As a chill enters the air, Aussies are digging out their trusty ugg boots to keep their toes toasty through another winter.
There's plenty to love about the iconic sheepskin slippers: they're warm and comfy, breathable and sturdy enough to withstand the odd dash to the corner store, but they're also delicate and prone to staining, which can make cleaning complicated.
So how do you keep your uggs looking (and smelling) their best?
How to clean the outside of your ugg boots
According to Todd Watts, director of Australian-owned ugg manufacturer Ugg Since 1974, the main challenge of cleaning ugg boots is avoiding discolouring them.
"Sheepskin suede is so porous it will absorb anything," says Watts. "This means if you have to wet the suede in the cleaning process, you'll end up with a darker patch on the section you've cleaned."
He says using liquid to clean your uggs should be a last resort.
"Try cleaning your boots with a suede brush, dry cloth, chalk or a gum eraser first," he says. "If you do end up using water, give both boots an all-over clean so they appear the same colour after cleaning."
How to remove stains
Liquid stains (e.g. water, oil, mud)
- Rub plain white chalk on the stained areas and leave the boots overnight.
- Use a suede brush (a nail brush or toothbrush will also do) to lightly buff off the excess chalk, then rub the affected area against a clean area of sheepskin to remove the chalky residue.
- For more serious stains such as pen marks, use a colourless gum eraser to gently buff away the stain.
- If the stain is particularly stubborn, Watts recommends using a very light sandpaper to buff away – extremely gently – the colour of the stain.
How to clean the inside of your ugg boots
Watts says if you avoid wearing socks (see below) and ensure your feet are clean and dry before you put on your uggs, the inners should stay clean and odour-free.
But if your inners do get dirty (or smelly), there's plenty you can do.
- Lightly dampen a cloth and give the interior a scrub. Watts advises trying plain water first, because soap can strip the wool of its lanolin (a kind of natural wax or grease).
- Let the boots dry in a shady, well-ventilated area for 24 to 48 hours, and make sure they're completely dry before wearing.
- If they're still dirty, apply some mild soap or detergent to a damp cloth and repeat the cleaning process.
- Rinse the cloth thoroughly, wring it out and use the damp, clean cloth to remove any soap residue. Then repeat the drying process.
Getting rid of odours
- Sprinkle the insides of your uggs with baking soda and leave them overnight. In the morning, empty out the baking soda (and give them a vacuum if you don't want to end up with powdery feet.)
- Some retailers also sell a spray to freshen the insides of your boots and stop odours building up in the first place
Consider replacing your inners
The wool inside your uggs will become compressed over time. But that doesn’t mean you have to consign them to landfill.
Some boots have interchangeable inner soles which means you can swap out the existing sole for a fluffy new one. You can buy new soles online for less than $20 and they're compatible with most brands that have an interchangeable sole.
Wearing socks with ugg boots can lead to smelly inners.
Should I wear socks with my ugg boots?
No. Slipping your bare feet directly into your uggs isn't just deliciously cosy, but it also actually helps prevent odours, according to Watts.
"The natural fibres of ugg boots allow air to circulate, letting the skin breathe and preventing sweating," he says.
"Socks make your feet sweat, which makes bacteria grow inside your boots, leading to smelly inners."
If your boots have a synthetic inner this may not apply (synthetic boots aren't technically ugg boots).
Should I clean my ugg boots in the washing machine?
No. Watts says putting your uggs in the washing machine will permanently damage the inners, knotting the wool and removing the natural lanolin that keeps them feeling soft and comfortable.
Where do ugg boots come from?
Ugg boots are an Aussie icon with reports that they've been worn since as far back as the 1930s. They've since become popular around the world.
So it's somewhat surprising that the most famous brand, UGG (formerly UGG Australia) is actually owned by a US company called Deckers Outdoor Corporation.
What's in a name?
What's more, Deckers has trademarked the term "ugg" internationally, preventing Australian manufacturers from marketing their products as ugg boots outside Australia and New Zealand.
Australian courts have ruled that the word "ugg" is a generic term that refers to sheepskin boots, and it cannot be trademarked here.
Want Australian-made uggs?
Not all ugg boots sold in Australia are Australian-made – many brands make their products in Asia. The country of manufacture may not be important to all consumers, but some will prefer to buy ugg boots that are made in Australia. If you're one of them, here are some tips.
Check the label
Judith Tratner, director of Australian Ugg Boots and vice-president of the Australian Sheepskin Association, says shoppers who do want Australian-made uggs should carefully check individual products for the sewn-in "Made in Australia" label and the triangular "Australian Made" swing tag.
Australian courts have ruled that the word "ugg" is a generic term that refers to sheepskin boots, and it cannot be trademarked here
"Make sure you check the actual product you are purchasing and don't be misled by 'Australian Made' logos or certificates on the walls or shelves of the store," she says.
"Some retailers will stock a small range of Australian-made uggs amongst large numbers of imported uggs just so they can use the 'Australian Made' triangle on their website or in-store."
Ozwear Connection was fined in 2018 for making false country-of-origin representations.
Tratner says most online retailers selling uggs that are made in Australia will proudly advertise this fact. If they don't, their products probably aren't made in Australia.
"Watch out for misleading phrases like 'Australian classic', 'Premium Australian' or 'Australian designs'," she says. "These claims do not mean a product is Australian made or owned."
Misleading ugg boot marketing is common. For instance, Ugg boot retailer Ozwear Connection was fined $25,200 by the ACCC in 2018 for making false country-of-origin representations for its "Classic Ugg" footwear range.