About 64,334 times a year, I get a question from our community regarding cleaning UGG boots. I don’t have a pair myself, and I don’t have any plans on buying any, so I’ve never really taken on this question. However, I can’t ignore the cries of our wonderful Clean My Space community, so here goes!
UGGs are a fashion icon. Once thought to be a passing fad; I admittedly caved and bought the ‘budget’ pair of pale pink ones from Payless when I was a starving student to be a part of this fad. However, they’ve clearly cemented their place in female fashion indefinitely. They are warm, comfortable and many women could not go without their beloved UGGs for one single winter (or summer, I’ve seen it).
The caveat with UGG boots is their suede exterior. While they look wonderful, they are not the most compatible with winter conditions; often times, mud, snow and salt can wreak havoc on the boots, leaving them looking worn and old. This is ironic, no? A winter boot that is not good to wear in snowy, salty and muddy conditions? Hm. I digress…
Anywho, to restore UGG boots to their initial beauty, some key steps need to be taken. Further, ongoing maintenance is crucial! UGG boots can last you a long time so long as you give them the TLC they deserve. Keep in mind, some pairs will be damaged beyond repair and despite your restorative efforts, they won’t look any better. This circles back to the point about ongoing maintenance!
Treat stains before you do a general clean of the boot. It is recommended that once you remove stains, you move on to clean the entire boot (or else you’ll have areas that look patchy).
Oil & Grease Stains
Step 1 – Take a piece of white chalk and gently ‘color’ over the grease or oil stain. If you don’t have white chalk, use a pinch of cornstarch and sprinkle it over top the stain, then gently pat it down.
Step 2 – Let it sit overnight – this powder is absorbent and can ‘suck up’ oil and grease.
Step 3 – In the morning, dust it off gently, use a clean paintbrush if you have one and the stains should be gone.
Step 4 – You can then clean the boots as usual (see below). It is important to note that heat sets oil and grease stains, so be very careful not to get boots too hot (this even means in vehicles) if you have a stain you want to get rid of.
Dirt & Salt Stains
Step 1 – Brush the boot in one direction (ideally top-to-bottom) to remove any surface dirt and grime. Pick up a specialty suede brush to do this. You can get them at any shoe store or shoe repair shop.
Step 2– If you have a ‘matted’ or shiny stain, you can use a pencil eraser to ‘spot rub’ it out, being gentle as you go. Certain suede brushes come with this little rubber piece on the brush already. Some people even use a carbide strip (which is an extremely fine grit sandpaper, like super duper fine grit). This is your call and depends on how risky you want to get. It can work but if you are too vigorous you’ll ruin the leather. This can only be done on suede, and not soft leathers.
Step 3 – Wet the isolated stain area with some water. You don’t want to soak the whole boot, just the area with the stain (to avoid spreading). It allows the leather to be able to accept the stain treatment. Let the water sink in for a few moments before moving on. Keep in mind that too much water can deform the shape of the boot so be careful.
Step 4 – Use a suede stain cleaner and follow the directions. Usually, you add a dab of cleaner to the sponge, wet it and rub the stained area in a circular motion. it requires a damp (soft) sponge. Alternatively, you can use a 1:1 mixture of water and plain white vinegar as a stain remover and apply it with the sponge. This is not ‘UGG approved’ but does work, the call is yours to make.
Step 5 – Rinse stained area off with clean water and a clean sponge.
A little-known secret to removing water spots is to rub the water spot stained area against another part of the suede. Gentle rubbing like this usually gets the water stains right out!
UGG Boot Cleaning
Now that you’ve rid the boots of stains, you can move on to the actual cleaning. Lay out a towel to work on (it will get messy) and have a clean water source close by.
What You’ll Need
- a suede brush
- suede cleaner (ideally UGG cleaner) or a comparable brand, or a homemade mixture (see below)
- suede conditioner and protector
- newsprint/paper towel
- soft sponge
- cotton cloth
Step 1 – Brush the entire boot, from top to bottom, with a suede brush. This softens the nap, loosens any dirt and prepares it for the cleaning process. If you do not have any nap (i.e. Mongolian Sheep Skin), do not brush, go to step 2.
Step 2 – Moisten the exterior boot with clean, cool water. You can use a clean soft sponge or cotton cloth to do this. You don’t want to soak it, but you do want to wet the entire surface so that it can accept the product.
Step 3 – Rinse your sponge, and don’t wring it out entirely, leave it about 20% wet. Squeeze some suede cleaner (ideally the UGG product) or an alternative cleaner (the vinegar and water mix above) onto the sponge.
Step 4 – Work the product into the boot exterior, starting at the top and working your way to the bottom. As the sponge becomes dirty, rinse and repeat step 3. That way, you are not re-depositing dirt into the leather. Spend time working on dirtier areas. Remember not to press too hard, leather can be ruined by vigorous motion, so be extra gentle.
Step 5 – You have two options. Either you can clean off your sponge and wipe the product off with your clean sponge, rinsing it often until all product and dirty water are gone, or you can run the exterior boots under cool water to remove product. Don’t do this for a long period of time. Water can damage leather.
Step 6 – Stuff the boots with paper towel or crumpled up magazine or newsprint. You want to stuff it so that when the boot dries, it will ‘form’ nicely as opposed to losing its shape. Leave the boots to dry for 24-48 hours. Before stuffing, you can add a silica gel pack to the bottom of each boot to assist with moisture removal. Do not leave the boots in the sun, close to any heat register, fireplace or furnace. Heat warps leather and will leave your boots misshapen.
Step 7 – Remove paper and voila, your boots are clean! You may find they fit more snug than usual. That’s ok, you just need to wear them and let them re-form to your feet. Two more things to do though.
Step 8 – Brush (if suede) with a suede brush to even out the nap. You may find the boots look matted, and this will solve that.
Step 9 – Spray with a protective suede spray and conditioner and let the boots dry, usually 12-24 hours is recommended.
You asked for comprehensive, you got comprehensive.
The Wooly Par
If the wooly upper part of the boot (i.e the part that sticks out at the top) has debris caught in it, what you can do is comb it out with a plastic wide-tooth comb. Hold the boot upside down and comb so that any debris falls out of the boot, as opposed to in it.
If your boot has an unpleasant smell, you can sprinkle in a heaping tablespoon of baking soda into each boot, close the top of the boot up with your hand and shake it really well. Leave this to sit overnight and in the morning, tip the boot upside down to empty out the baking soda. This is a great way to keep boots smelling clean.
Make sure you don’t:
- Dry clean your UGGs
- Wash in a washing machine, dry in a dryer
- Dry by a heat source
- Get too wet or soak
- Press too hard, ever, and
- Worry if the boots lose shape while wet, they will re-form when drying.
A few great tips from the UGG website:
Like any fine garment, sheepskin is delicate and not all stains can be prevented or removed. With proper care and cleaning, you can expect your footwear to last longer, but we in no way guarantee that it will remove all stains NOR prevent stains from occurring.
Specialty product care for Fancy Sheepskin, Fancy Suede, and ALL Leathers:
My recommendation is to wipe these gently, in one direction, with a soft and clean cotton cloth sprayed with a little bit of water. Anything else will ruin them. This is what the folks at UGG have to say:
Cleaning instructions for Classic Metallics, Paisley, Mosaic, Embroidered Boots, Croc, Floral, Sweater Knit, Specialty Suede :
- Do not rub
- Do not use any cleaning product
- Do not use a brush
- You MAY use UGG Australia Protector product
That’s the comprehensive UGG cleaning & care guide.