Name me a problem that’s more of a bummer than wet shoes.
Few problems are as uncomfortable, anyway.
This is especially true of leather boots.
Besides, you’ve made the effort to find the perfect pair of leather boots, on top of the financial investment and the time you spent breaking them in. You want to take care of these guys.
When boots get soaked, the water binds to the leather’s natural oils, then draws them out when they evaporate. This leaves the boots dry and prone to cracking. Even worse, walking around in wet boots can even lead to infection.
To avoid all of this, I’m going to show you the five fastest and easiest ways to effectively and safely dry your wet boots.
How to Dry Wet Boots: 5 Quick and Easy Ways
Method #1: Use Uncooked Grains, Combined Method
Have you ever tried immersing a wet phone in dry grains, like rice, quinoa, or couscous? You can do something similar with wet boots.
First, make sure the boots are clean inside and out, then remove the laces and insoles. Fill up a pair of spare socks with uncooked grains, then seal the sock by tying it up or using a rubber band. I recommend using a thin dress sock or your girlfriend’s stocking to minimize the barrier between the boot and the rice.
Then, pour in one inch of dry grains in a plastic container that will fit your boots. Place the stuffed boots on top of the rice, then seal the container shut. Dry food storage containers are the best for this because they’re made to keep air out, but moving containers are a suitable runner-up.
Leave your boots in place for one to three hours, depending on how wet they are. Grains will naturally absorb the moisture around them. If your boots are soaked, this might be an overnight situation.
The sock stuffing technique and the box method are technically two separate approaches. If you don’t have a sufficient box or extra socks, you can try just one or the other.
Method #2: Use Old Newspapers and Paper Towels
Start by removing excess dirt from the interior and exterior of your boots, then remove the insoles if possible.
Roll your paper material into balls and fully stuff your boots all the way up to the shaft. Make sure you don’t overstuff it because the paper needs extra room to expand as it soaks up water. Otherwise, the paper won’t take in as much moisture.
If you’re using newspapers, tear a few holes into the pieces before stuffing them into your boots, so that they’re more flexible.
Finally, wrap the boots up with more paper, mummy-style.
If you were caught out in the rain all day, this might take a good three hours or more. If you fell out of your boat while fishing (no shame, been there), this method may take all night and then some.
For extra effectiveness, you can also change out the newspapers or paper towels every two hours.
Method #3: Use a Fan
This safe and quick method also lets you call on your inner MacGyver.
Again, make sure the boots are clean and remove the insoles.
Undo the front cage of a tall standing fan or table fan. Using either a wire or your boot laces, tie the boots to the front of the fan cage. Once your footwear is attached, shake the cage in your hand to ensure the shoes are secure. Reattach the front cage to the rest of the fan.
Two safety notes: First, never use a heated fan. Secondly, place a weight on the base of the fan so it doesn’t tip over.
Finally, place a towel below the boots to catch any dripping, then turn your fan on. This is an excellent overnight option—if your fan isn’t too loud, that is.
Method #4: Use Old Towels and Rags
For those of you who have old rags and towels to spare, this approach is similar to the paper products method.
First, remove extra dirt and the boot insoles. Seeing a pattern?
Take the corner of the towel and use that to lead it into the toe of the boot until it’s fully stuffed. Then take the rest of the towel that’s coming out from the shaft and fully wrap the outside of the boot. If your towel isn’t big enough, use a second towel.
Let the boots sit for an hour, then remove the towels from the boots. Stuff and and wrap them again, no different than you did earlier, with fresh dry towels.
This second step can take anywhere from an hour to eight hours depending on how wet your shoes are.
Use your instinct to decide when to check in on them, then replace the towels if necessary. If you run out of towels and they’re still wet, you can carry on the method with newspapers and paper towels.
Method #5: Use a Boot Dryer
The most straight-forward and professional way to dry your boots is to use a boot dryer. That’s what they’re made for, after all.
Most boot dryers have dry ports that you’ll simply place your shoes on, upside down, before turning it on. They don’t get hotter than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, so they’re safe to keep on overnight. Unless you’ve been submerged in water for a long period of time though, you’ll likely just need three hours of drying time, depending on the machine.
The PEET Original 2-Shoe and Boot Dryer is the easiest, most reliable, and most hands-off dryer we've found. You just pop your boots on the dry ports at the end of the day and forget about them until they’re ready. It doesn’t use a lot of electricity, so you don’t have to worry about unplugging it when it’s done, and it’s completely silent.
Other boot dryers have dryer hoses that you place in the boot. These are good for hard-shelled ski boots or stiff cowboy boots.
The Kendal SI-SDO6G’s four dryer hoses are flexible enough to get into your rigid, hard-shelled ski boots. The high and low settings allow you to gently dry your boots over night, or rapidly dry them in one to three hours if you need to get back on the slopes sooner.
You can also invest in an advanced express dryer with high and low settings that can get your boots dry in an hour.
Especially if you have several pairs, boot dryers are a good way to go. They’re gentle, safe, and quick. On the hygiene front, they often also kill bacteria and smells.
Which Method is Best for Your Type of Boots?
You can’t go wrong with a good boot dryer, but here are the home remedies best suited for specific boot styles:
- Hiking boots: I recommend the fan method for hiking boots. They’re built sturdily with multiple facets. When they’re unlaced and attached to the fan cage, the fast and constant movement of air can get into every part of the boot.
- Ski boots: Use the newspaper stuffing method for ski boots. Since they’re hard-shelled, multiple crumpled pieces of newspaper can get into the boot more easily than a whole towel or rice-stuffed sock.
- Ugg boots: No matter how you hack it, sheepskin takes longer to dry than regular leather. Use the towel method and make sure the boots are in a very dry room.
- Snowboard boots: Since they aren’t as rigid as ski boots, I recommend stuffing your snowboard boots with grain-filled socks. Then, as per method, place them in a container with uncooked grains too.
- Work boots: Similarly built to hiking boots, the fan method is an effective approach for work boots.
- Snow boots: Like snowboard boots, the uncooked grain method is the way to go for snow boots. Since they’re built to handle snow-melting salt, most snow boots can handle a little bit of grain submersion too.
- Cowboy boots: Since they’re rigid like ski boots, I recommend the newspaper-stuffing method for cowboy boots. You can even mix and match methods, by stuffing your cowboy boots with newspaper, then wrapping them in a towel or placing them in a container of dry grains.
- Wading boots: The outside of wading boots are already designed to keep water out, so I recommend using the towel method or the grain-stuffing method.
What Not to Do
The most important rule is to never apply direct heat to your leather boots to dry them. Blow dryers can cause the leather to crack, especially if the shoes aren’t broken in. Drying your boots by the fire after a day of skiing may not damage them initially, but continuing to do this will damage your footwear overtime.
You never want to wait too long to dry your boots after a day out, particularly if the boots are soaked. Doing this one too many times can dry out the leather, and the boots will lose their supple composition and become stiff.
Finally, when you’re applying any of the above drying methods, make sure you keep your boots in a dry room.
Keep Dry and Carry On
Boot dryers are a great investment if you have several pairs of boots that get wet on a regular basis. However, I’ve stuffed my leathers with grain-filled socks after a rainy day horse ride, and it works every time.
Using a fan is a gentle and safe approach for lace-up leather boots. If you’ve got old newspapers or extra towels to spare, the stuffing and wrapping method is an effective practice too.
Now that you’re armed with these best practices, you can treat those boots of yours with the respect they deserve.
Is it safe to put boots in the dryer?
No. While dryers are sometimes recommended as an occasional quick-fix for wet boots, you should never apply direct heat to leather boots as it will damage them over time.
How long does it take to dry boots on a boot dryer?
Three to eight hours, depending on how wet your boots are.
Can you dry boots in the oven?
It isn’t recommended. Direct heat is damaging to leather, and even the lowest setting on ovens is much hotter than a high-set express boot dryer.