How to Clean Military Boots? – 2 Most Effective Methods

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

how to clean military boots

The best way to clean boots depends greatly on their material. Suede and leather all have different optimal cleaning methods suited to preserve their longevity and quality.

Given the fact that each pair is continuously exposed to harsh elements and used during intensive activities, it is no surprise that it can be laborious to maintain clean army boots all the time. Despite it being tedious, it is absolutely necessary.

To help keep your trusty boots in tip-top shape, here is a friendly guide on how to clean military boots.

Ways to Wash Military Boots


As mentioned, it is critical that you first identify the material of your military boots. This is because each type has its own best-suited cleaning method.

1. Clean Suede Combat Boots


What to prepare:

  • A soft-bristled brush/toothbrush
  • A cleaning solution: ½ teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and 1 cup of warm water.
  • Baking powder or baby powder – any brand will do; this will serve as an absorption agent for oil-based stains
  • A clean microfiber cloth
  • Antifungal spray

Step 1: Clean the shoe interior and shoelaces

  • Remove your shoelaces and insoles to clean them separately from the rest of the boots. You may begin with cleaning your laces first.
  • Add 2 drops of dishwashing soap to 2 cups of water and mix until bubbles form. Submerge the laces for 15 to 20 minut Make sure to shake the laces every now and then to make sure stubborn dirt is eliminated.

If there are persistent stains, you may use a toothbrush to scrub the laces. Afterward, run the laces through clean water and air dry.

  • Clean the interior of the boots by preparing a wet cloth with detergent. Gently scrub the inside of the boots. Do not run the boots under water in order to get rid of the soapy residue. Instead, blot the inside with a paper towel until the boots are no longer soapy.

Step 2: Clean the exterior of the boots

  • Using the soft-bristled brush, dust off the soil and dirt from the boots’ surface. If the boots are muddy, allow the mud to dry first and then dust it off using a brush.
  • Any leftover mud stains may be wiped away using a soft cloth dipped in the soap mixture, as mentioned above. Remember to wipe lightly in tapping motions in order to avoid damaging the suede’s texture.
    • Alternatively, you may clean desert combat boots with vinegar mixed with warm water in a 1:2 ratio. You can use this solution to wipe off stubborn mud stains.
  • For oil-based stains, sprinkle some baking powder (or baby powder) onto the stain to absorb the oil. Allow this to sit for 30 to 45 minutes before brushing it off with the soft bristle brush.

Repeat this step until the stain is completely removed.

Step 3: Air dry military boots

  • Now all you have left to do is air dry the shoes. Make sure to avoid applying direct high heat, such as using a hairdryer. That said, you can place the footwear in front of an electric fan in order to speed up the process.
  • Additionally, you may spray antifungal spray to get rid of any bacteria and clean combat boots smell.

2. Clean Leather Combat Boots


When it comes to leather, it really is about learning how to wipe and shine military boots. This is because attempting to wash army boots in the washer will only spell damage for you, as water can stain and weaken the material.

So, instead of the typical water and soap method, brush and polish are the more appropriate materials for this. It may seem easy, but really, it’s all about technique.

What to prepare:

  • Horsehair shoe brush
  • A microfiber cloth
  • A store-bought conditioner or a 1:2 mixture of vinegar and linseed oil
  • Shoe polish – untinted wax or cream-based shoe polish would be the best options

Step 1: Get rid of the mud and soil


  • Do not scrub wet mud. Similar to the previous guide, allow mud to sit and dry until you can shake it off by tapping the boots onto the solid ground.
  • Remember to always shake off all the sand first if you want to clean military desert boots.
  • Stubborn mud stains can be wiped off using a slightly damp cloth. Make sure to wipe in tapping motions instead of rubbing in order to avoid damaging the leather’s surface.

Step 2: Condition the leather


  • Typical military boot cleaning kits include ready-made leather conditioners, but you can also fall back on the homemade mixture mentioned above.
  • Fully coat your boots in this moisturizing solution for around 20 minutes, or, if you have the time, leave it for a whole day.
  • Afterward, wipe your boots with a dry cloth in order to get rid of any conditioner residue.

Conditioning helps prevent the leather from drying and cracking, so this is a very important step.

Step 3: Shine your boots


  • The last step is to shine your boots with a good shoe polish. If you have brown military boots, there are brown tinted polishes for them.

There are also black-tinted polishes for black combat boots. If you want to clean tan military boots, there are neutral and untinted polishes that are ideal for light-colored leather.

Go for wax shoe polishes if you wish to achieve a traditional leather shine while being able to cover scuffs and minor scratches. Alternatively, for a more subtle shine, opt for cream polishes.

  • With a soft cloth and your chosen polish, apply a small amount on the surface of the leather. Applying such in circular motions helps evenly distribute the polish.
  • Get rid of the excess polish with a horsehair brush.

Helpful Tips


Here are some additional tips for better and cleaner results:

  • If your boots are made of synthetic or faux leather, wax polishes will work better for you.
  • Do not add too much polish, a small amount goes a long way, especially considering that over-application can also stain your shoes.
  • When applying shoe polish, protect your floor and furniture by working on top of a plastic cover. This is necessary because some shoe polishes, especially the tinted ones, stain and damage surfaces.


Your 5.11 boots need that extra care and maintenance, especially because they are exposed to the elements out on the field. Their footwear performance and quality are also enhanced when they are treated and maintained properly.

It may seem tedious at first, but surely, once you enjoy the benefits of caring for your boots, it makes the extra work worth it. So, for those who are just about to get their own combat boots, make sure you learn how to clean military boots first, and are committed to this cleaning task for a long time.

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