How to Wash Climbing Shoes – The Ultimate Guide

Your climbing shoes take a beating on the rock. They get caked in dirt, chalk, and who knows what else. Moreover, feet sweat soaked by shoe interior over several climbing sessions make them stink creating serious smelling discomfort. And dirty shoes, unattended for long, serve shorter than the shoes properly maintained regularly. So, you need to keep your climbing shoes clean and fresh by giving a thorough wash. There are different suggestions on how to wash climbing shoes.

Yes, tricks and ways on how to clean climbing shoes vary depending on what type of shoes you have, the materials they are made of, and how dirty they are. Climbing shoes, an essential piece of gear for any climber, are important to keep clean and in good condition.

Be alert, any kind of washing is detrimental to shoe life and performance. Laundry detergent harms the leather, sole, and lace. And machine washing will risk your shoes fit, shape, and build though there is a popular notion that machine washing is suitable for synthetic shoes. Still people opt for machine washing when there is no other way out.

Aren’t you sure where to start? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here is our comprehensive guide on properly washing your climbing shoes, including expert tricks and pro tips.

What You Will Need to Wash Your Climbing Shoes

Washing climbing shoes is, no doubt, a messy task but the materials you need should be around you giving no run on your time to arrange them. Most of the supplies required for washing climbing shoes are house hold items that include:

  • A Tub or Bucket
  • Lukewarm Water
  • Soft soap or detergent
  • A soft tooth brush
  • Washing machine (while machine washing)
  • Blow dryer(only when you require rapid drying)

Whatever method or tricks you apply, these supplies should suffice to accomplish the task of washing climbing shoes. Not to repeat, washing machine is your personal preference while the blow dryer is a call of urgency when you are in a rush and need fast drying of the shoes.

How to Wash Climbing Shoes

How to Wash Climbing Shoes?

As indicated in the beginning, various factors play a role in washing this vital climbing gear – the material is crucial most of all.

If your shoes are made from synthetic materials, you can wash them in the washing machine. Conversely, if those are made from leather or suede, you should hand-wash them. If your shoes are made from a combination of materials, washing method is your preference but hand washing involves minimal risk.

In a fix on how to wash scarpa climbing shoes or how to clean climbing shoes la sportive or how to wash evolv climbing shoes or the shoes from other big brands? You need not be in as it’s all the same.

 How to Hand Wash Climbing Shoes?

Climbing shoes get scuffed, and the soles wear down. So, you should Hand wash climbing shoes between the climbing sessions. It is good practice to keep your shoes in pristine condition for long. Here you go with the efficient process.

  • Before putting them in the water, brush off your shoes and eliminate any dirt from the exterior. Then use a soft-bristled brush to clean your moldy climbing shoes.
  • One step that is often overlooked is removing the laces before washing. The tied-up laces can remain dirty on top of keeping the laced-up part of the shoe unwashed.
  • The next step is to take out the inner soles from the inside of the shoes. Not being limited to only washing the outside, cleaning the inside and the soles. To clean the soles, you will need a brush. A toothbrush or small cleaning brush should work well. Start by clearing off any accumulated dirt or debris from the midsoles. Then, use a light circular motion to clean the outer soles.
  • The extremely dirty shoes will still retain some stubborn dirt. Now, dip the shoes into the water bucket and let them sit for a few seconds to soften the remaining or stubborn dirt and make it easier to remove. You may use the brush again if the dirt is still embedded into the rubber.
  • Soap is a great way to clean your shoes and get rid of any dirt or debris that may be lodged in them. Make sure to get in between all the cracks and crevices in your shoes, as this is where dirt and debris can accumulate. Rinse the shoes thoroughly with warm water.
  • Be sure to rinse off all of the soap to ensure no build-up formation from soap left over. Remember that excessive soap or harsh detergent in the water can be very harsh on the shoes besides being the said inconvenience. With soap and detergent rinsed off efficiently, let the clean shoes air dry away from direct sunlight.
  • It’s time to Air dry them as it prevents the growth of mold and mildew. You can air dry them by hanging them in a relatively cool place barred from direct sunlight. Please do not use them until they are completely dry. If you are in a rush and require drying sooner, place them in indirect sunlight, but check on them every few minutes.

How to Wash Climbing Shoes in Washing Machine?

Machine washing climbing shoes might seem overkill but trust us: it’s worth it when you are in a rush and if they are not leather shoes. However, here’s how to do it right:

  • When your machine washes your climbing shoes, it is important to remove the laces first. If you don’t, the laces can get caught in the machine and damage them. Another reason to remove the laces is that they can get wet and stretched out, affecting the fit of your shoes.
  • Use warm water with your shoes and let them run a few cycles before pulling them out of the machine. This will help soften the accumulated and stubborn dirt and make them easier to wash away. However, you should never use hot water, as it can damage the shoes by melting the glue and rubber soles. Instead, use cold or lukewarm water, and be sure to avoid using any harsh detergents.
  • Leaving your climbing shoes to air dry in an outdoor environment is the best way to go. If you live in a dry climate, this will work well. If you live in a humid climate, you might need to take extra steps. Under some shade is the best place to dry, as the sun can cause them to shrink and crack.

Smart Alternatives to Washing your Climbing Shoes

The alternatives of washing your climbing shoes are smarter in the sense that they act as precautionary measures against dirt build-up, developing funk and disgusting odor. Thus, they save your shoes from damage caused by deep-water and machine wash. If you are wondering, how to clean smelly climbing shoes; most of the tricks below will answer smartly.

 Using Damp Cloth 

One way to clean your climbing shoes is to use a damp cloth. This method is useful for cleaning the soles of your climbing shoes. It is also useful for cleaning the rubber on your climbing shoes that rub against the rock.

Besides, there are other advantages for you to use a damp cloth, such as you can clean the dirtiest part of your climbing shoes, which is the sole and the edge of your climbing shoe. Another benefit is that you don’t need water to clean your climbing shoes because it is easier for water to damage the fabric and leather of your shoes.

Odor-killing Initiatives

The prime cause of giving a thorough wash to your climbing shoes is to eliminate the stink borne out of foot sweat and other dirt. There are a few different ways to try and prevent smell development in your climbing shoes.

One popular method is to use odor-killing initiatives such as baking soda or Febreze. If you apply the said odor-killing agents across the shoe interior after every climbing session, they will not develop stench, and you can do away without washing frequently.

If you don’t have time for a full wash, you can also try using a shoe deodorizer spray or gel. They will keep the shoes in good condition.

Let your Climbing Shoes Breathe

If they are constantly being suffocated by tight and tied-up laces and keeping them always stored in non-mesh bags, they will grow stinky.

Instead of shoving your climbing shoes to the bottom of your pack, clip them on the outside. When you’re out on the trail, clipping the climbing shoes on the surface of the bag is the wisest as it will prevent moisture from staying and spreading of bacteria.

And between the uses, you should keep them in a well-ventilated and dry space for moisture to vanish. Thus, you will require minimal wash cleaning for your climbing shoes.

Freeze Them for a Night

Another smart alternative to washing your shoes is to stick them in the freezer by locking them in zip-lock bag and let them freeze for a night. Thus, bacteria, the main culprit for stinky shoes, will stop spreading in cold atmosphere though not killed.

Chalk Your Feet Before Wearing the Shoes

Chalking across your feet will make them sweat lesser, if not fully prevent sweating, because chalk is an efficient moisture absorber. Minimal or no sweating means no stench. And if they are not smelly, you don’t need to wash them to risk your shoe leather, sole, and laces. Anti-perspirant can do the job for you in case you don’t have chalk with you.

Precautions: What to Avoid When Washing Your Climbing Shoes?

However, like all gear, climbing shoes need proper care and maintenance to perform at their best. An essential part of smart care and maintenance is to avoid the factors that can be damaging for your climbing shoes:

Avoid Hot Water Wash

One of the most important things to remember when caring for climbing shoes is to avoid washing them in hot water. Hot water will damage the materials and components within the shoes, making them less comfortable and more likely to rip. Moreover, this can weaken the glue that holds the shoe together, making it less effective and cutting short its lifespan.

Avoid Harsh Detergents or Bleach 

Another thing you should say NO to when washing your climbing shoes is harsh detergents. Harsh detergents or bleach can damage the rubber on your shoes and make them less effective. Instead, use a mild detergent like soap and water. This will clean your climbing shoes without damaging them.

Not to Heat Dry Climbing Shoes

Do not use a washing machine or dryer. The high heat can damage the shoes. So, never use heat to dry your climbing shoes. Heat can cause the glue that holds the shoes together to melt, and the shoes will no longer hold together. Instead, use a fan to dry them. Moreover, they will severely attack the shoe upper and the rubber sole. Please do not put them in the dryer either; they will shrink.

Do Not Wash Them in Washing Machine

One of the biggest mistakes people make is washing their shoes in the washing machine without considering the consequence. This can not only damage your shoes but can also void your warranty. Washing in the machine can save you time and give the shoes a shinier look, making the shoe life shorter. This damages the materials, components, and the build-up in the long run.

Avoid Commercial Shoe Cleaners 

One important way to protect your investment and keep your shoes performing their best is by avoiding commercial shoe cleaners. Shoe cleaners often contain harsh chemicals that can damage the delicate fabric and stitch on climbing shoes and rubber soles.

Never Sun Dry Climbing Shoes for Long

Leaving your climbing shoes in the sun can warp them, which will make them less effective when you go to use them. Climbing shoes are made of materials that the sun’s heat can damage, so storing them in a cool, dry place is always important. If your shoes are warped, they will be uncomfortable to wear and could cause you to lose your grip while climbing. Most climbing shoes are made of leather damaged by extreme temperatures and cleaning chemicals.


Can I put my climbing shoes in the washing machine?

Climbers often ask if it is safe to put their climbing shoes in the washing machine. The answer, as with most things, is it depends. Most climbing shoes are made from leather or synthetic material and can be machine washed on the gentle cycle using cold water and a mild detergent. However, some shoes are not meant for machine washing and can become damaged if placed in the washer.

Should you sun your climbing shoes? 

Let’s explore the pros and cons of sunning your climbing shoes. Climbing is a sport that takes place outdoors, which means your shoes are constantly exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Sunning your shoes can help them dry out quickly after a rainstorm, but it can also damage the leather and rubber.

The biggest advantage of sunning your shoes is that it dries out your shoes quickly after a rainstorm or water wash. Climbing shoes, made of leather or synthetic material and rubber, become waterlogged if they get wet. If you don’t dry them out properly, the leather and rubber will break down and degrade. But to be on the safe side, you must avoid the scorching sun or keeping the shoes for long under direct sun.

How do you Desmell climbing shoes? 

Climbing shoes can start to smell pretty bad after a while, but luckily, there are some ways to de-smell them. One way is to sprinkle baking soda in the shoes and let them sit overnight. Another way is to put them in a sealed bag with newspaper and let them sit for a few days. A third way is to put them in the freezer for a few days.

Some people use a vinegar and water mixture, and still, others use a commercial de-smelling product. There are pros and cons to each of these methods. The best way to de-smell climbing shoes is to try each of these methods and see which one works best for you.

Can I soak my climbing shoes? 

Climbing shoes are an important piece of gear for climbers. They provide the necessary friction to allow climbers to grip the rock. Over time, climbing shoes can become worn and less effective. One way to restore their effectiveness is to soak them in water. Soaking your climbing shoes can help soften the rubber and restore its gripping power.

Soaking climbing shoes will soften the dirt build-up and mold in the crevices and cracks to remove them easily with a toothbrush. Hot shower soaking helps stretch the shoes when you walk putting on the water-soaked shoes.

Is it OK to spray Lysol in shoes? 

There are many debates on what is okay to spray in your shoes. Some people say that spraying Lysol in your shoes is a good way to get rid of bacteria, while others say it can cause more harm than good. The biggest problem with Lysol is that it can damage the rubber material of your climbing shoes.

The spray can dry out the leather or make them lose their ability to stick to surfaces because it weakens the rubber and makes it less sticky. There are many different ways to treat shoe odor, and it is best to consult with a specialist to see the best option for you.

How do you clean rubber climbing shoes? 

The best way to clean rubber climbing shoes is to use a mixture of water and soap. You can use a brush to scrub the shoes and then rinse them with water. Make sure to dry the shoes completely before putting them away. Rubber climbing shoes are also cleaned with a wet cloth and a mild detergent.

Avoid harsh chemicals or solvents, as these can damage the rubber. It’s also important to allow the shoes to air dry completely before storing them away. But you must avoid dry heating, microwave drying, and direct sunlight if you don’t want your prime climbing gear to crack, break, and wrap.

Can you put baking soda in climbing shoes? 

Climbers have long debated the merits of using baking soda in their climbing shoes. Some people swear by it, while others believe it does nothing to improve their climbing. So, can you put baking soda in climbing shoes? The answer is yes – and no. Baking soda is a common household product used for everything from cleaning to deodorizing.

You can put baking soda in climbing shoes, but it’s unnecessary and won’t necessarily improve your performance. Baking soda is also a drying agent. This means that it will remove moisture and sweat from your skin and prevent the material in climbing shoes (which is often made of synthetic leather) from breaking down over time.

How do you clean climbing shoes with vinegar? 

Cleaning climbing shoes with vinegar is a simple and effective way to remove dirt, bacteria, and other contaminants from the surface of the shoes. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and cleaner that can clean a variety of surfaces.

Mix one-part vinegar with three parts water in a spray bottle to clean your climbing shoes with vinegar. Spray the mixture onto the shoes and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Wipe the shoes clean with a cloth or brush.

Do tea bags stop shoes smelling? 

This is a question that many people have asked, and the answer is not always clear. Some people say that tea bags work to stop shoes from smelling, while others say this does not work. Teabags do not stop shoes from smelling. They may even make the smell worse.

The best way to find out if this method works for you is to try it out for yourself. If you are someone who tends to have smelly shoes, then using tea bags as a way to stop the smell may be worth a try.

Does not wearing socks make shoes stink? 

There is a debate on whether or not wearing socks makes shoes stink. Some people believe that not wearing socks creates a build-up of sweat and bacteria in the shoe, which causes it to smell. Others say that not wearing socks allows the shoe to breathe, preventing it from smelling as the feet and shoes will not directly contact. There is no definitive answer, but it is something to consider if you have trouble with smelly shoes.

To find out, you can experiment. For two weeks, follow one person who always wears socks and one who never wears socks. Then smell their shoes, or you can do it yourself.

What keeps shoes smelling fresh? 

Many factors can affect the smell of shoes. The type of material the shoes are made of, the way they are stored, and the amount of wear and tear they endure all play a part in how long they will smell fresh.

One of the best ways to keep shoes smelling fresh is to prevent them from getting wet in the first place. If they get wet, make sure to dry them off completely before putting them away. Also, make sure to store them in a dry place. If shoes are stored in a damp area, they can smell pretty quickly. Cleaning the shoes regularly is also an effective way to keep them smelling fresh.

Wrap Up

Climbing shoes, caked in mud or dirt, can be difficult to clean and may end up taking longer than if they had been kept clean in the first place. This article has explored several efficient ways to clean your dirty climbing shoes, freshen up your stinky shoes, and keep them in good condition.

We have elaborated the most efficient washing methods- both by hand and machine on top of focusing on the preventive measures and precautions to take. You haven’t skipped the suggestion that avoid frequent washing is the best bet to keep your shoes clean, fresh, and unharmed at the same time.

If you are not satisfied or convinced by the answers on how to wash climbing shoes reddit and other forums, don’t worry. This in-depth guide on how to wash climbing shoes must answer more than you have expected.


Afzall Rahman

Afzall Rahman is a college teacher by profession and is a rock-climbing enthusiast from his early childhood. So, anything on climbing keeps him glued to for hours - be it a movie on or related to climbing, book on or by climbers, article or podcast on climbing destinations, skills, gears, or the likes.

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