dirty black sandals

How to Clean Sandals

When the sun comes out, the sandals come out!

Yep, sandals are a staple in most wardrobes because they’re a type of shoe that can be dressed up for a night out or dressed down for a casual day of shopping.

With so many styles, colours, and materials to choose from, us shoe fanatics are toe-tally spoilt for choice.

The only bugbear is that sandals take on a load of grime and get pongy after a while. And given the fact that nobody wants to be the one with smelly feet at a posh do, there’s only one thing for it: you’ve got to clean the fancy footgear!

But how do you clean sandals? Follow the guide below, and you’ll have revived your favourite sandals in no time at all.


Tips to Consider When Cleaning Sandals


Keep these points in mind when cleaning sandals:

  • Test, test, and test again! Before you use any of the methods below, you must test them out first. Find a discreet patch of sandal, dab a little solution onto it, and watch what happens. If there are no adverse effects, you can continue using said product. But if there is a reaction, stop what you’re doing immediately and find another cleaner.
  • There’s no need to use harsh cleaning chemicals.
  • Always read the tag on your sandals to see how they need to be washed.
  • Apply a protective coating to your fancy footwear if need be. Leather shoes should be treated with a protective coating after they’ve been cleaned, for example.
  • Make sure your sandals are absolutely dry before you wear them again.
  • Don’t use artificial heat sources to dry your sandals. Avoid things like tumble dryers, radiators, and hair dryers because they can dry the material out and damage it.
  • Don’t get the sandals absolutely soaking wet. The less water you use, the better it will be. Your shoes will dry much faster, and you won’t ruin delicate materials like leather in the process.
  • Clean obvious dirt off your sandals after you’ve worn them. Don’t just throw your muddy sandals in the wardrobe after a day out. Clean them and then store them!


How to Clean Sandals Step by Step

dirty sandals with moulds

Use this method to treat most sandals except leather ones. To wash leather sandals and leather footbeds, see the guide in the next section.

  1. Wait for your sandals to dry, then remove clumps of dirt from them – use a soft cloth, a suede brush (for suede sandals), or a soft toothbrush to do this.
  2. Unhook clasps/Velcro and repeat Step 1.
  3. Brush the sole with a tougher brush, but be careful.
  4. Grab a neutral-coloured microfibre cloth.
  5. Soak the cloth in warm water.
  6. Wring the cloth out.
  7. Wipe the upper surface of each sandal with the damp cloth – use a circular rubbing motion.
  8. Re-soak and wring the cloth out multiple times throughout this process.
  9. Pop a little washing-up liquid on the damp cloth (see the section below on how to clean leather footbeds).
  10. Work the cleaner into the footbeds using a soft cloth or soft toothbrush.
  11. Work the solution into all the tiny gaps.
  12. Soak the cloth in fresh water, rinse it clean, and wring it out.
  13. Wipe the sandals clean using the cloth.
  14. Repeat Step 13 until both sandals are clean and free from soapy residue.
  15. Remove excess water from the sandals by wiping them with a dry cloth.
  16. Leave the sandals to dry naturally, but keep them out of direct sunlight.
  17. Optional: Add a protective coating to your sandals.


Alternative methods

sandals and cleaning products

Bicarbonate of soda

For extra dirty and stinky sandals, you can scrub the footbeds with a bicarbonate of soda paste.

Simply mix one part bicarb with two parts water and add a blob or two of washing-up liquid to the potion (adjust if need be).

Then, spread the paste over the whole footbed using a soft toothbrush, ensuring you cover the entire area.

After a few minutes, you can clean the footbeds with a damp, neutral-coloured cloth!


Off-the-shelf cleaner

It’s also possible to clean sandals with a specialised cleaning product, like Nikwax’s Sandal Wash.

This particular product is easy to use. You just wet each shoe, then work the solution into the footbed and straps of the sandals using the blue applicator on the head of the bottle!

It can be used on cork, leather, synthetic, plastic, and rubber types of sandals.


Laundry detergent

If you’re cleaning softer sandals like those that are made up from canvas, for example, you can treat them with a bit of mild laundry detergent.

Just work the detergent into the soft fabric and then rinse the area clean.


Washing machine

Some sandals can be washed in a washing machine. If you’d like to clean your shoes in this manner, you must read the care label on the sandals to see if they can be machine-washed first.

As long as the care tag states that the sandals can be cleaned in a washing machine, you can continue with this cleaning method.

If the label says ‘do not machine wash,’ you must stick to this advice.

When washing shoes in a washing machine, clean clumps of grime off them, then pop the sandals into mesh laundry bags/pillowcases and place them in the washing machine’s drum.

You must then choose a mild detergent and a short, delicate cycle. When the cycle finishes, dry the sandals naturally.

Tips: Add some bulky towels to the washer so that the shoes don’t make too much noise or damage as they’re agitated in the drum.


Cleaning Leather Sandals and Leather Footbeds

brown leather sandals

How to clean leather sandals

  1. Wipe off any obvious dirt with a soft microfibre cloth. Don’t rub too hard.
  2. Open the straps and buckles up so you have a clear workspace.
  3. If need be, soak the cloth in warm water, wring the water out of it, and use the damp cloth to work the grime off the sandals.
  4. Grab some saddle soap (or equivalent) and work it into each leather sandal, paying close attention to all the nooks!
  5. Continuously work the leather cleaner into the material until it looks clean.
  6. Wipe excess product off the sandals.
  7. Leave the sandals to dry off.


How to clean leather footbeds

  1. Soak a microfibre cloth in warm water.
  2. Wring the cloth out.
  3. Dip the cloth into some saddle soap (leather cleaner).
  4. Rub the footbed of each sandal in circular motions.
  5. Work the cleaner into the footbed – this will clean and maintain the leather for you.
  6. Ensure you cover the whole area, including around the edges and any stitched zones.


How to Clean Sandals That Smell

vinegar and baking soda for sandals

Got a pair of extra smelly sandals? Don’t toss them in the bin. Neutralise their pongy aromas instead! Check out the aroma-neutralising tips below:

  • Clean your sandals regularly. The easiest way to keep smells at bay is to wash and maintain your sandals on a regular basis. You can follow the steps above to clean your shoes! Remember to wipe the dirt off your shoes when you’re done wearing them, and don’t allow stains to set in and age!
  • A quick spritz of white vinegar and water can also neutralise odours. Just fill a spray bottle with three parts water and one part distilled white vinegar, then spray your sandals’ footbeds. Leave the solution to tease away the smell, and wipe the footbed down with a damp cloth! The sandals can then be left in a well-ventilated space to dry naturally.
  • As noted above, a bicarbonate of soda paste can also work wonders when it comes to eradicating odours from shoes. Just create a paste, spread it over the footbed, and leave it there for an hour or so. Then you can clean the paste off using a damp cloth.

Alternatively, pop your sandals in a sealable bag, toss in a few cups of bicarb, shake the bag around a little, and leave it alone overnight. The next day, you can empty the bag and shake the white powder off the sandals. The foul odours will have been eradicated overnight!

  • If you’re after a neater solution, simply tuck some charcoal bags into the sandals and leave them for a few days. Activated charcoal has excellent absorbing properties, so it’ll be able to suck out those pesky sweaty aromas for you!
  • As a backup option, you could put some isopropyl alcohol onto some makeup pads and wipe the footbeds with the pad (use a new pad when one pad gets dirty).
  • Got some baby powder lying about the place? Sprinkle some baby powder over each footbed, leave it there for a few hours, then shake the sandals to remove the powdery mess.
  • If you have some citrus peels going to waste, you can stick them on your sandals’ footbeds and use them to neutralise any poor odours. Orange peels work well!
  • It may be worth investing in an off-the-shelf odour neutralising spray if you notice that your sandals and other shoes are particularly whiffy! You can pick neutralising sprays up in shoe shops, supermarkets, and online! Just choose a product that suits the material you want to clean and pick a smell that you like.
  • This may sound a little unconventional, but you could try freezing the bad smells out of your sandals – the cold air inside the freezer compartment will create an inhospitable environment for the smelly bacteria to live in. All you need to do is pop your sandals in a sealable bag and put them in the freezer overnight.
  • Above all else, keep your feet clean! If your feet are clean, you can reduce the number of odours that can go onto your shoes. Of course, some degree of sweat and dead skin cells will always find their way onto your sandals. But if you keep your feet in good condition (washed/exfoliated), you can limit how foul the smells can be.


How to Stop Sandals from Smelling

sandals with straps

Shoes, sandals included, will start to smell the more you wear them. But there are ways you can keep control of the bad aromas – they don’t have to take over your sandals!

Take note of the tips below:

  • Keep the sandals clean – Wipe off noticeable grime after a day of wearing them and deep clean them every few months.
  • Maintain your sandals regularly – Fix any issues and allow the shoes to dry out in between wears. In addition, squirt your sandals with white vinegar and water or an odour neutralising spray. OR even pack your footwear with some charcoal bags or citrus peels!
  • Wash and exfoliate your tootsies to reduce the amount of sweat and dead skin cells that can make contact with your shoes.
  • Alternate between sandals – Don’t wear one pair of sandals all day, every day. Swap between your shoes. By doing this, your sandals can have a rest and be left in a well-ventilated space to air and dry out.
  • Make sure you dry your sandals out in between wears – Don’t leave your shoes sitting damp and idle. Take care of them. Dry them with a cloth if they’re absolutely soaking wet, or pack them with some tissue paper that can absorb the moisture!
  • Store your sandals correctly when you’re done wearing them. Pop them on a shoe rack, in a shoe hanger, or wrap them in tissue paper and pop them in a shoe box. Don’t discard your sandals and leave them in a heap on a dusty floor.

black and white sandals