How to Clean Every Pair of Birkenstocks in Your Closet

How to Clean Birkenstocks

When it comes to cute and comfortable sandals, Birkenstocks seems to be the one trend that never dies. They offer effortlessly throwback vibes and a super supportive footbed that molds to the shape of your foot for hours of comfort on end. Even celebrities like Britney Spears are huge fans of the brand’s styles.

As with any comfy shoe that gets a lot of wear, though, they can start to look a little grimy. Sweat stains on the footbed plus dirt or water marks on the upper are not only unsightly, but can also shorten the lifespan of your favorite pairs. Thankfully, it’s fairly simple to get them looking like new again with a few at-home methods.

Important Tips:

Before you start cleaning, note the material used in the upper of your pair so you can follow a cleaning method that won’t damage the finish. For a simple all-in-one fix, you can try Birkenstock’s shoe care kit, which is designed to work on all the brand’s pairs. It includes a versatile cleaner, as well as a water and stain repellent, cork sealer to keep the cork protected from the elements and brush-and-scuff eraser.

According to Birkenstock’s page of care tips, direct sunlight may cause your shoes to crack and deteriorate faster. After using a cleaning agent to remove stains, let your shoes dry in a shady spot to avoid damaging them. Even if you’re pinched for time, never throw them in the dryer to speed up the drying process, as this could ruin them. Allow them at least 24 hours to dry fully before wearing them again.

How to Clean Birko-Flor & Birkibuc Birkenstocks

Birkenstock Women's Florida Birko-Flor Sandal
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

Birk-Floor and Birkibuc are two of the brand’s proprietary materials. Birk-Floor is made of PVC that has been lined on the inside with a soft, breathable layer of fleece. Birkibuc is a durable, synthetic upper material with a nubuck leather-like texture and soft backing. Both finishes are easier to clean than suede or leather.

Step 1: Birkenstock’s site recommends simply wiping the uppers clean with a damp cloth (make sure to avoid getting the underside wet, though, especially fleece. This material can get soppy and take a long time to dry). For tough stains, use soap and water. The brand warns that any cleaning or treatment could change the look and finish of Birk-Floor or Birkibuc.

How to Clean Suede Birkenstocks

birkenstocks_socks_and_sandals_trend
CREDIT: Nordstrom

The soft finish tends to be delicate, so you’ll want to make sure you’re gentle and take your time cleaning these pairs. As a rule of thumb, let any wet suede pairs dry before trying to clean them. A good cleaning with a suede brush is usually enough to remove caked on dirt or grime, but if stains persist, you’ll have to take some additional steps to get them looking fresh again.

Step 1: Remove excess dirt with a suede brush. Brush in the in the direction of the grain for the best results.

Step 2: Use a suede eraser to remove scuffs and stains. As a DIY alternative, you can also use a regular pencil eraser. Once you’ve lifted the stain, use the brush to remove any loose particles.

Step 3: If you’ve got a deep stain on your hands that just won’t budge, you’ll want to try some white vinegar. Dab a small amount on a microfiber cloth (you only want to dampen the suede, not douse it) and rub it gently across the straps. Avoid scrubbing as this can damage the finish. Let the straps dry fully and use your brush to remove any remaining marks. Repeat the process if necessary.

  • For oil stains: If your suede is stained with oil, apply cornstarch to the upper and let it dry for a few hours. Then, use your brush to remove the cornstarch. Hopefully, the stain should have lifted, but if not, you can try applying vinegar using the above method.

 

  • For water stains: Blot away water with a towel immediately and let the pairs dry. Do not leave them near or fireplace or use a blow dryer to dry them as this can damage the finish. If you still see a watermark once the shoe has dried, follow up with the white vinegar and brushing treatment.

How to Clean Leather Birkenstocks

Tween shoe ideas
Birkenstock’s Gizeh sandal with mirrored leather upper.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

For the best results, clean your leather pairs with a commercial leather cleaner. While many leather cleaners are only meant to remove dirt and grime, some are made with conditioning agents like mink oil to hydrate and protect. Conditioning helps keep the hide supple and strong, since wear and tear and exposure to the elements can cause it to become dry and brittle over time. You can purchase a separate leather conditioner or cleaner that’s an all-in one formula. It’s recommended that you clean and condition your leather about three times a year. If your shoes are constantly exposed to sun, you may want to  clean and condition them once every month.

Note that patent leather finishes require a different cleaning method than that of nubuck or oiled leathers, in order to maintain their shine.

For Oiled & Nubuck leathers:

Step 1: Dab a dime-sized amount of cleaner onto a soft cloth. Apply it to the uppers using a gentle circular motion to help the leather absorb the liquid. Like with suede, applying too much liquid will damage the finish.

Step 2: Remove any excess cleaner with a dry rag.

Step 3: Use another clean, dry cloth to apply a dime-sized amount of leather conditioner to the upper. Gently rub it over the entirety of the straps.

Step 4: Like when applying leather cleaners, its best to let the conditioner dry for 24 hours before wearing your pair again. If you’re in a rush, allow for at least two hours of drying time.

For Patent Leather:

Patent leather is quite easy to clean. You can use a special patent leather cleaner (which will also nourish and protect) or a bit of water to wipe away grime. And for removing common scuff marks on the surface, there are a few household items you can use that won’t cause the finish to lose its shine.

Step 1: Dampen a microfiber cloth with water and wipe it across the upper to remove dust and dirt.

Step 2: Use another clean, dry cloth to dry the surface.

Step 3: For removing scuff marks, dip a bit of olive oil, mineral oil or petroleum jelly onto a microfiber cloth, then gently rub the surface where the scuff marks occur.

Step 4: Leave the oil or jelly on for 20 minutes and then wipe it off entirely.

How to Clean the Footbed

birkenstocks-cleaning-hacks baking soda water
CREDIT: Shutterstock/al1962

No one likes sweaty, dark smudges underfoot. Wipe down the footbed with a damp cloth every few weeks to keep it looking fresh. If you’ve been trekking through mud or wet grass, wipe your shoes immediately when you get home. That way, they have enough time to dry before you head out again. For more persistent stains, you’ll want to use a DIY cleaning formula of baking soda and water.

Step 1: Remove loose dirt using a suede brush or clean toothbrush.

Step 2: Mix a bit of baking soda with water until a paste forms.

Step 3: Use a clean cloth or toothbrush (so as long as you rinse it in between steps one and two) to gently scrub the paste into the footbed, using a circular motion.

Step 4: Let the formula sit overnight, then use a damp cloth to wipe it away in the morning.

Step 5: Make sure your shoes dry completely before repeating the process if stains persist. As an alternative, you can also try applying Birkenstock’s Cleaner & Refresher spray to the footbed every few weeks.

Step 6: Use a cork sealer to protect the soles and prevent them from drying out. This will lengthen the life of your pairs and ensure they stay supportive. Birkenstock sells its own version of cork sealer (which does come in the brand’s shoe care kit), but you can also buy cork sealer from a range of other brands on Amazon.

How to Clean EVA Birkenstocks

Birkenstock Unisex Arizona Essentials EVA Sandals
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

EVA is the easiest material to clean. Not only is it lightweight and cushy, but it’s also waterproof, making it practically impervious to messes. Birkenstock typically does select styles completely in the finish, from the upper to the footbed, meaning these durable pairs require minimal upkeep.

Step 1: Use a wet cloth to wipe the uppers clean. For stuck-on grime, use a bit of dish soap to remove it more easily.

Step 2: Rinse off any excess soap under the sink or use a non-soapy wet cloth to remove it. Use a fresh cloth to dry off the upper.

Step 3: Repeat steps one and two for the footbed. You may to want unbuckle the straps to get better access. Near the front of the sandal, focus on getting around the grooves so you don’t leave any particles behind.

All products featured have been independently selected and curated by our editorial team. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn commission and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes. 

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