Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How To Clean and Protect Your Birkenstocks

Adriana Aziz
April 5, 2023
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Birkenstocks are the type of shoes that you don’t realise you are wearing until you take them off! They offer supportive comfort with a super-soft footbed that has the ability to mould to your foot.

Sold in over 90 countries, they come in various designs including clogs, sandals, shoes, and boots, as well as different materials such as nubuck leather/suede, natural/smooth leather, and EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate). 

As sandals that typically get worn a lot, a pair of Birkenstocks can get pretty dirty, pretty quickly. Apart from sweat stains and water marks, leaving the footwear dirty for too long can result in smelly, slimy, or sticky sandals. 

At this point, we must note that regular cleaning and learning HOW to clean Birkenstocks is equally important because improper cleaning methods can damage the footwear. Additionally, appropriate care and maintenance of Birkenstocks will help increase their lifespan, giving you many more wears of your favourite pair of footwear. Luckily, you are going to learn all of this by the end of the article!

What You’ll Need to Clean Birkenstocks

man using baking soda to clean dirty birkenstock sandals

  • An old toothbrush
  • a shoe brush or suede brush
  • A microfiber cloth or an old T-shirt
  • Leather shampoo or suede and nubuck shampoo
  • Water 
  • Baking soda/mild detergent

Step-by-Step Instructions to Clean Your Birkenstocks

man cleaning the buckle of a birkenstock sandal

NOTE: Prior to cleaning a pair of Birkenstocks, check the material and follow cleaning instructions accordingly. 

Keeping important factors in mind such as the type of material in question, our experts have created a general cleaning guide that one can follow to clean their Birkenstocks.

Step 1: Remove Loose Debris

For your Nubuck leather or suede shoes, use a dry shoe brush or a suede brush to remove any debris or dirt. For natural leather shoes, opt for a damp, microfibre cloth to wipe away dust and dirt. 

Remove as much loose debris as possible from the top of the footwear before cleaning the outsole (bottom of the shoe).

Step 2: Clean the Straps

Unstrap your sandals, and clean off the entire strap from the inside using a damp brush. Be sure to rinse the bristles when needed, and shake off excess water before continuing to clean the top of the straps.

Step 3: Clean the Footbed

Make a mixture of water with a dash of leather shampoo for natural leather Birkenstocks; Nubuck shampoo or mild soap and water can be used for Nubuck leather or suede shoes. When you have made the cleaning solution, dampen a toothbrush or any small brush in it, and clean the footbed of the Birkenstock using gentle, circular motions. This will help loosen the dirt and stains that have settled into the material.

Step 4: Wipe Off the Cleaning Solution

Using a clean, damp cloth, wipe away the lather left by the cleaning solution. Do not allow your Birkenstock sandals/shoes to get saturated, or remain wet for too long during the cleaning process. This means wiping off the product immediately after scrubbing the footbed as opposed to leaving it aside for a while. If you have a pair of EVA sandals, you may rinse them under running water, and even allow the cleaning solution to sit (if needed) as this material is waterproof.

Step 5: Clean the Soles

Use a damp cloth to clean the soles of the sandals; just a few wipes should do the trick without wetting or soaking the cork of the soles. If they require a deeper clean, make the following mixture and gently scrub with a toothbrush: 

Once scrubbed, wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth.

Step 6: Dry the Birkenstocks

Allow the sandals/shoes to air-dry at room temperature in a cool space with good ventilation. Avoid drying your Birkenstocks in hot areas such as direct/indirect sunlight, or near a heater.

It generally takes 24 hours for the sandals/shoes to dry. Once completely dry, gently brush the inside of the sandals to bring your suede to life. Lastly, close the straps and your Birkenstocks are ready to wear!

How to Clean EVA Birkenstock Sandals

Unbuckle the straps and use a damp cloth to wipe the sandals clean. Keep rinsing the cloth whilst you wipe the sandals down. For hard dirt, gently scrub the area with a bit of dishwashing liquid or washing detergent. Focus on the grooves/nooks and crannies to remove trapped dirt with a toothbrush. Rinse off the soap under running water, and leave them to air-dry.

How to Clean Fabric Birkenstocks

After dusting away the dirt and debris with a brush, use a cleaning solution made from 2 cups of water, and ½ teaspoon of laundry detergent to clean the footbed. Gently scrub the material with a toothbrush using circular motions, and then rinse the shoes by wiping with a clean, damp cloth. Allow them to air-dry in a cool location thereafter. 

How to Remove Stains from the Footbed

Begin by removing surface dirt with a brush. Then make a paste with baking soda and water; apply this to the stained areas of the footbed, and use a clean brush to gently work in the paste by scrubbing in circular motions. Allow it to sit for a few hours before wiping away the paste using a damp cloth. Leave the sandals to dry completely before wearing or storing them away.

Protecting Your Birkenstocks

person using protective spray on fabric based birkenstock

  • To protect your cork soles and help extend the life of your sandals, consider using a cork sealer. This will prevent the cork from drying out, and eliminates the possibility of damage due to water. 
  • For your Nubuck leather or suede shoes, spray the outer leather of your sandals with a waterproofing protector spray that is colorless. Do this regularly for continued care. Prior to using the spray, read and follow the instructions on application. Avoid getting the product on the footbed of your sandals by simply covering the area with a sheet of newspaper.
  • For your natural leather sandals, regularly rub leather grease on the outer leather of the sandals. Again, avoid getting grease on the footbed of your Birkenstocks.

Additional Cleaning and Care Tips for Your Birkenstocks

  • Weekly cleaning of your Birkenstocks will work wonders in extending its life. 
  • For a regular, mild clean, use a clean, damp microfiber cloth to wipe the footbed of your shoes. 
  • If your sandals get extremely dirty after a trip outside, wipe them clean with a damp cloth as soon as possible.
  • To remove tough stains on leather, mix mild detergent and warm water, and gently wipe with a damp cloth. 
  • For liquid spills on your Birkenstocks, use paper or a cloth to lift and absorb as much of the liquid as possible. Avoid wiping it as this will push the liquid further into the shoes. To remove oil spills from your shoes, sprinkle baby powder or cornstarch over the area, and leave for 4 hours before brushing it off. This process may need to be repeated. 
  • To remove tar or gum from suede, place an ice cube in a plastic bag, and keep it over the gum/tar until it hardens. Then, using a blunt, flat instrument like a knife, gently remove it. 
  • If the cork of the sandals is crumbling, take them to a cobbler to repair right away; this will help prevent further deterioration of the cork.
  • To remove bad odour; from your Birkenstocks, sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over them, and leave for a few hours; dust/brush off thereafter.

Remember, being kind to your Birkenstocks means being kind to your feet! Putting in a little time and effort to regularly clean your Birkenstocks will leave your feet feeling fresh and clean whilst also extending the longevity of your cushy, Birkenstocks sandals or shoes!

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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