safest way to do it.

Step 1: Use a brush to get rid of all types of dirt

This will help with the next step since we don’t want to start rubbing all that dirt over the boots making it even worse than it was.

So use a hard brush for the soles and a very soft one for the upper of the boot.

Step 2: Spray the boots with water and alcohol or detergent

Make a mix of water and alcohol or water and detergent and spray it over the boot. Make sure the boot gets wet. 

Use the water/alcohol mix to disinfect the inside of the boot and the water/detergent mix for the other parts.

You can use only one mix or the other to clean the whole boot. It’s up to you. It doesn’t have to be both.

Step 3: Use a clean microfibre cloth to clean the dirt

You might have to use a few clothes for this step or rinse the cloth after every swipe. This will avoid spreading the dirt all over the boot instead of actually cleaning it.

Step 4: Let it dry and moisturize

Just as I did in the previous methods, after washing the boots I always let them dry naturally and then apply mink oil or leather conditioner to bring the leather back to life and waterproof it.

Washing Work Boots: The Takeaway

That’s all there is! So if you’re asking yourself if you can or if you should wash your work boots, my answer is yes to both. 

You can wash your boots safely by using one of the methods I’ve used at home for years: 

  • Wash them in the washing machine
  • Soak them in water
  • Dry clean them

There are pros and cons to both so make sure you read properly to see which one fits you best. 

And yes, you should definitely wash your work boots every now and then if you appreciate your work boots but especially if you appreciate your feet. Cleaning your dirty work boots and washing them will make the boot last longer and will keep fungus and bacteria away from your feet and toes.

Word of caution: I’ve said to use mink oil and leather conditioners after washing your work boots. Be careful if your work boots are yellow or any light color. Applying mink oil will darken your boots.

Team Members Working On This Page

Adrian – Editor / Webmaster

Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!

Jessica Flynn
Jessica Flynn – Writer And Researcher

Love technology, going to the beach, take care of my body, and writing (amongst other things). You’ll see my face around here a little bit since I’m responsible for part of the research and writing of some of the articles you’re reading on I hope you’ll find our content helpful and enjoyable! See you around, thanks for reading!

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