How To Clean Rugby Boots (Explained)

Your first rugby match on a muddy field will make you wonder: can you take a shortcut to cleaning your boots by using the washing machine? How about throwing them into the dryer afterward?

If you’ve been playing for a few months, you also may be looking for tips to get the smell out of those boots.

We’ll cover all your questions in this article. Don’t do anything hasty before you read this!

Can You Put Rugby Boots In The Washing Machine?

You shouldn’t clean rugby boots by putting them into a washing machine.

Immersing boots repeatedly in water will lead to deterioration. Hard knocks in the rotation cycle will scuff and scrap the material.

Leather is particularly at risk, but synthetic modern boots are also susceptible to damage.

Your boots will certainly come out of the washer looking clean. The problem is that you’ll need to replace them sooner than you’d expect.

The stress from the rotation cycle isn’t the only issue. Commercial washer detergents are hard on the adhesives in your boots and the materials from which they are constructed.

Rugby boots are expensive and are a key piece of your equipment. So, the last thing you want to do is to damage them by putting them in the washer.

You should also consider that the washer will completely saturate your boots with water. This makes them much harder to dry.

What about damaging your washing machine?

Having cleats spinning in the washer is not the greatest thing for the health of the machine, either. The manufacturers wouldn’t recommend hard studs in their equipment.

Aside from studs, you won’t want mud and turf chunks clogging up your washer.

Before you even chuck your boots into the machine, you would need to do a lot of hand cleaning. At that point, you might as well just finish cleaning them by hand and save the stress on your boots.

Want to use the washing machine anyway?

We’ve warned you! But maybe you intend to buy a new pair of cleats anyway, so you don’t mind a little deterioration.

If you do choose to wash your boots in the washer, then follow these steps:

  1. Remove all mud and turf before you put them in.
  2. Take out the laces and insoles as well.
  3. Wrap your boots in a pillowcase
  4. Put your laces in a closable mesh bag,
  5. Put some towels into the washer to cushion the load.
  6. Set the cycle to use cold water only.

How to Clean Rugby Boots Safely

The steps I describe here may seem a little lengthy. But after a bit of experience, they’ll be second nature. You can quickly clean your boots while watching your favorite show.


The first thing to do is to remove any visible dirt that is on your boot or is stuck between the studs.

This can be done by banging the boots together. You can also push the debris out and off with your hands.

Next, you need to remove the laces so that dirt will not get stuck beneath them.  If the laces are very grimy they can be soaked for a while in laundry detergent.

The laces should be placed in a closable mesh bag. You can toss the bag into the washing machine for easy cleaning.

Remove the insoles as well.

What cleaning solution?

Your boots should be wiped off with a damp cloth. Your first choice of cleaning solution should be warm water.

If you’ve made the mistake of leaving the boots for a few days without cleaning, you may find that the dried dirt won’t come off easily. At this point, you’ll want something a bit stronger than warm water.

Your choice now depends on the material of your boots.

In the past, rugby boots were made of leather. This is uncommon now so I won’t dwell on what’s needed. If you do have old leather boots, be sure to use a shoe cleaner specifically for leather material.

Modern boots made of synthetic materials are more durable.

However, you still shouldn’t reach for your household cleaning product.

Do not use a general household cleaner or a laundry detergent of any type without checking the manufacturer’s instructions for your shoe.

A great choice is a solution of several tablespoons of baking soda mixed in water. This will do a good job removing the dirt, will help tame the odor, and won’t harm the boot.

 If there are any stubborn dirt spots, use a soft brush to scrub out the dirt. An old toothbrush is a great choice here.

When you are done, wipe down the boot with warm water to remove any leftover dirt or solution.

Under no circumstance should you immerse the boots in water.

How Do You Get The Smell Out Of Rugby Boots?

The most important thing you can do to get the smell out of rugby boots is to take preventative action. Get them dry as fast as possible, before they start to smell.

The smell in your boots is caused by the growth of moisture-loving bacteria. Get your boots out of your bag as quickly as possible so that they can dry out before the odor-causing bacteria can start to grow. 

But what do you do once the stink is in there, even after the boots are dry? There are multiple options.

In the previous section, I described a cleaning solution of baking soda and water. If you use this solution to wipe around the inside of the shoe, this should work really well with the smell.

There’s another way you can use baking soda for the smell problem.

Once the boot is dry, pour in some baking soda. Let the powder sit inside the boot for several hours before dumping it out.

Airing the boot in the outdoors is a great option, weather permitting. The sun is a very effective bacteria killer.

There are also multiple commercial products that you can put in the shoe that promise to eliminate odor. These include sprays that target the bacteria.

Can You Dry Rugby Boots in a Dryer?

You should never put your rugby boots into a dryer.

One of the worst things you can do to your boots is to expose them to artificial heat for any length of time. A few people will even tell you that putting them in the sun to dry is too much!

Heat from the dryer damages your boots in a couple of ways.

First, it can cause the materials to crack or weaken. This is especially true of leather but is also true even for the all-synthetic upper.

The second thing heat does is weaken the adhesives that hold the various components of your boot together. Artificial heat makes your boot more prone to tear and crack. 

At all costs, avoid the dryer!

How to Dry Rugby Boots Safely

Once you have washed your rugby boots, you should let them dry as naturally as possible.

This means no dryer, no hairdryer, and no heated boot dryer.

Well-ventilated area

If you have washed them with a damp cloth and not immersed them in water, then the cleaning process should not have made them much wetter than they were to start with!

Put them in a well-ventilated area inside or outside your home. Be sure to take the laces and insoles out and have the tongue pulled outside the boot.

If you have a fan, it helps to aim it at the boot. Note that I mean a fan blowing cold air, not hot!

Crumpled newspaper

One thing you can do to speed the process up is to crumple up newspaper and stuff it inside.

This will speed up the drying by absorbing some water and will also help the shoe keep its shape.

Change out the newspaper every two to three hours until the boot is dry.


Sunlight is a huge help both with drying and smell.

While there is a chance that there may be some slight negative effect from the sun, water and bacteria are a much bigger danger to your boots!

While the natural method of drying your boot is slower, it is worth it to protect your boot and expand its lifespan.

Why Are Boots Prone to Damage and Deterioration?

You’ve heard of the phrase “as tough as old boots”? Many decades ago, one pair of boots would last a player a lifetime.

So, why do modern boots wear out over time?

Modern boots contain a mix of natural and synthetic material held together by various adhesives.

Check out our article on what rugby boots are made of. You may be surprised!

A Final Piece Of Advice To Parents And Partners

Up to now, I’ve assumed that these are your boots.

But maybe your teenager left them in a bag in the trunk of the car. Or your partner thoughtfully left them outside the back door but forgot to knock off the dirt.

Be warned. If you clean these boots once, this will be your job forever!