How To Clean Birkenstocks

A cobbler shares how to make last year’s sandals look like new again.
How To Clean Birkenstocks

Summer is fast approaching, and whether or not you’re looking to add new sandals to your collection, now is a good time to assess whether last year’s dirty pair can be saved. Birkstenstocks are still trending and are guaranteed to be summer’s hottest style once again, and it’s easy to see why—they’re comfy, versatile and, above all, timeless. But they also get grimy incredibly quickly.

Before you take yours out for a spin, we asked Lorena Agolli, owner and head cobbler or shoe repair studio Sole Survivor in Toronto, how to clean Birkstenstocks to make them look brand new. 

What to use to clean Birkenstocks

To keep the leather or suede straps of your Birkenstock sandals free of stains, odors and disinfect them, Agolli recommends using a clean white cloth soaked in a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Use the damp cloth to dab away at stains. The process dries out the leather, so follow up with a cream or wax leather conditioner once the rubbing alcohol has evaporated completely. For a quick fix, try SandalRescue+ wipes.

Keeping a suede brush in your cleaning kit is a good idea, as it can buff out dirt without the need to use cleaning products or alcohol.

To get rid of the accumulated dirt and sweat that result in the dreaded foot imprint on the suede insole, use sandpaper in soft circular motions. Lightly buff the fibres to make them fluffy and soft again. 

A pair of white Birkenstock Arizona sandals for an article on how to clean Birkenstocks.Birkenstock Arizona Big Buckle Sandals, $210,

How to treat Birkenstocks

Spraying your sandals—including the footbed—with a moisture-repellent spray will help prevent water damage and stop sweat from absorbing into the leather, trapping in odors. You can also seal the cork sole with a cork sealer to make it waterproof.

“People often want to be proactive, but they kind of go overboard,” warns Agolli. This can cause the material to crack and look dirty.

“Treat your sandals like you would treat your skin—you don't want to over-moisturize, but you also don’t want to let it go dry.”

What to do when Birkenstocks get wet

Let damp sandals dry out completely after every single wear. “Otherwise, the shoe never has time to breathe,” says Agolli. The accumulation of sweat and rain water can lead to odors and a dirty footbed.

How to store Birkenstocks

If the straps have lost their shapes, stuff them with newspaper after you’ve cleaned and conditioned them so they can dry into shape. 

When the season is done, store them in a shoe box or flat on top of your shoe rack, making sure the footbed is not bent and the straps aren’t crushed under other items

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