How to Clean Birkenstocks, Because It’s Almost Sandal Season Again
Real talk: Your Birkenstock sandals have seen better days. If you’re anything like us, you’ve worn those babies so much they’ve conformed to your feet. And they’ve soaked up so much sweat and grime that the footbed is no longer its original shade of tan but rather a muddy brown color. In a word, gross. Luckily, we’ve got three easy steps for how to clean Birkenstocks, whether you’re rocking a suede pair or leather, all with items you probably already have at home. But if you really want to go pro, Birkenstock does sell its own cleaning kit ($18), complete with everything you need to get your beloved sandals looking like new once again.
A few pro tips before you begin.
- Birkenstock warns against letting your shoes dry in the sun. In addition to fading the color faster, exposure to direct sunlight can actually damage the cork footbeds and can cause your precious Birks to deteriorate at a much faster rate.
- If you’re working with a patent leather pair, you should really consider taking them to a professional to be cleaned rather than attempting anything yourself. That shiny finish on the leather might react poorly to at-home treatments and lose their shine, but a pro will know exactly what to do.
- While you can probably get away with treating the uppers only when you spy a new stain or spot, the footbed of your Birks will benefit from regular cleaning. If you wear your sandals often, you might want to set aside 10 minutes once a month to give them a refresher.
How to Clean Suede Birkenstocks
You might be worried about trying to freshen up your suede sandals, but suede is actually a bit easier to work with than leather. The key is just to go slow, take your time and don’t try to work with wet suede (always wait until the shoe is totally dry before you start).
What you need:
Step 1: Use the suede brush to remove any loose dirt or grime by gently brushing with the grain.
Step 2: If you’re still seeing scuffs or stains, grab your suede eraser. Use a gentle back-and-forth motion to really get in deep and dislodge those marks. Once the deeper stains have been brushed up, switch between the eraser and the brush, to ensure all the dirt particles have been swept away.
Step 3: If you’re still seeing stains it’s time to grab some white vinegar and a microfiber cloth. Dampen the cloth with a very small amount of white vinegar (you can always add more later). Rub the vinegar into the stain using a gently back-and-forth motion, before leaving your Birks to dry completely before repeating if necessary. (You can also try steps one and two before applying more vinegar.) This last method will be slow going, but it’s worth it to restore your sandals to their former glory, we promise.
How to Clean Leather Birkenstocks
Cleaning leather is tricky business and we typically suggest leaving it to a professional, but there are definitely a few methods you can try yourself before handing off your beloved sandals. (The only exception here is patent leather, which, as we mentioned before, should always be handled by the pros.)
What you need:
Step 1: Dampen both of the cloths (do not get them soaking wet, excess water is leather’s enemy). Apply a small amount of leather cleaner to one of the cloths or work the cloth onto the surface of the saddle soap to work up a lather.
Step 2: Gently rub the soapy cloth over the stain working in a circular motion. Use the clean cloth to wipe away any excess solution, so you can see your progress as you go.
Step 3: Leave your Birks to dry completely before attempting any further repairs. This shouldn’t take too long, as your shoes shouldn’t have gotten too wet in the first place, but we suggest waiting at least two hours in order to really see how well your cleaning worked.
How to Clean the Footbed of Your Birkenstocks
Honestly, this is probably the part of your shoe you’re most eager to clean. As much as you love the way the supportive cork has perfectly contoured to your feet, it likely smells terrible. You might even start seeing bits of it peeling off, if your shoes are a few years old. But no worries, there are solutions for all of these concerns.
What you need:
- A suede brush (or clean toothbrush)
- 2 microfiber cloths or flannel
- Baking soda
- Cork sealer ($9)
Step 1: Brush any loose dirt or grime off the footbed using a clean, dry brush. (You might want to unbuckle the straps to gain better access to all the nooks and crannies.)
Step 2: In a small bowl combine two parts water with one part baking soda (you can start with two tablespoons and one tablespoon respectively). Mix until they form a paste.
Step 3: Dip a corner of one of the microfiber cloths into the paste and gently scrub it into the footbed, working in a circular motion. Dampen the second cloth and use it to wipe away any excess solution as you go.
Step 4: Allow your shoes to dry completely before attempting another round of cleaning. To avoid having to repeat this whole process, Birkenstock recommends treating the footbed with its Cleaner & Refresher spray every three to four weeks.
Step 5: To protect the cork soles and prevent them from drying out you can apply a cork sealer (also included in Birkenstock’s care kit). This will increase the longevity of your precious Birks and help them maintain their supportive base.