Birkenstocks are the sandals podiatrists love and the ones modern hippies can't get enough of. For almost 250 years, Birkenstocks has been taking good care of your feet, but if you wear your Birks all the time, you know how smelly and grimy they can get. While we love to wear them rain or shine, we don't always take care of the mess right away. So, if you're a committed Birkenstock owner, then it's time to figure out how to clean Birkenstocks without ruining them.
How to Clean Stinky Birkenstock Footbeds
With heavy use, your Birks can get a little smelly, especially the footbeds. Thank goodness it's not difficult to clean the cork footbed of most Birkenstock sandals. You just need a few basic supplies and a bit of elbow grease to work away that dirty, stinky layer you see and smell every time you slip them off. When cleaning Birkenstocks, baking soda is your bestie because it works so well on removing both grime and odor.
- Baking soda
- Scrub brush (an old toothbrush or similar style brush will do)
- Cleaning gloves (optional)
- Spoon (optional)
- Place about ½ of a cup of baking soda in a bowl.
- Stir in just enough water to form a paste.
- Adjust if needed, adding more water if the solution is too thick or more baking soda if it's too thin.
- Put on the cleaning gloves if you're using them.
- Scoop up a chunk of the paste.
- Spread the paste all over the footbed of the sandals.
- Use the brush in a circular motion to scrub over the entire footbed area.
- Use a damp (not completely wet) cloth to wipe away all the paste.
- Repeat steps 1 - 8 on the other shoe.
- If the shoes look clean at this point, you just need to place them in a cool, interior location to dry for at least 24 hours. Otherwise, repeat the scrub until they are clean.
Wait at least 24 hours for your sandals to dry. Since humidity and other factors can affect drying time, feel the footbeds to make sure they're actually dry before wearing them again. Just like wet socks, there's nothing that'll give you more of the ick than slipping your dry feet into a pair of wet Birkenstocks.
There are other natural ingredients you can use to clean the footbed too, like borax instead of baking soda. Simply substitute borax for the baking soda in the instructions.
How to Clean Birkenstock Straps
While cleaning the footbed is your biggest challenge with keeping your Birkenstocks fresh, you'll also need to clean the straps of your sandals sometimes. Like the footbed, not every Birkenstock comes with the same strap material, so each one requires a special technique to clean them.
Leather Birkenstock straps are super easy to clean. You only need a few materials.
- Paper towels
- Leather cleaner
- Microfiber cloth
- Dampen a paper towel with water.
- Rub the straps, making sure you undo the buckles and get underneath them.
- If the stink or stain isn't abating, switch to a microfiber cloth with a leather cleaner on it.
- Work the leather cleaner in and let sit or dry it off, depending on the instructions.
Nubuck or Suede Straps
Nubuck and suede don't handle wear and tear well. So, your Birks with nubuck or suede straps are going to get beat up quicker than your leather ones. In that case, you'll need a good cleaning routine to keep them out of the trash bin.
- Damp cloth
- Suede brush
- Clean towel
- Dampen a cloth with some water.
- Blot at any stains with the cloth, pressing to pull up the dirt.
- Use a suede brush (or clean, dry toothbrush) to scuff off the stain.
- Dry it off with a clean towel and let sit to dry for a few hours.
If you've got stubborn stains that just won't wash out, try one of these other methods for cleaning suede.
How to Clean Your EVA Birkenstocks
Unlike their traditional leather, cork, and foam line, EVA Birkenstocks are made out of ethyl vinyl acetate, which is waterproof and feels like a foamy plastic. It's how the company can get their summer sandals in those bright colors at lower prices. But they're just as likely to get smelly and gross after too many days running around in the high summer heat, so you need to know how to clean yours.
- Mild soap
- Dry cloth
- Run your shoes under some water, adding a dab of soap and working it into your shoes with your hands.
- If you really need to get in there, you can use a sponge or cloth to work the suds into the nooks and crannies.
- Rinse the soap off and dry off with a cloth or towel.
Maintain Birkenstocks Between Cleanings
Birkenstock offers a shoe care kit outfitted with items designed to help keep your Birkenstock sandals looking like new. It includes a cleaning brush, water and stain repellent, cork sealer, and a spray for cleaning and refreshing your sandals. Regularly using the products in the kit can help extend your Birkenstocks' life and minimize smell and dirt build-up between full cleanings. Even if you don't use the kit, taking a few seconds to wipe down the footbed and straps every so often can help keep your sandals from getting so stinky you have to leave them outside the front door.
Keep Your Birks Looking and Smelling Great
By following these basic cleaning and maintenance instructions, you can keep your Birkenstocks in tip-top condition for a long time. If you do get to the point where you need to replace them - or if you simply want to add a new pair of super-comfy sandals to your wardrobe - shop around to find a great deal on Birkenstocks.