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How to Clean Birkenstocks (Footbed, Sole, and Straps)

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Stay in style with these super cleaning hacks.

Dirt and stains on your Birkenstocks can 100 percent ruin the vibe. These trendy shoes are a fashion staple; they go with pretty much any outfit!

That’s why we aim to keep them clean. Are you ready to see some incredible before and after results with your beloved Birkenstocks?

We’ll share how often you should clean them, as well as a step-by-step method for how to clean Birkenstocks. This includes the footbed, the soles, suede shoes, leather shoes, and fabric Birkenstocks. Consider this your ultimate one-stop guide.

How to Clean Birkenstocks

  1. Clean the footbed with a baking soda and distilled white vinegar paste. Rub in with an old toothbrush.
  2. Wipe off with a damp cloth.
  3. Clean suede straps with a suede brush and pencil eraser.
  4. Clean leather straps with a leather eraser, cleaner, and conditioner.
  5. Clean fabric straps with a cloth dampened with warm soapy water.


How Often Should You Clean Birkenstocks?

You should be cleaning your Birkenstocks footbed every few weeks. As for the rest of the shoes, we recommend cleaning them whenever necessary but at least twice a year. If you wear them often or expose them to sunlight, you may want to clean and condition them monthly.

How to Clean Birkenstocks Footbed and Cork Soles

You can clean the footbed and cork soles using vinegar and baking soda every few weeks. This easy and eco-friendly cleaning hack will keep your shoe stain- and odor-free.

  • Time: 20 minutes (plus waiting and drying time)
  • Difficulty: Easy

What You’ll Need

  • Baking soda
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Toothbrush or soft-bristled cleaning brush
  • Cloth or rag

1. Remove Dirt

Use your cloth to wipe down the footbed and soles to remove surface-level dirt and debris. This will make the following steps easier.

2. Make a Paste

Mix equal parts of baking soda and distilled white vinegar together in a bowl until you’ve created a paste. You may need to adjust the quantities slightly.

3. Apply and Scrub

Apply the paste to the footbed and soles using an old toothbrush or cleaning brush. Then gently scrub the paste in circular motions to lift dirt, stains, and grime. Rinse and repeat.

Then reapply the paste to the footbed and soles. Leave it overnight. In the morning, rinse the shoes again.

4. Air Dry

Leave the shoes to air dry. Keep them out of direct heat and sunlight. It might take up to 24 hours for the shoes to dry thoroughly.

Brand Advice

If you want to stick to Birkenstocks’s own advice, they will tell you to use their own Cleaner & Refresher spray before wiping it off with a cloth. However, that’s a lot pricier than using household items like vinegar and baking soda.

How to Clean Suede Birkenstocks

Depending on what kind of Birkenstocks you have, you’ll need to adjust your cleaning plan accordingly. This method is for suede Birkenstocks which requires a specific suede brush.

  • Time: 45 minutes (plus waiting time)
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

What You’ll Need

  • Suede brush
  • Water
  • Suede eraser or pencil eraser
  • Cornstarch
  • Suede cleaner or white vinegar (optional)
  • Cloth (optional)

While you can buy these products separately, you can also get suede shoe cleaning kits, like the one from Gear Aid. You will just have to buy cornstarch separately.

1. Brush Off Dirt

With suede (and nubuck leather) Birkenstocks, start by rubbing off dust and dirt using your suede brush. These brushes are gentle on suede materials, so using one of these over a generic cleaning brush is crucial.

Top Tip

You can dampen the brush slightly to clean the straps. The straps are exposed to bacteria and sweat, so a bit of water can help the cleaning process. Make sure you open the straps to clean both sides properly.

2. Erase Old Stains

Stains on suede are pretty tricky to remove, especially if they’re old and dry. If you dampened your shoes in the earlier step, wait until they’re completely dry. Otherwise, it makes removing the stain even harder.

Once the shoes are dry, brush the stained areas with a suede eraser or pencil eraser. Continue until the stain has lifted. Brush the shoes again with your suede brush to lift the fabric.

3. Remove Oily Stains

It’s easy to get oil on your Birkenstocks. Whether it’s body oils, lotion oils, or cooking oils, these stains can be tough to remove. But cornstarch can work wonders.

Cover the stain with cornstarch and leave it for up to four hours. Brush it off. Repeat if necessary.

4. Shampoo the Shoes (Optional)

If your shoes are begging for extra cleaning power, then it’s a good idea to use a suede cleaner. These cleaners are specifically for suede shoes, so they won’t cause damage. Follow the packaging instructions for application. This will usually involve mixing the shampoo with a little bit of water and applying it with your suede brush.

If you can’t access a suede cleaner, you can swap it out for distilled white vinegar. Simply mix a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water and apply the solution to the shoes, scrubbing gently with a suede brush. For stained areas, blot, don’t scrub!

5. Rinse the Shoes (Optional)

Once you’ve cleaned the shoes with your suede shampoo or white vinegar, wipe them down with a damp cloth. Let the shoes air dry completely out of direct sunlight. It could take 24 hours.

How to Clean Leather Birkenstocks

Let’s get into the cleaning method for leather shoes. We recommend a specific leather cleaner that can clean your shoes as well as hydrate and protect them.

You might want to invest in the Birkenstocks’ Deluxe Shoe Care Kit, which has everything you need for this method.

  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

What You’ll Need

  • Leather cleaning brush
  • Leather eraser
  • Leather cleaning solution
  • Soft cloths
  • Leather conditioner or vaseline

1. Brush and Erase the Leather

Start by brushing the leather parts with your leather brush. This will remove excess dirt and debris. Once you’ve completed that, use the leather eraser to remove some old stains. Continue until you notice the stains have lifted. Brush again to remove any eraser shavings.

2. Apply Leather Cleaner

Apply a little leather cleaner onto your soft cloth and rub it into the leather in gentle circular motions. Continue all over the leather. If you feel you’ve applied a little too much, remove excess with a dry cloth.

3. Condition the Leather

It’s crucial to condition the leather, too. This keeps it moisturized, soft, stain-free and avoids any cracks. Apply the leather cleaner to your soft cloth and gently moisturize the leather in circular motions.

If you want to save money on a leather conditioner, you can use vaseline instead. Just be aware that this can darken the leather, so it’s not the best option for light leather. Always test in an inconspicuous spot.

After you’ve conditioned the leather, wipe the shoes with a soft cloth to remove any excess conditioner.

4. Leave to Dry

Before wearing the sandals again, leave them for around 24 hours until the cleaner and conditioner have dried onto the sandal.

How to Clean Fabric Birkenstocks

Last but not least, we’ll show you how to clean your fabric sandals without baking soda. Birkenstocks make linen canvas, microfiber, and wool felt shoes. This method is suitable for those types.

  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

What You’ll Need

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Dish soaps
  • Cloths
  • Stain remover

1. Brush Excess Dirt

Use your soft-bristled brush to remove surface-level dust and debris.

2. Spot Clean

In a bowl, mix two cups of warm water and a teaspoon of dish soap. Dampen a cloth into the solution and rub the stained parts of your shoes. Be gentle, and don’t apply too much water to the fabric. We also recommend working in the direction of the fabric grain to maintain the lovely look of your shoes.

For Metallic Birkenstocks

If you have metallic Birkenstocks, they are made with Birko-flor material. You can clean them using this method before wiping them with a damp cloth. Just make sure not to use step number three on metallic Birkenstocks.

3. Deal With Stubborn Stains

If the above step didn’t tackle all your stains, you could try spot cleaning extra stains with your favorite laundry stain remover. Gently scrub it in with your soft-bristled brush, and leave for 15 minutes before wiping with a damp cloth.

4. Rinse and Dry

Dampen a cloth in warm water and wipe down the shoes to rinse. Make sure you wipe off all of the soapy residues.

Blot the shoes with a separate dry cloth. Air dry the shoes out of direct heat and sunlight.

How to Get Stains Out of Birkenstocks

Let’s talk about how to remove various stains from your shoes. This includes oil, water, and more.

  • Oil Stains: Cornstarch is our go-to here. Apply a little cornstarch directly to the stain and leave it for four hours. Brush the cornstarch out. Repeat if necessary.
  • Water Stains: Tackle water stains as soon as you notice them by blotting them with a towel. Let the shoes air dry. If the stain is older, dampen a cloth in some white vinegar and blot the stain. Continue for 5-10 minutes to lift the stain. Let it air dry. Repeat if necessary.
  • Sweat Stains: Mixing baking soda with vinegar is great for removing sweat stains and tackling smells. This method also works for more persistent stains that your cornstarch or white vinegar didn’t remove.
  • Caked-On Surface Stain: If you have a textured stain that you can’t remove with your cloth, but it’s only on the surface, your shoe brush will help. Use the appropriate brush according to your shoe’s material type.
  • Gum and Tar Stains: Place an ice cube in a bag and apply it to the gum or tar stain. Let it harden before using a blunt knife or the edge of a credit card to scrape off the hard residue. Repeat if necessary. Brush the shoes afterward to lift the fibers.
  • Winter Salt Stains: Make a 1:1 solution of water and distilled white vinegar. Dampen a cloth in the solution and wipe the shoe gently.

Tips For Protecting Birkenstocks

You want your Birkenstocks to last for years to come. After all, these shoes are never going out of style. Consider some of these care tips to protect your shoes:

  • Birkenstocks’ own cleaning kit: While it’s another thing to add to your shopping list, it’s specifically designed for your shoes. This cleaning kit contains a cleaner and refresher spray, cork sealer, and a water and stain repellant.
  • Clean regularly: We recommend cleaning the footbed and soles every few weeks. They get dirty quickly since you wear Birkenstocks without socks. Aim to deep clean the straps and the other parts of the shoes at least twice a year.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures: Don’t wear your Birkenstocks in freezing cold weather or scalding hot weather. Keep them for mild days only.
  • Avoid water: Too much water can damage your Birkenstocks. Don’t bring them to the beach, and try to avoid wearing them on rainy days. Too much water can ruin the suede or leather. Plus, it can loosen the glue in the shoe.
  • Test cleaners first: Whether you’re cleaning with vinegar or a commercial leather cleaner, always test the cleaner in an inconspicuous spot first. This could be the inside side of the strap. If you notice stains or discoloration, try a different cleaner instead.

FAQs

How Do You Fix Shredding Birkenstocks?

Shredding cork means that there are lots of tiny tears in the sandal sole. The good news is that this is quite normal. It just means that the sandals are adjusting to your stride and environment. You can fix this by applying a thin layer of cork sealant. You can use Birkenstocks’s own cork sealer if you wish.

How Do You Stop Birkenstocks From Staining Feet?

Most of us worry about stains on our shoes. But Birkenstocks can also cause stains on your own skin! There are a few ways to avoid this:

  • Keep them clean: Clean your Birkenstocks regularly to remove dirt and debris from the shoe.
  • Keep them dry: When your shoes get wet, the excess moisture and dirt end up on your feet.
  • Brush regularly: Brush and clean the footbeds every other week.
  • Apply water-repellent coating: A water-repellent coating is a great way to create a barrier between the shoe and your feet. This will, in turn, prevent stains on your skin.

Why Do Birkenstocks Turn Black?

Even after only a few weeks of wearing your Birkenstocks, you might see the footbeds begin to darken. This is caused by oil and sweat on our feet. The materials of the footbed — cork, jute, latex, or leather — turn black when exposed to these oils and dirt.

Do Birkenstocks Stain When They Get Wet?

Water can stain Birkenstocks, especially leather and suede. While you shouldn’t submerge your shoes in water, and we don’t recommend wearing them on rainy days, don’t panic if they get a little wet. Most of the time, letting them air dry thoroughly can dry out the stains. But if not, blotting water stains with white vinegar can lift the mark.

Can I Wash Birkenstocks In My Washer?

No. As mentioned, you shouldn’t submerge your Birkenstocks in water. The excess water, tumbling motion, and detergent can damage your Birkenstocks straps, footbed, and cork.

Can I Put My Plastic Birkenstocks In the Dishwasher?

Some people wash their plastic or rubber Birkenstocks in the dishwasher, but nowhere on Birkenstocks’ does it state that it’s okay to do this. So we don’t recommend it. Instead, wash them with warm soapy water, as you would with your dishes. But don’t expose them to the dishwasher process.


Beautiful Birkenstocks

When you invest in these shoes and sandals, you’re in it for the long haul. They should last for many years, both in terms of longevity but also style.

We’ve walked you through how to clean Birkenstocks footbed and soles, as well as leather, fabric, and suede options. Now you can start cleaning your Birkenstocks at home to keep your shoes in mint condition.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!