Care and Clean Wading Boots

Care and Cleaning of Wading Boots for Fly Fishing

While there is some effort involved in cleaning and maintaining your wading boots, none of the steps are difficult or complicated. Once you establish a cleaning procedure that works for you, taking care of your boots will merge into your post-fishing routine and you won’t think twice about it.

1. Scrub Your Wading Boots Stream-Side to Remove Mud, Debris, and Invasive Species “Hitch Hikers”

All you need is a stiff-bristled brush and some elbow grease. After you exit the river for the day, you can either take your boots off right then and there for cleaning or change into your street shoes at your vehicle.

clean wading boots
clean wading boots

Use your brush and the water in the stream to scrub away any mud, sand, and algae or anything else you picked up during the day. Closely inspect the seams, laces, and tread to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Then, give your boots a thorough rinse inside and out and let the water drain. Give them a few shakes and you’re good to go!

2. Disinfect Your Wading Boots at Home

If you fish in waters that have known invasive species like New Zealand mud snails, hydrilla, and didymo, or diseases like Whirling disease, it’s important to follow state or federally issued guidelines on how to disinfect your fishing gear. You’ll have to do a little research or call your local wildlife agencies to learn what’s required.

In addition to doing your part to keep local streams healthy, regularly disinfecting your wading boots is also a great way to eliminate bacteria that could lead to foul odors, mold, or fungus.

The easiest way to disinfect your wading boots is to submerge them in hot water at least 140 degrees for a minimum of three minutes. If the hot water heater in your home is set high enough, the water from your sink will suffice. If not, boil a pot of water and pour it over your boots in the sink or in a wash basin. Many clubs are also installing “cleaning stations” for removing unwanted invasives.

Another option is to freeze your wading boots for at least 48 hours to kill any microorganisms present. Simply stick your wading boots in a garbage bag and place them in the freezer chest freezers are great for this. Don’t forget to thaw them out before your next trip!

3. Allow Your Boots to Drain and Dry Completely Before Storing

After you scrub and disinfect your wading boots, you must allow them to dry completely to reduce the potential for bacterial growth. Direct sunlight is the best way to dry your boots, but don’t leave them out longer than needed as overexposure to UV rays can damage materials.

If sunny days aren’t in the forecast, boot dryers are a great option. If you don’t have a boot dryer, here’s a hack to use your clothes dryer to get the job done.

  1. Tie the laces of your two wading boots together.
  1. Hold your boots by the laces and hang them over the door of your clothes dryer so that the boots are inside the dryer.
  1. Close the dryer door so that it pinches the boot laces and holds the boots in place using the knot as a stopper. The boots will be hanging inside the dryer so they won’t interfere with the spinning drum.
  1. Run a normal drying cycle and voila! Dry boots!

Clean Boots Live Longer

Taking care of your boots can greatly extend their life to get the most out of your purchase. Remember to check with your local authorities to learn exactly what to do so you don’t accidentally spread invasive species. And if you don’t have a pair of wading boots you love yet, check out our guide to the best wading boots currently on the market!

Better Grip for Wading Boots

You’ve got a couple options for grippy wading boots. Let’s start with what is probably the worst, which is the old lug soles found on cheap boots. Most times these are attached to vinyl or rubberized waders.

On rocky surfaces felt is best. The down side is if you hike a distance to your spot, felt is going to wear out fast. But when it comes to slippery algae covered rocks it can’t be beat.

In snowy weather felt will build snowballs on your feet – so not so good in winter. Plus I’ve froze my boots in the garage and the felt delaminated from the boots.

In winter or if you hike a distance to fish get a good SOFT Vibram sole. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with SIMMS Feather Weight wading boots.

Guide Tip: Most wading boots have sole gussets to install screws. Here’s an article on how to install plus what generic screws you can use. Link -> How to install screws in wading boots

Wading Boots Banned

With the spread of those invasive species, some states and national parks have banned felt soled waders. The most popular states are:

  • Maryland
  • Alaska
  • Missouri
  • Yellowstone

Read about more states and how to avoid breaking the law in this article: Which States Have Banned Felt Soled Wading Boots

Learn More about Waders and Wading Boots

Of the fly fishing equipment I own my wading boots and waders take a beating. In the last 30 years, I’ve learned some things I’d love to share.
👉Instructions for repairing leaky waders the correct way -> How to Care for and Repair Leaky Waders
👉Want to learn a couple HACKS for using your waders? YouTube Video -> Waders Hacks
👉Here’s a list of 7 breathable waders built for comfort PLUS my favorite. -> 7 Breathable Chest Waders for Fly Fishing
👉Over the years my favorite wading boots have changed. Read about what I think are the best wading boots HERE

Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish


Go to Each of the individual STATES water protection through the US Fish and Wildlife Website.

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