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How To Clean Climbing Shoes (And Remove The Stink)

Just like your everyday street shoes, your climbing shoes can really start to smell ripe if you’re not taking proper care of them and cleaning them once in a while. 

In addition to getting rid of stinky climbing shoe odor, regularly cleaning those climbers helps you get a bit more wear out of them by extending their useful life.

So, if you’re ready to get your climbing shoes looking and smelling better, then we’ve got tips on the proper way to clean them before and after your next climbing excursion.

Can You Wash Climbing Shoes?

red rock climbing shoes

Yes, you can wash climbing shoes. And we can tell you how to do it safely so you don’t damage them.

The best way to wash your climbing shoes it to hand wash them. Here’s how:

  1. Put your shoes in the sink and fill it with warm (not hot!) water and some laundry detergent.
  2. Leave the shoes to soak in the soapy water for an hour (unless they’re leather, then do a half hour).
  3. Use your hands to try to work out any mud or other debris still in the shoes after the hour. A soft brush can also be used carefully.
  4. Drain the water and rinse out the shoes until the water runs clear.
  5. Pat dry with a towel and then stuff the shoes with newspaper or paper towels so they don’t shrink as you leave them to air dry.
  6. Let the shoes air dry completely, just make sure they’re not in direct sunlight.

Never put climbing shoes in a tumble dryer.

Do you have synthetic climbing shoes? Then you can safely wash them in your washing machine.

  • Close all Velcro straps and remove laces
  • Use the gentle cycle
  • Use warm, not hot, water
  • Don’t use bleach, just laundry detergent
  • Air dry completely

As you can see, washing and cleaning your climbing shoes is a relatively simple process.

How Do You Deodorize Climbing Shoes?

If your climbing shoes are really bringing the stink between cleanings, then you might want to start deodorizing them. There are a few different ways you can do this.

  • Lightly spray with Lysol, Dettol, Febreeze, or OdoBan
  • Sprinkle deodorizing foot powder in the shoes when you’re not wearing them
  • Spray some tea tree oil on a damp cloth and wipe down the inside of the shoes
  • Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda in the shoes when you’re not wearing them to absorb the odors
  • Put some white vinegar in the water when you’re soaking your shoes to clean them
  • Put dryer sheets in your climbing shoes when you’re not using them
  • Put activated charcoal inserts in the shoes when you’re not wearing them

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to take your climbing shoes from stink to clean smell. 

Of course, if you wear socks and only put clean feet into your shoes, then the smell won’t be as much of an issue. One climber mentioned always using Purell anti-bacterial gel on his feet before putting on his climbing shoes to ensure that his feet are clean.

Tips To Keep Your Climbing Shoes Clean

Once you get these shoes all cleaned and smelling good, you don’t want all that hard work to go to waste, right? While you can’t prevent your feet from sweating in them, there are a few things that you can do to keep the shoes as clean as possible in between proper cleanings.

  • Don’t put on your climbing shoes until you’re on-site and ready to start climbing
  • Don’t go barefoot picking up dirt and other debris before you put your shoes on
  • Use a tarp to keep your climbing shoes off the ground when you’re not actively climbing
  • Always transport the shoes in a show bag
  • Don’t leave them in the bag or your pack once you get home – set them out to air dry
  • Use powders or sprays if they get stinky
  • Spot clean dirty exteriors with damp, not wet, cloth
  • Remove as much dirt from the soles as possible after a climb with a damp cloth and dry them afterwards
  • Never leave the shoes in the direct sunlight or in a hot car or other hot location

These tips should help you keep those climbers in good condition for as long as possible.

image credit, CC2.0

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