Jun 22, 2021 / Safety Toe Footwear, Slip Resistant Footwear

How to Clean Doc Martens

Since skyrocketing to popularity in the 90s, Doc Martens have remained a favorite footwear choice amongst the fashion-forward and the practical alike. Not only do they have an iconic look with their lace front opening and famous yellow stitching, but they’re also designed with high-quality leather that makes them both comfortable and durable.

When you’ve got boots crafted with high-quality material, it’s important to take care of them the right way. To help you keep your boots looking as fresh as they did when they first came out of the box, we’ve put together a guide for how to clean your Doc Martens.

A Basic Guide to Cleaning Doc Martens

To keep your Doc Martens in tip-top shape, it’s important to wash them routinely. Washing them once a month is perfect for regular wear, but if you wear them daily or in environments where there’s lots of dirt and mud, you might need to clean them more often.

Here are some basic steps you should take when cleaning a pair of boots:

1. Remove the Laces – Taking the laces off your boots will help you access and clean the interior of your shoes. To clean the laces themselves, stick them in the washing machine or soak them in warm soapy water mixed with a mild detergent.

2. Wipe Boots with a Damp Cloth – Before you start washing your shoes with a cleanser, it’s important to remove any dirt or debris on the outside. Take a damp clean rag and work it around the outside of your boots and the sole. Additionally, remove any clumps of dirt or pebbles stuck in the grooves of the sole (using a tweezer).

  • Pro tip: To make the yellow stitching of your boots stand out, use an old toothbrush to scrub away dirt from the hard-to-reach crevices.

3. Wash All Over with Soap – After your boots have been cleaned, wash them using Bick 1 Leather Cleaner. To use this cleaner:

  • Apply a dime-sized amount on a cloth or boot brush, then begin working into the shoe in a circular motion.
  • Keep working the soap into the boot until there’s a light foam all over.
  • Wash the soap off using a damp cloth.

4. Air Dry Boots – Leave the boots in a sunny place to dry off. Do not put your boots in the dryer as that could melt the glue and damage your shoes.

5. Apply a Leather Conditioner – Use a leather conditioner on your boots to help extend their longevity and keep them from drying out.

The Importance of Using a Leather Conditioner

Every time you use some form of a cleaner on your boots, it’s important to follow up with a leather conditioner. Just how washing your hands too much can dry out your skin, washing your leather boots can strip them of their natural oils and cause them to crack.

Applying a leather conditioner after a thorough wash can help extend the life of your boots. Before you start conditioning your Dr Martens, it’s important to pick the conditioner based on your leather profile (the leather used on your specific boots).

Smooth Leather

Smooth leather is the classic, shiny material that the original Doc Martens were crafted from. When conditioning smooth leather, you’ll want to use Bick 4 Leather Conditioner to help restore its natural oils and extend its longevity.

To use this conditioner:

  • Apply a liberal coat all over your boots
  • Leave your boots out to dry in a sunny place for twenty minutes
  • Once dry, buff your boots with a cloth to remove any excess conditioner

Because Bick 4 Leather Conditioner doesn’t use any wax in its formula, it’ll keep your leather soft and breathable without leaving behind any kind of residue. It also won’t darken your leather, so it’s safe to use on your boots of all shades and colors.

Crazy Horse Leather

Crazy horse leather, otherwise known as oiled leather, is leather that has been treated after tanning to help make it more water-resistant. The oils added in this process can also sometimes change the leather’s color, giving it a more natural and variated aesthetic.

Using Mink Leather Oil as a conditioner will help prevent your boots from drying out while reinforcing their waterproof exterior (should they be waterproof, of course).

To use a Mink Oil conditioner:

  • Add a small amount to the boots and work into the surface using a clean cloth
  • Wait 5 to 10 minutes for the boots to dry
  • Polish with a dry cloth

Nappa & Virginia Leathers

Nappa and Virginia leathers are made from soft, fine-grain leather designed to mold to your feet after your first wear. To help keep these boots soft and supple, use the Doc Martens Wonder Balsam after washing.

To apply the Dr Martens Wonder Balsam, all you have to do is add a liberal coat to your boot using the sponge applicator that comes in the tin and then leave your boots to dry, no polishing necessary.

The Wonder Balsam also pairs well with crazy horse leather or smooth leather boots.

Patent Leather

Patent leather is leather that’s been treated with a highly glossy finish. Because this type of leather is covered by a glossy finish, these types of boots won’t be washed or conditioned like normal leather.

To wash patent leather, remove any dirt and debris using a damp cloth and then apply a cleanser specifically made for patent leather. To that end, Doc Marten’s Patent Cleaner spray is designed to clean your shoes while helping them retain their shine.

Since patent leather boots aren’t at risk of drying and cracking in the same way smooth or oiled leather is, there’s no need to condition them.

Ridding Common Stains

When you wear any pair of shoes for long enough, they’ll inevitably accrue some kind of scuffs or stains. Since Doc Martens are often worn as women’s and men’s restaurant shoes, you can expect that they might get a bit dirty after a long shift. While the steps we’ve outlined above will help with basic cleaning and maintenance for your Doc Martens, some extra steps might be necessary to remove stains.

Here are some ways to safely remove some of the most common stains from your boots:

For Scuffs:

  • Use a dab of non-gel toothpaste over scuffed areas
  • Work into boot using a shoe brush or cloth
  • Wipe area clean and dry

For Ink:

  • Use nail polish or rubbing alcohol to blot at the stain (do not rub)
  • Clean area with a damp cloth and dry

For Grease or Oil:

  • Gently rub baking soda or cornstarch into the stain using a cloth
  • Leave overnight to let the stain absorb
  • The next morning, wipe off the powder with a cloth and clean the area

Miscellaneous Stains

  • Mix equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar until combined
  • Leave paste over the stained area and allow to sit for 30 minutes
  • Remove with a damp cloth (note: Only use on light-colored leather as this mixture can bleach your boots)
How to Make Doc Martens to Smell Better

Even after washing your boots, they’re often left with an unpleasant smell. Since Doc Martens are built to conform to your feet and leather doesn’t offer much ventilation, it makes sense that they could build up a bad odor over time.

The good news is there are several ways to keep your boots smelling fresh:

  • If you’ve got a cat, mix litter and baking soda in an old sock. Place one sock in each of your boots and leave them to sit overnight.
  • Cold air can help kill the bacteria that cause your boots to smell. Place your Doc Martens in an air-tight plastic bag and place them in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Tea tree oil is known for its ability to block bad smells. Sprinkle cotton balls with baking soda and a few drops of tea tree oil, then leave them in your boots overnight.
  • Antiseptics like rubbing alcohol can help kill the odor-causing bacteria in your boots. Pour some into a spray bottle and lightly spray the inside of your boots.
  • If you’ve got some spare orange or lemon peels in the kitchen, leave them in your boots overnight to help give them a bright and clean smell.
  • Salt can help eliminate the moisture that odor-causing bacteria feed off Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt in each shoe and leave for two hours to set.

If none of these do-it-yourself solutions work for you, you can always try a commercial-grade boot cleaner. We recommend finding one that has cedarwood in the formula, as its antifungal properties can help attack your boots’ odor problems at the roots.

Find Everything You Need for Your Doc Martens at Boot World

Whether you’re looking for a new pair of boots or a way to revitalize your favorite pair, Boot World has you covered. Here, we carry a variety of different boot brands from Timberlands to Doc Martens and all the cleaning supplies you need to treat your leather with love.

You can order our boots online for in-store pickup or have them shipped to you. All orders over $99 will automatically receive free shipping. Visit our website and start browsing our incredible selection of boots today! Additionally, if you have any more questions regarding Doc Martens like, “Are Doc Martens Non Slip?”, “Are Doc Martens Waterproof?”, or “Do Doc Martens Run Big or Small?”, our blog has you covered!

  • Dr. Martens. History.
  • Dr. Martens. The Complete Docs Leather Guide.
  • Dr. Martens. Wonder Basalm Shoe Protector.
  • Dr. Martens. Patent Leather Cleaner.
  • HGTV. How to Clean Leather Shoes and Boots.
  • Urban Shepherd Boots. Tips on Removing Odors from Leather Boots.