How to clean Doc Martens

With their iconic yellow stitching and air-cushioned soles, Doc Martens boots are beloved for both their style and comfort. As durable as Docs are, over time dirt, grime, and scuffs can accumulate and make them appear dingy and worn.

The good news is giving your Doc Martens some TLC with a good cleaning can bring them back to looking close to new. Read on for our top tips to thoroughly clean both leather and fabric Doc Martens so they’ll remain in great shape for years to come.

clean doc martens

Supplies You’ll Need

  • Soft brush (toothbrush, dish scrub brush, or shoe brush)
  • Mild soap or leather cleaner
  • Soft cloth
  • Old toothbrush
  • Leather conditioner
  • Newspapers

Tackling Dirt On Leather Doc Martens

Leather Docs require a bit of special care to keep their supple finish. Luckily, caring for leather Docs at home is straightforward. The most important rule is to always use mild, leather-safe cleansers without harsh chemicals that could strip and fade the leather over time.

Here are the simple steps to clean grime off leather Doc Martens:

  1. Remove laces and soles. Take out the laces and insoles which tend to collect a lot of dirt. This allows you to fully clean all outer and hidden crevices.
  2. Create a cleaning solution. Mix a small amount of mild soap or leather cleaner into warm water. Use the minimum amount needed to slightly sud up the mixture.
    • Recommended Cleaners: Leather Honey Leather Cleaner, Leather Nova Cleaner
  3. Apply the solution. Dip a soft cloth into the solution. Gently rub it over the surface of your boots to loosen ingrained dirt and lift stains. Take care not to soak the leather.
  4. Use a brush. Use a soft brush to gently scrub away stubborn dirt or stained areas after soaking them with the cloth. Avoid rough scrubbing which could scuff the leather.
  5. Rinse boots. Wipe boots down with a clean, barely damp cloth to remove all soap. Ensure no suds are left behind.
  6. Let boots dry fully. Stuff boots with newspaper to absorb moisture faster and retain their shape as they dry.
  7. Condition the leather. Once fully dry, apply a small amount of leather conditioner. Rub it into the exterior with gentle, circular motions. This nourishes and protects the leather.
    • Recommended Conditioners: Leather Honey Conditioner, Chamberlain’s Leather Milk
  8. Polish and buff. Use a clean cloth to polish the leather by rubbing the conditioner evenly over all surfaces until absorbed. This brings back brightness and shine.

Caring For Fabric Doc Martens

Fabric Docs with polished leather accents require slightly different methods than full-leather boots. On fabric areas, avoid applying conditioners or polishes which can leave greasy stains. Here’s how to freshen up dirtied fabric Doc Martens.

What You’ll Need

  • Warm water
  • Mild liquid soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Soft cloth
  • Leather cleaner and conditioner

Steps To Clean Fabric Doc Martens:

  1. Prep leather areas. Use a conditioned leather cleaner applied with a cloth to gently clean the ankle cuffs and heels. Carefully remove grime and scuffs from leather portions then let dry.
  2. Make a cleaning solution. In warm water, mix a small amount of mild liquid hand or dish soap which won’t bleach or alter fabric dyes.
    • Recommended Soaps: Doc Martens Wonder Balsam, Woolite Delicate
  3. Scrub with a brush. Dip an old toothbrush in the solution then gently scrub stains on fabric areas. Avoid roughly scrubbing the fabric or leather accents.
  4. Spot clean seriously soiled spots. For tougher ground-in stains, make a paste of baking soda and water. Gently rub paste onto the spot with a damp cloth or toothbrush. Let paste sit for 2-3 hours then rinse clean.
  5. Rinse away all soap. Wipe boots down with a barely damp fresh cloth to completely remove suds or cleaning solution residue.
  6. Air dry naturally. Stuff insides with newspaper then let boots fully air dry at room temperature away from direct heat.
  7. Touch up scuffs on leather. Once fabric portions are dry, rub leather conditioner onto leather heels, toes, and ankle cuffs using gentle circular motions. Buff with a clean cloth.

Important Tips For Doc Martens Care

To keep your Doc Martens boots looking their best for extra years, follow these vital care instructions:

  • Check the manufacturer’s label before cleaning. Some limited edition prints may require special methods.
  • Test cleansers first in inconspicuous areas to check for colorfastness or damage.
  • Allow boots to dry fully between wears to prevent bacterial buildup inside that causes odors.
  • Use cedar shoe trees after wearing to quickly absorb moisture and retain shape.
  • Store Boots properly. Keep them away from heat sources and tucked into shoe bags when not being worn.
  • Replace insoles once they become overly compressed or dirty. This can impact cushioning and comfort.
    • Recommended Insoles: Superfeet Green Insoles, Powerstep Pinnacle Insoles
  • Apply waterproofing spray 2-3 times per year in wet climates so water doesn’t saturate leather or fabric.

Restore Your Beloved Doc Martens Today

If your favorite pair of Doc Martens are looking a little worse for wear these days, don’t despair. With the proper cleaning techniques and care, it’s simpler than you think to bring them back to like-new condition again.

Ready to revive those Docs? Follow the steps above to get your boots looking great from the iconic yellow welt stitching to the signature ridged tread soles. With our handy guide, you can keep your cherished Doc Martens boots lasting for years to come while still looking iconic as the day you got them.

Sharing Is Caring:

As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

Leave a Comment