Complete Care Guide: How to Clean & Wash Climbing Shoes

How to Clean Climbing Shoes
Image Source: Flat Feet Running Shoes

Climbing shoes take a lot of abuse and they stand between you and the ground that you walk on. It’s important to clean your climbing shoes regularly to keep them maintained and in their best possible conditions.

Climbing shoes are exposed to dirt, grime and environmental toxins. Sweat collects on the inside and it’s easy for fungus to develop in them. This decreases the amount of use you’ll get from them and when they weaken, they could fail you at a bad time that could put you in danger.

There are two ways you can clean your climbing shoes. By hand or by machine. These are the detailed step by step methods for properly cleaning your climbing shoes.

Hand Washing Climbing Shoes

Things you’ll need on hand

  • Large bucket or tub
  • Mild detergent
  • Small, soft cleaning brush (toothbrush)
  • Lukewarm water

Detailed Steps

Step 1: Fill the tub with water

Fill the tub or other container with clean lukewarm water. This temperature will help to loosen the dirt, dust, debris and other particles that need to be washed away. Do not use hot water because it can soften the rubber or other sole material. Cold water does not loosen grime or any deposits of sweat or body oils as well.

Step 2: Add mild detergent to the warm water

Choose a mild detergent and always avoid harsh ones because harsh chemicals can damage the uppers, laces, sole or padding materials. Only use a small amount in the water. If you choose to use plain water, the shoes will most likely not get clean because of the sweating and dirt that gets ground deeply into the materials.

Step 3: Brush off dust and debris

Take a small brush and brush away any dust or debris before you get the shoes wet. If there are particles on the inside, turn the shoe upside down and tap it gently to allow debris to fall out onto the ground.

Step 4: Scrub the outside

With a small brush, scrub the outside of the shoe including the upper, the tongue and the sole. Use the brush to loosen any stubborn stains, but don’t scrub so hard that you fray or tear the materials. this should be done as gently as possible.

Don’t forget to clean the sole while you’re at it. You can dip the shoes in the lukewarm water to loosen the dirt. If you don’t totally submerge them, some germs will remain inside, so it’s best to get the shoes soaked with the soapy water.

Step 5: Clean the inside

Use the small brush to gently scrub the inside of the shoes. Make sure to get into the hard to reach places and you can use your fingers to rub any areas that the brush can’t reach. Swish around in the soapy water to further remove any particles you’ve loosened.

Step 6: Rinse the shoes completely

Drain the tub or bucket of the soapy water and rinse it out. Refill with clean water. Place the shoes in the rinse water and agitate gently with your hands, then swish them around to remove the dirt and soap. Repeat this step until the water is clear.

Step 7: Thoroughly Dry

Shake all the water possible out of the shoes. You can also use a clean soft towel to wick up as much moisture as possible. The best method for drying shoes is to open them as far as possible and let them air dry out of direct sunlight where there is a breeze that can help speed the drying. Don’t wear them again until they are completely dry.

Machine Washing Climbing Shoes

This method is only recommended for climbing shoes with synthetic materials. It could ruin leather shoes.

Step 1: Set the washing machine to gentle cycle

Step 2: Add mild detergent to the wash water. Do not use bleach. Run through the wash cycle

Step 3: Hand dry

Never place your climbing shoes in a hot dryer. This will break down the sole material and it could damage some other materials used in the shoes. Air drying is always recommended. Follow the same procedure as listed in the hand washing process for drying the shoes.

A Few Tips

  • If odor is a problem, you can sprinkle baking soda in with the wash water to help neutralize the odor.
  • Air drying is the most common way to help remove foot odor from shoes.
  • You may also use deodorizing powder in the shoes when they are dry.
  • Avoid using powder in wet or damp shoes because it will clump or form a crusty residue on the inside of the shoe that is hard to remove.

Suggested Reads:

Best Rock Climbing Shoes for Wide Feet

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