How To Clean Wildland Firefighter Boots In 3 Easy Steps

Wildland firefighter boots take a lot more abuse than the typical work boot. They get exposed to heat, dust, dirt, mud, caustic chemicals from flame retardant, and get put through the absolute ringer.

That's why it's important to invest in a pair of wildland firefighter boots that are built to take the abuse.

Of course, you also have to maintain them to keep them in good shape, including cleaning them. Here's how you clean and maintain your fire boots to keep them in good working order.

Brush Off Any Caked On Dirt, Mud Or Debris

The first thing you want to do with your boots is to get as much crud off them before you start the rest of the process. The less that's on them, the better.

It's kind of like waxing a car; what you don't want is any dirt trapped under the finish. So the first order of business is to get everything you can off of them.

You can use anything from rags to paper towels to remove anything, but the best thing to use is a brush. You can get a stiff-bristled hand brush from the typical grocery store or what have you and it will work, but the best thing to get is a horsehair brush.

You can get one on its own, or as part of a work boot care kit or something along those lines.

What you don't want to do is use any water, if at all possible. If you just can't get some caked-on mud or other debris off, you could lightly mist your brush with a bit of water.

A good tip is to use an old toothbrush to get at the tiny cracks and crevices, especially around the edge of the boot at the stitching. This area does need attention, so make sure not to skip it.

You want to get as much as possible off your boots, but if a little bit of dirt or what have you gets left on, it's okay.

Clean With Saddle Soap

Saddle soap is what you use to clean your boots. If you aren't familiar with it, saddle soap is a leather cleaning product made with a number of natural ingredients like beeswax, lanolin and other compounds.

It's literally a soap for leather, and it cleans and nourishes the leather.

Here's how you use it. Using a damp cloth or sponge, you work up a lather with the saddle soap, and then start washing your boots with it. Spread it around, wipe off any dirt or what have you, then add more.

Take time to clean the stitching, cracks and crevices. It's a good idea to use an old toothbrush for that if you have one laying around.

Once you've wiped saddle soap around the entire boot, wipe off the excess with a cloth. If some dirt or debris is still stubbornly clinging to your boots, repeat the process until they're completely cleaned.

What you'll notice is that the leather has darkened a bit. This is normal; saddle soap is very similar to conditioning compounds and helps to nourish the leather. Give your boots about 10 minutes to dry.

Break Out The Boot Grease And Condition Your Wildland Firefighter Boots

After cleaning, you condition. The best thing to use for wildland firefighter boots is boot grease.

Grease is usually a little thicker than boot oil, which gives the leather a bit more protection as the grease forms a coating over the leather, almost like the seasoning on a cast iron skillet.

The best thing to do with boot grease is scoop a bit out with your fingers, and just rub it on. Give each boot a good even coat. You'll notice the leather darken a bit with the application, but that's normal as the leather hydrates.

Let the boot grease settle overnight, and you're good to go!