October 15, 2020

How to Clean Climbing Shoes? Remove Smell from Climbing Shoe

by Brad

If you have climbing shoes, you must know that it is quite challenging to maintain them, given that they are exposed to grime and dirt.

Apart from this, sweat can lead to a bad smell, leading to germs, and ailments.

The dirty shoes can prove to be an obstacle to your climbing since they can cause accidents by slipping.

In this article, we have mentioned some surefire guidelines on how to clean climbing shoes.

First of all, we will look at how to prevent your climbing shoes from getting dirty.

Read our guide on how to choose the best climbing shoes for wide feet.


Table of Contents
Climbing Shoes Advice How to Clean Climbing Shoes
How to Clean Climbing Shoes? Remove Smell from Climbing Shoe

How to Clean Climbing Shoes in 5 Steps

This is a 5-step approach to keeping your climbing shoes clean.

Step 1: Wash your feet

Before putting your feet in your climbing shoes, make sure that they are dry and clean.

It is particularly important if you are not putting on socks since bacteria might enter the footwear from the feet.

Moreover, if you are climbing without wearing warm socks, you tend to sweat, and bacteria might cause fungus by entering into the shoes.

Fungi thrive in moisture, and therefore, make sure to keep your feet dry while putting on the climbing shoes, which will prevent you from getting Athlete’s Foot.

Step 2: Store the climbing shoes in an open area

It is quite important that you do not store the climbing shoes in tight corners.

The fact is that your feet will be sweating while you are climbing.

They will be sweating a lot. This is going to make your footwear wet, and they will be the perfect breeding area for bacteria.

In case you keep your shoes in the dark and enclosed areas, you are helping bacteria develop more within the shoes.

In case you allow your shoes to become dry in an open area, you will prevent moisture from building up.

Step 3: Take your shoes off between climbs

You might be on your climbing trip, but that does not imply that it is imperative to wear shoes all the time.

If you are not climbing, make it a point to take the shoes off so that they can air out.

This will make them smell better by reducing the moisture.

Step 4: Make use of air fresheners

In case your climbing shoes are beginning to smell, it will be sensible to take some other measures apart from the ones mentioned above.

For instance, deodorizing powders will help eliminate any kind of foul smell from the shoes.

Just make sure that they will not damage the human skin by coming in contact.

However, suppose taking any preventative measures is not coming of use to you.

In that case, what can you do? Is there any way to clean the climbing shoes, or do you need to purchase a new pair?

The answer is something that will make you happy in the long run. There is definitely a way to wash your climbing shoes.

However, the bad thing is that the process might be somewhat time-consuming.

While cleaning the climbing shoes, it is crucial that you do not damage the materials, including the rubber of the climbing shoes.

You should also take into consideration the materials from which they have been made.

Try to figure out whether they’re synthetic. After figuring this out, follow the subsequent washing guidelines mentioned below.

How to Clean Climbing Shoes in 3 Steps

This is a simple, 3-step approach to cleaning climbing shoes.

Step 1: Always hand wash the shoes

When it comes to climbing shoes, the most effective washing method is to wash them with your own hands.

For this, you will require the proper equipment consisting of water, a bucket, as well as a brush.

Step 2: Make use of warm water

After starting the process of cleaning your climbing shoes, make it a point that the bucket is filled only with warm water.

Do not use any harsh chemical substance or anything which might damage the shoes’ materials.

It will be a sensible idea to add some mild detergent if you would like to get rid of bacteria and remove dirt.

Take care not to overdo it since it might damage the shoes eventually.

Step 3: Air dry

After following the guidelines mentioned above, hang your shoes out for drying.

Never throw the shoes in the dryer since the heat might shrink and also damage them.

If somehow you are interested in shrinking your climbing shoes, learn how to shrink your climbing shoes here.

Instead, hang the shoes so that they can be dried in the open.

However, make it a point to check the weather before washing the shoes.

You will not like to clean them in case it is raining outside.

How to Clean Climbing Shoes by Hands 

Before cleaning your rock climbing shoes, you have to harmonize a large bucket and lukewarm water.

Also, you need to have a mild detergent and soft cleaning brush, preferably a toothbrush.

Note that the steps below are applicable for the cleaning approach shoes.

Step 1. How to clean climbing shoes 

You have to fill your bucket or tub with lukewarm water.

The reason for the little temperatures is to help loosen tough dirt, tissue debris, and other fragments that need to be removed.

Remember using hot water will soften your sole, making the climbing shoe useless; hence you should avoid it.

Coldwater, on the other hand, will not loosen grunge. It will also be infective in the removal of body oils and accumulated sweat. 

Step 2. How to clean climbing shoes 

Find a mild detergent and keep off harsh chemicals since they will destroy your shoes’ soles, padding materials, and uppers.

Also, you should only add small amounts of detergent to the lukewarm water.

Your rock climbing shoes may not get super clean due to sweat and dirt that becomes embedded into the materials. 

Step 3. How to clean climbing shoes 

Use a small brush to scrub off grime or dust prior to immersing the shoes in the water.

Should there be particles on the inside, hold the shoes upside down and knock them gently with your hand until they fall off. 

Step 4. How to clean climbing shoes exteriorly 

Again, you have to scrub the exterior part with the same brush. An

d the process should also apply to the sole and the tongue.

The brush should be able to remove dirt and loosen stains. You should gently scrub it to avoid tearing.

Remember to fully immerse the shoes into the bucket since failure to do so will have dirt unloosened.

Some germs may still stick on the inside.

It would be helpful if you keep the climbing shoes in lathered water so that all places get sterilized with soap.

Step 5. How to clean climbing shoes internally 

Still, with the small brush, scrub the inside of your climbing shoes after soaking them in water.

Ensure you clean all the inaccessible places and use your fingers if needed.

After scrubbing, immerse them again in the lukewarm water, this time removing the loosened dirt. 

Step 6. Rinse the shoes thoroughly 

Pour away water containing detergent off the bucket. You will have to clean and fill it with clean lukewarm water.

Immerse in your shoes and agitate them vigorously. Once done, swish them to get rid of soapy water and residual dirt.

Repeat this step until you get clear water in the end. 

Step 7. Final step

After rinsing your shoes, you will have to shake them out of the water thoroughly.

A clean towel will also help absorb moisture water from the shoe material.

After this part, you should let the wide open in direct sunlight.

Here the breezing and the direct heat will speed up the drying process.

Remember you should not wear them until they are completely dry. 

How to Clean Your Climbing Shoes by Using a Washing Machine 

Before you use a washing machine to clean your shoes, you must know that it will destroy leather shoes.

Therefore, only use it if you are cleaning synthetic climbing shoes. 

The 3-step process involved in machine washing 

  • Step 1. Turn on your machine and set it to a gentle mode. Proceed by adding a mild detergent to the wash water. Also, you should avoid using bleach. Once done, you have to run the wash cycle. 
  • Step 2. After the cycle, remove your shoes from the machine and dry them with your hand. Remember never to place your shoe in a hot dryer as it will destroy your shoe sole and the parts of the washing machine.
  • Step 3. Air is the most recommended mode of drying, and you can apply the hand wash drying procedure at this point. 

How to Remove Smell from Climbing Shoes?

The majority of climbing shoes are made from leather and rubber and fit snugly to one’s feet to ensure that they do not fall off easily and are comfortable.

Climbing shoes and manufactured to keep in warmth because the temperature at the top of many mountains can reach negative.

The sweat, dead skin cells, and heat that become trapped in the shoe are breeding grounds for odor-causing bacteria.

The bacteria multiply if the climbing shoe is not cleaned correctly and so creates a funk.

We will explain what you should do to remove the smell from climbing shoes.

Step 1. Clean Your Feet

The odor-causing bacteria found on feet; feed on sweat, dead skin cells, and the oil produced by your skin and is constantly multiplying.

Some people produce more sweat than others, and their shoes smell bad because the bacteria on their feet produce sulfur compounds instead of just rank organic acids.

Washing your feet with antibacterial soap and keeping them dry can prevent them from getting too stinky.

Keep dead skin cells at a minimum by using a foot scrub or pumice stone. 

Wearing cotton socks and switching shoes in between use can also prevent climbing shoes from getting smelly.

Step 2. Wash Your Rock Climbing Shoes

Often, the odor in climbing shoes comes from the insoles as they trap the sweat.

Now you need to figure out how to remove the smell from climbing shoes when this happens.

Identify whether your insole can be removed and either machine-washed or hand-washed.

Climbing shoes are better off being hand-washed; however, using a washing bag on the lowest setting of a washing machine can also remove odor.

Shoes must be dried for a day after a wash.

Step 3. Hang Your Climbing Shoes to Dry

Rappelling off a cliff can be tiring but instead of stowing your climbing shoes in your backpack or under your car seat, hang them out to dry or place them in the sun.

Moisture causes bacterial growth.

Wipe down climbing shoes with an antibacterial wipe or spray disinfectant before hanging in the wind or beside a heater/fireplace.

Direct sunlight can effectively disinfect shoes and kill odor-causing bacteria.

Silica packets can also get rid of moisture but keep them out of reach of children.

Step 4. Use Newspapers, Baking Soda, and a Freezer

Stuffing your shoes with this morning’s newspaper is another way to get rid of moisture after a climbing session.

The newspapers also help shoes to keep their shape when being transported.

Baking soda can be found in almost any home and is a great way to deodorize climbing shoes.

Sprinkling baking soda inside of shoes is not recommended as it can leave the insoles sticky and slimy.

Fill a coffee filter with baking soda, add a drop of your favorite essential oil, secure it with a string or rubber band, and leave it overnight in shoes.

Cold temperatures cannot kill bacteria and fungus; it only puts them to sleep.

However, placing climbing shoes in the freezer is one way to remove odor from your shoes but remember to thaw and dry before use. 

Step 5. Use Odor Removing Products

If the previous tips do not work for you, then the following products can help.

1. Sneaker Balls/Shoe Deodorizers

Deodorizing sneaker balls contain baking soda or charcoal and emit a pleasant smell through little vents.

They can last for up to five months and be placed in shoes, closets, and bags. 

Sof Sole Sneaker Balls start from $4.99 and come in packs of two and six.

2. Bamboo Charcoal

Many deodorizing products are made with bamboo charcoal because it can absorb both stinky smells and moisture.

Purchase bamboo charcoal, place it in a sock or stocking, and store it in climbing shoes to remove odors.

It is non-toxic and can be used for long periods. 

Moso Natural Mini Air Purifying Bags can be placed in shoes overnight to remove odor and moisture.

3. Disinfectant Spray

Odor-eliminating disinfectant sprays are sometimes made with essential oils and antibacterial chemicals that neutralize odors and leave climbing shoes smelling fresh.

Lumi Outdoors Deodorizing Sprays are made with naturally sourced ingredients to kill and prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria.

To summarize: Here’s all you need to know to get rid of odors from climbing shoes

  1. Keep your feet clean, especially between the toes. Don’t forget to scrub off dead skin and dry it with a clean rag or towel.
  2. Hang climbing shoes to dry or place them directly in the sun after every use. Storing wet shoes in a bag is an absolute no-no!
  3. Use odor-removing products like deodorizes, disinfectant sprays, or bamboo charcoal. These are excellent fighters to get rid of that pesky climbing shoe smell.
  4. If all else fails, get rid of those climbing shoes because no one wants to be around stinky feet.

The above information is sure to help you remove the smell from climbing shoes.

Can You Wash Climbing Shoes?

Constant washing of your climbing shoes is not advised, but when times are desperate, you can turn to water and soap.

So, the simple answer to this question, “can you wash climbing shoes?” is simple, yes, you can easily wash your climbing shoes but with great caution.

Our Simple 7-Step Process to Washing Rock Climbing Shoes

When you feel that things have turned bad and you need to wash climbing shoes, you only have two options—hand wash or machine wash.

Always avoid the latter and turn to the former only in dire needs.

Below we have outlined some steps and tips on how to hand wash your climbing shoes.

1) Fill Your Basin or Tub with Warm Water

The water should be about 25 to 30% degrees Celsius.

The warm temperature is ideal to do away with any form of dust and other forms of debris.

Avoid hot water as it can easily damage your rubber sole, and cold water won’t be effective.

2) Add Some Detergent

Mild detergent is essential in removing sticky dirt and sweat.

If you use water without any detergent, it will be hard to reach the detergents, which might be hiding in the fine cracks and folds.

Avoid strong or concentrated detergents as they can easily damage your shoe liners and sole.

Also, strong detergents can easily make your shoe tear up or even damage it.

3) Use a Brush to Dust off Your Shoe

Do this before submerging your shoe into the water. Brush the dust gently.

You can also blow the dust with your mouth as you brush it off.

Remove the little rocks from the shoes by flipping them upside down and padding them.

Lightly toss the pair of shoes upside down and pad them gently to get rid of any stones, chalks, or rocks on the bottom side.

4) Scrub Your Shoe Gently

Now you can wet and wash your rock climbing shoes by scrubbing them outside with a small brush.

Ensure that you wash the upper parts, the sole, and the tongue of your shoe. Don’t press the brush too hard, be gentle.

Remember, your main goal isn’t to damage your climbing shoes but to get them clean.

The question that might be lingering in your mind now is, “Can climbing shoes be washed on the inside?” Yes, this is the subsequent step.

5) Gently Clean the Inner Part

Using a small brush, gently scrub the inner part of your shoe.

Ensure that you have thoroughly cleaned your brush off the outer part’s dirt before cleaning the inner part.

Dip-rinse the shoe in warm soapy water multiple times to remove all the loosened dirt particles.

6) Now, Rinse It with Lukewarm Water

Drain the tub or pour the soapy water, clean, and rinse your basin/tub. Then refill it with lukewarm fresh water.

Dunk your climbing shoes into the fresh water and move them around.

Turn them around until you make sure that the freshwater has entered all the holes to eliminate any soap leftovers.

7) Dry the Shoes Completely

Shake your climbing shoes to get rid of any water. You can use a clean duster or towel to wipe the shoe.

Then place it in a warm room with a light breeze.

To accelerate drying, you can stuff them with clean old newspapers or towels.

Don’t place the shoes in direct sunlight as it can easily damage them. Voila! Your climbing shoes are clean!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cleaning Climbing Shoes

We will answer the most frequently asked questions about the best way to clean your climbing shoes.

What are the main areas of the climbing shoe that need to be cleaned?

The main areas of the climbing shoe that need to be cleaned are the sole, heel, and tongue.

What are the most common types of dirt and stains on climbing shoes?

Many different types of dirt can accumulate on climbing shoes, but some of the most common ones include mud, chalk, dust, tree sap, and blood.

The type of dirt will depend on where you climb and what type of surface you use your hands or feet for grip.

Climbers who climb indoors will have a lot less dirt than those who climb outdoors.

How often should a climbing shoe be cleaned?

Climbing shoes are made of synthetic materials that can become dirty over time.

They should be cleaned after every use for maximum performance and hygiene.

To maintain the shoe’s grip on the rock, use a damp cloth or paper towel with mild soap to clean the inside of the shoe.

Which products should be used to clean a climbing shoe?

The best way to clean climbing shoes is by using a gentle brush with soft bristles, then wiping them down with a damp cloth followed by a dry cloth.

This will remove any dirt or grime that may have accumulated on the shoe’s surface.

What is the best way to dry climbing shoes?

The best way to dry climbing shoes is by hanging them in a cool and dark place.

You should not dry them in the sun or in a hot place because this can cause damage to your shoes.

Can I use detergent or soap to clean climbing shoes?

Soap and detergent are not the best choices for cleaning climbing shoes.

Synthetic materials can react to soap and detergent, so your shoe will be dirtier than before.

Use a brush, water, and dishwashing liquid to clean your climbing shoes effectively.

What are some of the best materials to use when cleaning climbing shoes?

The best materials to use when cleaning climbing shoes are water, dish soap, and a soft brush.

You can also use a toothbrush or an old toothbrush to scrub the shoe’s surface.

First, you need to wet the shoe with water and dish soap.

Next, scrub the shoe with the brush on both sides until it is clean.

Rinse off any soap residue with more water and let it dry naturally.

Can you put climbing shoes in a washing machine?

No, climbing shoes should not be put in a washing machine.

Climbing shoes are designed for climbers’ specific needs and should not be exposed to excessive heat or water.

The best way to clean climbing shoes is by using a damp cloth and wiping them down.

It is essential to use a soft cloth not to damage the shoe’s surface.

If your climbing shoes are very dirty, you can use mild dish soap and water before wiping them down with a damp cloth.

Can you put climbing shoes in the dryer?

No, climbing shoes should not be put in the dryer.

Climbing shoes are made of synthetic materials and will melt in a dryer.

How can I make my climbing shoes sticky again?

Climbing shoes can be made sticky again by using shoe goo.

This is a substance that climbers use to make their climbing shoes sticky again.

It is usually applied by rubbing it into the outer surface of the shoe and then wiping off any excess.

There are also other ways that you can make your climbing shoes sticky again, such as using different substances like petroleum jelly or even soap and water.

These substances will work similarly, but they will not last as long and may not provide the same level of grip.

Can climbing shoes get wet?

Yes, climbing shoes get wet.

Climbing shoes are not waterproof and should not be worn when the feet are in contact with water or snow.

Climbing shoes should be kept clean and dry, as any dirt or moisture can cause an uncomfortable experience for the climber.

Final Thoughts on How to Best Clean Your Climbing Shoe

Cleaning your climbing shoes will aid in improving your safety.

Hopefully, the guidelines mentioned above will help you to clean your shoes in the best possible way.

Further, you can read our step-by-step guides on how to break into climbing shoes and how tight should climbing shoes be?

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About the author 

Brad

Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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