How to Clean Climbing Shoes

Updated Jul 31, 2023
How to Clean Climbing Shoes

Climbing shoes are a must-have for rock climbers and boulderers. They give the grip and support to climb all surfaces. After lots of climbing, they tend to get dirty, sweaty, and smelly. To keep them in good shape, you should clean and maintain them.

Start by brushing away any loose dirt. For synthetics, machine wash with gentle cycle and mild detergent. For leather, hand wash with lukewarm water and mild detergent. Work in circles to remove dirt and stains. Rinse with cold water to get rid of soap residue.

To banish odors, lightly spray rubbing alcohol on the inside of the shoe. Let them air dry in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat. Wear socks when climbing to absorb sweat and moisture. Use foot powders or baking soda to help absorb odors.

Importance of cleaning climbing shoes

Cleaning climbing shoes is essential for performance, durability, and hygiene. Neglecting to clean them can lead to dirt, sweat, and smell which can ruin your climbing experience. So, get ready to give them a thorough scrub-down!

Choose the right cleaning method based on the material your shoes are made of. Synthetics can be washed with mild detergent and warm water, while leathers should be cleaned with a damp cloth or soft brush. Also, address any unpleasant odors with rubbing alcohol or baking soda.

Allow your shoes to fully dry after each use. Don’t let moisture build up inside your shoes, as bacteria can grow in moist conditions. Use boot bananas or newspaper to absorb the moisture as you dry them in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or extreme heat.

Finally, avoid machine washing and boiling water. Harsh conditions can damage the glue and rubber soles.

Preparing for cleaning

Remove dirt and debris with a soft brush. Pay close attention to seams and edges.

If shoes smell, mix water and alcohol and spray inside. For synthetic shoes use gentle detergent. For leather shoes use a leather cleaner. Gently scrub shoes in the solution. Rinse with cold water and stuff with paper towels or use boot bananas. Air dry in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat.

Remember to wear socks when climbing and consider using baking soda as a natural deodorizer before storing. Cleaning and maintaining your climbing shoes is vital for performance and longevity. Get ready for your next session – climb with clean, fresh-smelling shoes!

Hand washing climbing shoes

Hand wash your climbing shoes to keep them in top condition. Follow these 3 steps:

  1. Prep: Gently brush off dirt and debris from the shoes. Focus on the soles.
  2. Wash: Fill a basin/sink with lukewarm water and add a mild detergent. Scrub the shoes with a soft brush/cloth. Make sure to clean all areas, including the rubber soles.
  3. Rinse and dry: Rinse the shoes with cold water to remove all soap. Use a paper towel/cloth to blot excess water. Let them air dry in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight.

Remember: Hand washing is important for delicate materials like leather or synthetic shoes. It prevents unnecessary wear and tear from machine washing.

Fun Fact: Avoid extreme temperatures and heat sources when drying your climbing shoes. Optimum airflow and natural drying processes are the best for maintaining the quality of your gear.

Machine washing climbing shoes

Hot water is a no-go, as extreme temperatures can cause synthetic materials to warp or leather shoes to stretch. Use lukewarm water and mild detergent. Set your machine to delicate cycle, for minimal agitation. After the cycle is complete, take out the shoes and let them air dry naturally. Keep them away from direct sunlight and hot car. Let them dry for some time before using them again.

Watch out! Not all climbing shoes are suitable for machine washing. Synthetic shoes are better in the machine while leather may require hand washing. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning instructions.

Outdoor gear experts at REI suggest that machine washing climbing shoes could accelerate wear on the soles, compromising their performance and durability. It’s better to take extra care and hand-wash your shoes.

Cleaning your climbing shoe soles is tricky but rewarding. Just like finding the perfect balance on a 10,000-foot granite slab.

Taking care of the soles

Step 1: Brush away visible dirt and debris with a soft brush. Gently scrub on the bottom of the shoes to get rid of stuck-on particles.

Step 2: To sanitize and eliminate odors, use a damp cloth or lightly spray rubbing alcohol on the soles.

Step 3: Air dry your climbing shoes in a well-ventilated area, indoors. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can cause damage. Once they are completely dry, store or use them again.

Step 4: Don’t machine-wash synthetic or leather climbing shoes. To prevent dirty soles, wear socks while climbing and avoid walking on dirty surfaces.

Note: A friend of mine made a mistake of leaving his new climbing shoes in a hot car. Extreme heat caused the rubber soles to warp and lose grip, making them unusable. So remember, extreme temperatures can ruin your gear!

By taking care of your soles, you can enjoy many adventures with your climbing shoes!

Tips for maintaining clean climbing shoes

Climbing shoes are a must-have for rock climbers. Keeping them clean is vital to get the best performance and make them last. To maintain clean climbing shoes, here’s what to do:

  1. Soft brush: After every climbing session, use a soft brush to take off any dirt or debris from the soles. This will stop dirt from building up and keep the shoes in good shape.
  2. Hand wash with mild detergent: For synthetic shoes, hand washing with lukewarm water and mild detergent is best. Use a soft brush on areas where dirt and sweat accumulate. Rinse with cold water after.
  3. Air dry: Let the shoes air dry naturally in a ventilated area; avoid direct sunlight or heat as it could damage the rubber soles. Speed up the process by stuffing each shoe with newspaper or paper towels.
  4. Remove odor: If your shoes start smelling bad, spray the inside with rubbing alcohol. This kills bacteria and gets rid of the smell. Let them air dry totally before using again.
  5. Clean leather shoes carefully: Wipe the surface with a damp cloth. Don’t submerge leather shoes in water or machine wash them.
  6. Wear socks: Wearing thin synthetic socks while climbing helps reduce odor and keeps the shoes cleaner for longer.

Tips: Brush your shoes and you’ll be ready for many adventures with clean and fresh climbing shoes! Don’t forget, less smeared DNA on the rock!


Cleaning climbing shoes is a must. It depends on the material – synthetic or leather. For synthetic ones, use a soft brush and lukewarm water. Leather shoes need a mild detergent and paper towel for drying. But don’t machine wash or put in direct sunlight.

Spray rubbing alcohol on the inside after each use to kill bacteria. Toothbrush or boot bananas can help remove dirt from soles. Wear socks to absorb sweat and avoid bad smells.

For smelly shoes, try baking soda inside overnight and brush off in the morning. Let the shoes air out after each climbing session.

Pro tip: Dry shoes before storing. Moisture can cause mold growth and damage materials. Use a towel or air dry. Avoid extreme heat: hot car, hot/boiling water.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs – How to Clean Climbing Shoes

1. Can I wash my climbing shoes?

Yes, you can wash your climbing shoes. However, it’s important to be cautious to avoid damaging them in the process.

2. How should I clean my climbing shoes?

To clean your climbing shoes, start by removing any loose dirt or debris with a soft brush. For smelly shoes, use a damp cloth with mild detergent or a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol. Gently scrub the shoes, focusing on the areas that are more prone to odor and dirt buildup. Rinse them thoroughly and air dry them away from direct sunlight.

3. Can I machine wash my climbing shoes?

No, it’s not recommended to machine wash climbing shoes. The agitation and extreme heat can damage the shoes’ construction and rubber soles.

4. How do I prevent my climbing shoes from smelling?

To prevent smelly climbing shoes, always wear socks while climbing to absorb sweat and reduce odor. After each climbing session, air out your shoes and let them dry completely before storing them. For persistent odor, lightly spray the shoes with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol.

5. Can I dry my climbing shoes in a hot car or using extreme heat?

No, you should avoid drying your climbing shoes in a hot car or using extreme heat sources like hairdryers. High temperatures can warp the glue that holds the shoes together and affect their performance.

6. How often should I clean my climbing shoes?

It’s a good practice to clean your climbing shoes regularly, especially after each climbing session. This helps to remove dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells, ensuring the shoes stay in good condition and maintain their grip on the rocks.

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About the Author

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, climbing, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while.

Safe Travels,

Derek and Ashley


Know Nothing Nomads

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