How To Clean Doc Martens

Known for their distinctive punky look, adoring cult following, and signature yellow stitching— Dr. Martens are still as popular as ever. They’re traditionally made using leather, but the brand has introduced a vegan range of footwear, making them all the more accessible. 

Whether your Docs are made from real leather or a vegan alternative, they will require some maintenance. Cleaning and polishing your shoes regularly will help them to stand the test of time and keep them shiny, even if they’re years old!

In this article, we’ll show you how to clean your Docs in three easy steps. These steps include cleaning the soles, the uppers, and the laces.

How to clean Doc Marten shoes – The Soles

What you’ll need:

  • Some warm water- not boiling!
  • Sensitive laundry detergent
  • A fine scrub brush or shoe brush (a toothbrush works great too)
  • A clean towel
  • A large bowl


  1. Take your large bowl and toss in a teaspoon of sensitive laundry detergent. If you don’t have any, dishwashing soap makes a great backup option. Pour in some warm water until the bowl is almost full. Mix the concoction with your finger or a spoon until bubbles begin to form on the surface. 
  2. Dunk your fine brush (or toothbrush) into the bowl of soapy water until completely submerged. Take the brush out of the water and let any excess liquid drip off. 
  3. Using the brush, begin to scrub the soles of your Doc Martens. While most grime should flake away easily, more heavily soiled areas will require more vigorous scrubbing. 
  4. Once you’ve removed all visible dirt and grime to the best of your ability, gently wipe the soles of your Doc Martens with a damp cloth to remove any excess residue. 

How to clean Doc Marten shoes – The Leather Upper

What you’ll need:

  • Some clean cloths or rags
  • A leather-friendly shoe brush
  • A sponge
  • Leather conditioning treatment
  • Leather shoe polish
  • Newspaper


  1. Take your shoe brush and gently wipe away any visible dirt from the leather uppers of your Doc Martens. Make sure that the shoe brush you use is suitable for use on leather, as some hard wire brushes can scuff and scratch leather shoes. Use the brush to wipe away any visible grime on the signature yellow stitching, tongue, and lace eyelets. 
  2. Next, carefully pour a couple of drops of leather conditioner onto your sponge and gently buff up the surface of the shoe by moving the sponge in circular motions. The brand makes their own shoe conditioner which they recommend using. It’s made with a mixture of beeswax, coconut oil, and lanolin. However, any old leather conditioner should do the trick. This will help to protect your Doc Martens from cracks and scuffs and damage from saltwater. Leave your shoes to dry naturally in sunlight.
  3. Once completely dry, lay out some newspaper on the floor and place your Doc Marten shoes on top of it. Take your wax polish (in a shade that matches the color of your shoes) and apply it to a clean cloth. Gently move the cloth in circular motions as you rub the polish, this helps to warm and soften the wax. Wipe the polish all over the boots using this cloth and apply more pressure in particularly stubborn areas. The wax will begin to settle inside the pore of the leather. Let the polish sit to dry for around 20 minutes. 
  4. Next, it’s time to buff up the leather by making use of your shoe brush. Finish this step by wiping the shoes with a lint-free cloth to get rid of any surface dust or polish residue. If your shoes have old polish coatings stacked on top, you can remove them and apply a new, even coating. To remove old polish deposits, use rubbing alcohol, acetone-free nail polish, or saddle soap.

How to clean Doc Marten shoes – The Shoelaces

What You’ll Need:

  • A large bowl
  • Sensitive laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • A scrub brush


  1. Take your large bowl and fill it about 3 quarters full with warm water. Toss in a teaspoon of sensitive laundry detergent and give it a good mix for at least a minute. If you don’t have any sensitive laundry detergent, dishwashing soap can work just fine. Keep swirling the solution around, either with your finger or a spoon until a lather has formed.
  2. After removing your shoelaces from your Doc Marten shoes, pick them up and slowly dip them into the soapy solution. Completely submerge them under the surface of the water and let them sit in it for around half an hour. 
  3. After half an hour has passed, take your scrubbing brush and begin to remove any dirt and grime from the shoelaces. Any stubborn stains should come away fairly easily at this stage after a good bit of scrubbing.
  4. Finally, rinse the shoelaces with cold running water, until the water runs clear. This helps to ensure that all of the detergent has been removed and there are no deposits left deep inside the fibers of the laces. Let the laces air dry on a hanger or a washing line. 

How to get rid of scuffs and scratches on Doc Martens:

Scratches on your DMs, which are often mistaken for scuffs, can cause real damage to the leather itself, not simply the original wax coat. To treat these, you’ll need to dab some distilled vinegar onto the affected area with a Q-tip. This will make the surrounding area of leather swell, which is the perfect opportunity to buff it with wax in order to camouflage the scratch. 

If the scratch remains visible, take a felt-tip marker in a similar color to your Docs and color it in to make it less visible. To hide any discoloration, rub a pencil eraser across the scuff marks. If a standard eraser does not work, use an eraser sponge followed by a damp cloth to remove the chemical residue. Dip a cotton swab in nail polish remover and press it against the scuff mark to remove persistent scuffs. To finish, wipe the area with a moist towel.

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