clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What to Do About Your Grimy, Smelly Uggs

New, 1 comment

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Now that we've finally come to a place where we can all acknowledge that we're still wearing our Uggs, gather 'round so that we may talk in this safe space about keeping them looking (and smelling) their very best. I can't have you strutting around in filthy Uggs! You're far too cute for that.

They say that an ounce prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is especially true of Ugg boots. In part, that's because Uggs aren't naturally waterproof, and also because the traditional style is made of suede, which is a notoriously temperamental material. Add to that the fact that we tend to don our Uggs in the foul-weather months and you have a perfect storm for ruined boots.

They say that an ounce prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is especially true of Ugg boots.

Given all of that, the importance of pre-treating your Uggs with a protectant cannot be overstated. Ugg makes one such product, though you could use any kind of suede protecting product and be just fine.

In the event, however, that you don't get your hands on one of those protective products before disaster strikes your Uggs, or that your older, beloved Uggs are already suffering from the smells or stains that so commonly afflict those boots, here's everything you need to know about stain and smell triage. Now your cloud-like footwear can look as good as new!

Problem: They've Developed a Patina of Grime

Street grime happens and if it happens to your Uggs, a quick and easy way to remove it is by giving the exterior of your boots a gentle scrubbing with a premoistened wipe like a baby wipe, adult bathroom wipe, or makeup removing cloth. Most of us will have one of those things hanging around the house or in our handbags, depending on where we are in our lives.

If the state of your boots is more than a wipe can handle, it's time to bring out the bigger guns. Ugg makes a product designed to clean the standard suede boot with a sheepskin interior lining. Generally, I don't love recommending branded products like this, because I think manufacturers charge a premium for something that you can find elsewhere for less. However, in the case of the Ugg Cleaner & Conditioner, which will run you $8 for a six ounce bottle, the price point is virtually the same as similar products made by Kiwi or Meltonian. So I say go for it!

If outsourcing is more your style, I have great news for you! Many dry cleaners offer Ugg boot cleaning services. Be aware, though, that this is a pretty spendy option: professional cleaning is likely to run you upwards of $40.

Problem: They Got Wet and Have Water Rings or Ice Melt Has Left Salt Stains

Water rings and salt stains plague almost every Ugg-wearer at some point in her ownership, because — let's level with one another here — even though you know you should, almost no one actually takes the time to apply protectant before wearing their comfiest boots out and about.

Almost no one actually takes the time to apply protectant before wearing their comfiest boots out and about.

In the case of the traditional suede Uggs, water rings or salt stains can be treated with that same Ugg Cleaner & Conditioner used to remove plain old dirt stains. You can also use a suede eraser to buff out ugly rings.

Leather Uggs can be cleaned using saddle soap; to use, dampen a soft cloth (an old t-shirt is great for this) and rub the surface of the saddle soap, which comes in a small tin, in a circular motion. That will create a bit of lather, which you'll then apply to the soiled leather, again working in a circular motion. Wipe away the lather using a clean, damp cloth and repeat if needed to fully remove all the staining. Finally, buff with a dry, soft cloth and allow to dry. Voila! Your leather Uggs should look as good as new.

Problem: The Decorative Fur Is Matted

Maybe you're a person who sprung for a pair of Uggs with decorative fur on the exterior of the shoe. How fancy of you!

The problem, of course, is that you'll look decidedly less fancy if that fur gets filthy and matted. There is, thankfully, a very easy fix for that problem. Two of them, actually! And one is super weird, which is fun for everyone.

The first fix is to use a slicker brush, which is a product designed for use on cat and dog fur, to make your animals look silky and beautiful. The same brush can be used on UGG fur, to make your boots look silky and beautiful. Neat, right? Right! But not nearly as neat as this one: Cornmeal can also be used to clean and fluff decorative fur. I told you it was weird! To use cornmeal for this purpose, you'll need a brown paper or plastic bag and about a cup or two of dry cornmeal. Place the cornmeal and your boots in the bag, seal it tight and then shake-shake-shake-shake-shake, like you're preparing your footwear as if it were a Shake 'N Bake pork chop. Dump the cornmeal, brush any stray bits off the fur, and marvel at how good the boots look with so little effort on your part!

Problem: They Smell Rank

We've spent a lot of time talking about making the exterior of your Uggs look perfect, but what of the interior? If you've ever owned a pair of Uggs, you know exactly what we're about to talk about… that musty, funky, fetid Ugg smell. Uggs are meant to be worn without socks so that you can better enjoy the feel of those fluffy dream-like linings, but that means they don't benefit from the protective barrier provided by socks in the way that most of your other winter footwear does. To make matters worse, Uggs aren't waterproof, which means that when then get wet, the moisture seeps through to the interior.

If you've ever owned a pair of Uggs, you know exactly what we're about to talk about… that musty, funky, fetid Ugg smell.

That trapped moisture is what creates such a nasty smell in your beloved Uggs. Here, a bit of diligence will really pay off: Invest in a set of sneaker balls and pop them in your boots when you take them off at the end of a long day's wearing. The balls will help to manage odor build-up and keep the boots from developing a really serious stench.

If the boots have gotten soaked while you were out and about, stuff them with newspaper when you take them off — the newspaper will serve dual functions, absorbing both moisture and smells.

Shoe deodorizers, like Dr. Scholl's Odor-X Odor Fighting Spray Powder, are what you'll want when the Uggs get to the point where they can clear a room with their smell. And if things get really bad, you can always buy a replacement pair of insoles and give yourself the gift of a fresh start.