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How to Clean Tactical Boots to Keep Them Looking Like New

Cleaning tactical boots

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A good pair of boots is one of the most essential tactical accessories. Learning how to clean tactical boots is one of the first things you should do after acquiring a new pair.  With the right cleaning methods, you will prevent them from getting damaged, extend their lifespan, and keep them looking nice.  

In this combat boot cleaning care guide, we are going to share some of the best secrets to get your boots spotless, whether they have a little bit of dust on them or are drenched in mud.

How Often Should You Clean Your Boots?

The best way to keep your pair of combat boots in shape is by giving them a quick daily clean.  Brush your boots daily to remove loose soil. For spots and stains, you should use a more extensive cleaning method as soon as you notice these messes.

If you do not have the time for spot treatment every day, then you should at least try to give your military boot care bi-weekly. 

Brown tactical boot

How to Clean Tactical Boots 

Tactical boots can be manufactured from all sorts of materials, like nylon, fabric, full-grain leather, split leather, nubuck, suede, and even PU leather. The care and maintenance requirements are a bit different for each individual material type.

Tactical boots are usually made from genuine leather because leather is the most durable shoe material. They are mostly crafted from either smooth full-grain leather or from suede leather. Here is a quick look at the best cleaning strategies to use for the most common military boot types.

Smooth Leather Tactical Boot Cleaning Guide 

As with other quality tactical gear, genuine leather military boots can be quite expensive. This is why you want to make sure that your boots are receiving the best possible care. With the right cleaning methods and maintenance, full grain-leather army boots will stay in great shape for longer.  

Let’s take a look at the best way to keep smooth and suede material boots nice and clean. 

How to Clean Smooth Leather Boots Daily

Daily cleaning is recommended because long-term exposure to bacteria found in mud and other particles can cause damage to leather.  Oils and grease will also permanently stain your boots if they linger on the materials for too long.

You shouldn’t deep clean and polish your leather boots every single day. Instead, grab a soft brush and lightly brush away any dust, mud, or dirt from your boots. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe down stubborn messes. Be careful not to expose the leather to too much water.  Smooth leather types are not as vulnerable to water, but can take very long to properly dry.

To shine your boots, you can grab a microfiber cloth and wipe the surface. 

Use a bit of foot powder inside your boots to kill bacteria or eliminate bad odors.

It is best to clean your boots at night time so you will have enough time for spot treatments should you notice any stains on your boots. 

How to Spot Treat Smooth Leather Boots

It is important to do spot treatments as soon as you notice stains so the dirt won’t permanently discolor your army boots.  Here is a quick look at the best steps for daily spot treatments.

Step 1 – Sprinkle a little bit of cornstarch, baby powder, or talcum powder on the stain. Let it sit overnight.  These powders will absorb oils from the leather. Wipe the powder away in the morning. Check to see if the stains are gone.

Step 2 – If the stains are not gone, try to repeat this process with some dishwashing liquid on the spots instead. Use a soft cloth, and apply the mixture in circular motions. 

Step 3 – If you used dishwashing liquid on your leather boots, it is best to apply leather conditioner on the area once the materials have fully dried.  Leather treatments create a protective barrier that will keep your boots from getting stained in the future. 

Black tactical boots

How to Deep Clean Smooth Leather Boots

If your boots are very dirty after being put through the ringer, then you should consider deep cleaning them. Deep cleaning is only required if your boots are very messy, or once every 6 to 12 months. All genuine leather products also require conditioning once or twice per year. Here is a quick look at the best steps for a proper deep clean.

Step 1 – Ensure that your pair of boots are completely dry before you start. Grab a soft bristle brush, and remove as much dirt as you can. You can also use a bit of lukewarm water to soften mud and other buildup.

Step 2 – If your boots have a lot of mud stains then it is best to get an extensive cleaning product.  These products are designed to open up the pores of your leather materials to clean dirt that is trapped within your leather. 

Be careful to follow the instructions and rinse or wipe away the leather cleaning product when you are finished.  Products that open leather pores can make your boots vulnerable to cracking or staining if the products are not properly removed.

Step 3 – After deep cleaning your boots you should wait until they are completely dry. It is best to use a shoe shaper insert while leather boots are drying so they can retain that perfect shape. 

Step 4 – You should now apply your leather conditioner, leather shine, or leather shoe polish because the deep cleaning process removed all previous conditioning layers. This could leave your boots dry.  

You can use home products as a conditioner, but it is better to buy a good quality leather conditioner or leather wax instead. These products will give your boots a nice shine, and will form a protective barrier on top.

For optimal care, it is probably best to learn how to waterproof leather boots. A waterproof layer will make it much easier to keep your boots nice and clean with daily cleaning methods. 

Suede Leather Tactical Boot Cleaning Guide

Suede leather boots are made from the underside of animal skins. This underside has a softer, warmer feel with a rougher texture and is much more absorbent. Suede tactical boots are the most challenging to keep clean because they are quite vulnerable to water damage, and the cleaning methods can take a bit longer.

These hiking boots tend to get dirtier because oils, grease, and dirt is absorbed deeper into the fabric layer. You should avoid contact with water or the materials will deform.

Here is a quick look at the steps for cleaning suede leather boots.

How To Clean Suede Boots Daily

As with normal leather boots, you should brush off the excess dirt from your suede boots every day using a soft bristle brush. You can use a toothbrush to clean out dirt from smaller areas. Pay close attention to folds, creases, and the area between the shoe upper and the sole. Dirt that is left in these areas will deteriorate the leather, and might cause cracks or tears over time.

Ideally, you should invest in a suede cleaning kit that has a non-metallic bristle brush. Alternatively, you can use soft cloth and a nylon bristle brush for daily cleaning.

Combat boots should air-dry properly daily. Air-dry away from excessive heat or direct sunlight so the leather won’t contract.

You can also apply an anti-fungal spray inside the boots to keep them fresh.

How to Spot Clean Suede Tactical Boots Quickly

You should spot-treat any messes like mud or dirt you notice on your boots on a regular basis. Here is a quick look at the best steps to do this:

Step 1 – First, allow the mud to dry completely. Now grab your brush and scrub off as much soil as you can.

Step 2 – Mix 1/2 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid in a cup of warm water. Grab a sponge or soft cloth and dampen it before wiping the solution onto the fabric.

Be careful to avoid harsh chemicals or any cleaning products that are alcohol or oil-based. These products could dry out your leather fabric. A proper suede eraser can also help eliminate spots and stains.

Step 3 – Wipe your boots using plain water to remove excess soap. It is fine to use cold water at this point.

Step 4 – Allow your clean boots to air-dry properly away from an intense heat source, heating vents, or sunlight.


After learning how to clean military boots the right way, we are quite certain that your boots will stay in great shape for many years to come.  We hope that you enjoyed our guide, and we welcome you to have a look at some of our other guides that are specially designed to help you take great care of your tactical gear.