How to Clean Climbing Shoes: 7 Steps to Fresh Feet (2024)

Last Updated on: 13th May 2024, 10:32 pm

For anyone that’s been climbing for a while, you know that one of the worst parts is the smell of the shoes. Mine have got so bad that just handling them to take them off between climbs leaves my hands wreaking of stinky foot. Unfortunately, there’s no way to minimize sweating, especially in hot gyms. The only real solution is to give them a wash, but beware. You need to know how to clean climbing shoes before you start or you might risk ruining your shoe.

Climbing shoes are different than any other pair you have lying around your house. The irony of them is that the rubber that makes them so durable can be easily damaged by traditional washing. If you want to preserve the shoes health while removing the deadly smell of climbers feet, then follow our guidelines.

Why it’s important to clean your climbing shoes

Climbing shoes are the most important part of any climbing gear list. They’re the first thing you buy, and the piece of equipment you use most often. Clean climbing shoes ensure that you hae good grip while on the rock and don’t pop off unexpectedly which can lead to injury.

Sure, stinky shoes suck. But dirty shoes can actually be dangerous. Best to take the time to make sure they are in tip-top shape and ready to perform.

How to clean climbing shoes

You can clean your climbing shoes in seven steps to keep your shoes in top-notch condition. There aren’t too many specific guidelines on how to wash climbing shoes.The basics are to dry rub away grime, suds up with mild soap, rinse away any residue, and then let your shoes air dry.

Step 1: Get the right supplies

Before you get into cleaning, you’ll want to make sure you have the right tools. Take a second and gather:

  • A gentle soap or climbing shoe cleaner (a bit of dish soap is fine, just don’t overdo it)
  • A soft brush or toothbrush
  • A microfiber cloth or soft towel
  • A water source (sink or bucket)
supplies to clean climbing shoes: shoes, soapy water, brush, towel

Step 2: Dry rub away any grime

First give your shoes a good shake to get rid of any loose dirt and debris. Then gently use your brush to wipe away any remaining grime. Don’t use any water yet, and take it easy while brushing. No need to put too much pressure on them quite yet.

Step 3: Suds Up

Mix some mild soap with little bit with water in a container or sink. If you’ve got some fancy climbing shoe cleaner, follow the instructions on the bottle – if you’ve ever cleaned anything before, this part should be easy.

Step 4: Wash climbing shoe fabric

There are a couple different takes on how to wash climbing shoes, but I’ll give you the method that I use. Take your soft brush or toothbrush, dip it in the sudsy goodness, and give the fabric of your shoes a gentle scrub. Work on the fabric, showing extra love to areas with pesky stains and dirt patches.

brush cleaning climbing shoe

You can even pop inside the shoe and scrub the inner sole to clean it up. Since the majority of your sweat is going to accumulate here, you might not be able to clean all the stains away. But a scrub will still do a lot of good.

Step 5: Scrub the outside sole

Cleaning the outside of the rubber sole might feel pointless, but it’s actually the most important step for performance . You’ll want to get rid of chalk buildup and any dirt that’s holding your shoes back from giving their best grip.

scrubbing outside sole to clean climbing shoe

Last step to clean a climbing shoe: rinse it

Step 6: Rinse away the grime

Give your shoes a good rinse in some cold clean water to wash away any leftover soap or cleaner. You don’t want soap or grime left on the fabric, so rinse away as much as you can. Your shoe is going to get wet, but the less wet they get, the better.

Step 7: Air dry only

Gently pat your shoes dry with that soft cloth or towel to remove as much access water as you can — don’t wring or press them. Stuff the shoes full of newspaper to help absorb any leftover water.

To finish the drying process, let your shoes sit at room temperature away from any heat sources. Excess heat is bad for your shoe, if you’d like to put them near a fan to speed things up, that’s fine.

Can you put climbing shoes in the washing machine?

NO! This is the fastest way to wreck your shoes. If you can’t tell from the steps above, the name of the game when it comes to cleaning shoes is being delicate. A washer machine will put too much stress on the stitching and adhesive, and likely blow out your shoe. There are a couple brands like Butora that say you can wash in a machine, but it’s not true for all pairs and you do so at your own risk.

My opinion? Don’t take the easy way out — clean your climbing shoes right or lose your shoes forever.

How to fix holes in climbing shoes

If you’re finding that there is a hole in the rubber of your shoe, it needs more than a clean. At this point, you’ll want to look into resoling your climbing shoe. This is a process you can’t do yourself and will need to contact an expert for help with. But by doing so, you can give your shoes a second life and avoid having to buy a new pair.

Can I Lysol climbing shoes?

If you’re looking for a quick fix, you can lysol your shoes without causing harm to the fabric. Lysol is a good temporary fix, but it doesn’t clean climbing shoes all the way. It won’t do anything about the dirt, so you have to use soap and water if you want the job done right.

Wrap-up: How to clean climbing shoes

Cleaning climbing shoes is a simple way to do your part in the fight against stinky feet. Remember, these shoes are not your average kicks, and knowing how to clean climbing shoes properly is crucial to preserve their performance and lifespan. Avoid the washing machine at all costs and opt for a gentle, hands-on approach.

Respect your shoes, and they’ll reward you with the grip you need to conquer those challenging routes. And if you ever find a hole in the rubber, consider getting them resoled instead of saying goodbye to your favorite pair.

Remember, Lysol might provide a quick fix, but nothing compares to a proper cleaning with soap and water. Now that you know how to clean climbing shoes, take pride in maintaining them — they’ll be your loyal companions throughout countless adventures. Happy climbing!

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