How To Clean Climbing Shoes


It is common for climbers to overlook their gear, especially their shoes when they are lost in their adventures. However, maintaining clean climbing shoes is not just about aesthetics. It’s important for performance and durability as well. In this Guideline, I will teach you how to clean climbing shoes easily and effectively so they are spotless and odor-free. So, let’s dive in and learn how to give your climbing shoes the care they deserve.

How To Clean Climbing Shoes

Table of Contents

How to Wash Climbing Shoes?

There are several ways to clean your climbing shoes. But hand washing and machine washing are the best shoe wash methods. Look at the ways you can clean your climbing shoes:

1. Machine Wash:

Some synthetic climbing shoes can be machine washed. Remember to use a gentle cycle, cold water, and mild detergent. Avoid using fabric softeners or bleach. After washing, air dry your shoes away from direct sunlight or heat sources. You should not tumble dry your shoes, as this can damage the rubber soles.

2. Hand Wash:

The safest way to wash climbing shoes is to wash them by hand. This applies to all types of climbing shoes. Use lukewarm water and a soft brush or cloth to scrub the dirt away gently. You can use a mild soap if necessary. Rinse thoroughly and allow them to air dry.

3. Climbing Shoe Cleaning Kit:

Climbing shoe cleaning kits usually come with a specially formulated cleaner and brush. The cleaner is designed to remove dirt and odors without damaging the shoe material. Make sure you follow the instructions provided with the kit to get the best results.

4. Professional Cleaning Service:

Your climbing shoes should be cleaned by a professional if they are expensive or delicate. They have the expertise and equipment to clean your shoes without causing damage.

How to Clean Climbing Shoes by Hands?


Cleaning climbing shoes by hand is a delicate process that requires careful attention to not damage the shoe material. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Materials Needed:

  • A soft brush (an old toothbrush can work)
  • Mild soap or a specialized shoe cleaner
  • Warm water
  • A towel
  • A fan or a dry, cool place to air-dry the shoes

Step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Set Up Your Cleaning Station Begin by preparing your cleaning station. This includes finding an appropriate space to clean your shoes without causing a mess. Then, fill a tub or sink with warm water. The temperature should be comfortable, around 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Too hot of water can damage the rubber on your shoe soles.

Step 2: Add a Gentle Detergent. Next, add a gentle detergent or soap into the water. This will help in removing sweat and dirt residue from your shoes. It’s important to avoid harsh chemicals or strong detergents as they can deteriorate your shoes’ soles and upper liner.

Step 3: Dust Off Your Shoes Before getting your shoes wet, it’s recommended to use a small brush to dust off any loose particles gently.

This prevents turning dust and chalks into a paste that could further embed into the shoe material once wet.

Step 4: Remove Small Rocks and Debris Now, turn the shoes upside down, and lightly tap the toe box to dislodge any small pieces of chalk, stones, or other debris. This step is essential to ensure a thorough cleaning process.

Step 5: Begin Scrubbing After you’ve removed all the loose dirt, moisten the shoes slightly, then use your small brush to gently scrub the outside, including the upper, tongue, and soles. Take care not to damage the material.

Step 6: Clean The Inside of The Shoes The inside of your shoes are just as important as the outside. After cleaning your brush:

  1. Use it to scrub the inside of your shoes gently.
  2. Use your fingers to clean and rub those spots if there are hard-to-reach areas.
  3. Dunk the shoes into the soapy water after cleaning them to remove loosened dirt particles.

Step 7: Rinse Your Shoes Once you’re done scrubbing, it’s time to rinse. Drain and rinse your sink or tub, then refill it with fresh lukewarm water. Place your shoes in the water and move them around to ensure all soap and dirt are fully rinsed off. Repeat this process 2-3 times until the water runs clear.

Step 8: Dry Your Shoes Thoroughly The final step is drying. Shake out any excess water from your shoes, then towel them dry. To speed up drying, unlace your shoes or open the Velcro straps fully, and stuff them with newspaper or a clean paper towel. Place them in a warm room with a light breeze to air dry. Avoid direct sunlight or placing them near a heat source, as these can damage the material. Ensure the shoes are completely dry before wearing them again.

How to Machine Washing Climbing Shoes ?


Before proceeding, it’s important to note that not all climbing shoes are suitable for machine washing. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions or the shoe label before proceeding. If your shoes are not machine-washable, washing them by hand is safer. Only use this method on synthetic climbing or bouldering shoes. If you machine wash leather shoes, they will be ruined.

Materials You Need:

  1. Climbing Shoes: Ensure they are machine-washable. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions or the shoe label before proceeding.
  2. A Soft Brush: This removes dirt or debris from your shoes before washing them.
  3. Mesh Wash Bag or Pillowcase: You’ll put your climbing shoes in this to protect them from getting banged in the washing machine. A pillowcase is a good alternative if you don’t have a wash bag.
  4. Towels or Soft Garments: These will balance the load in the washing machine and provide additional protection for your shoes.
  5. Gentle, Bleach-Free Detergent: You’ll need a small amount of this. Avoid fabric softener as it can leave a residue on your shoes, reducing grip.
  6. Newspaper or Paper Towels: After washing, you’ll use these to absorb excess moisture from your shoes and help them maintain their shape as they dry.

Step By Step Process:

Step 1: Pre-Cleaning Before you even think about getting your shoes wet, take a moment to brush off any dust or loose dirt. This helps avoid embedding particles deeper into the shoe material when wet. Use a small, soft-bristled brush and gently sweep over the entire surface of the shoes. Remember to blow on them lightly to remove the finest dust particles.

Step 2: Remove Debris and Small Rocks. Turn your shoes upside down and lightly tap the toe box against a hard surface. This action should dislodge any small pieces of chalk, stones, or other debris that could be stuck in the crevices of the sole or wedged inside the shoe.

Step 3: Set Up Your Washing Machine Your washing machine needs to be set to a gentle cycle, preferably one designed for synthetics or delicates. Synthetic climbing shoes are more robust than leather ones and can withstand machine washing, but it’s crucial to set your machine at a maximum of 1000 rpm. A 500-800 rpm speed at a temperature of 30-40 °C (85 to 100 °F) is ideal.

Step 4: Select a Suitable Detergent. When choosing a detergent, opt for a mild synthetic variety. This detergent works well to eliminate odors and bacteria without being overly harsh on the materials. Remember, if your shoes have any leather components, do not machine wash them! Always select a synthetic or delicate cycle if your machine offers these options.

Step 5: Rinse Your Shoes After the machine washing cycle is complete, it’s time to give your shoes another rinse. Fill a basin with fresh lukewarm water and immerse your shoes, swishing them around to ensure no residual detergents. This step is particularly important as leftover soap can attract dirt and degrade the rubber soles over time.

Step 6: Dry Your Shoes Properly Drying your climbing shoes properly is just as important as washing them. Never use a hot dryer because intense heat can damage the sticky soles and ruin the rubber. Instead, shake your shoes vigorously to remove excess moisture, then pat them dry with a clean towel, moisture, then pat them dry with a clean towel.

Step 7: Air Dry and Stuff Shoes After patting your shoes dry, let them air dry in a well-ventilated space out of direct sunlight. Do not place them near a radiator or any other direct heat source, as this can warp the shoe shape. To accelerate the drying process and help them maintain their shape, stuff the shoes with newspaper or paper towels. Make sure the shoes are completely dry before wearing them again.

And there you have it! With these steps, you can effectively machine wash your climbing shoes while preserving their quality and longevity. However, washing your climbing shoes too frequently can lead to premature wear and tear. It’s best to wash them only when necessary and focus more on preventative care, like airing out your shoes between climbing sessions.

How To Wash Climbing Shoes When You Are Outdoor?


It may be trickier to clean your rock climbing while camping or outdoors, but it’s still possible. Here’s a simple guide to help you keep your shoes in top condition even when you’re on the go.

Materials Needed:

  • A soft brush (a toothbrush will do)
  • Biodegradable soap
  • A small towel or cloth
  • Water

Step-by-Step Guide

Remove Excess Dirt: Start by knocking your shoes together sole-to-sole to dislodge any loose dirt or pebbles. You can also use your brush to scrub off any stubborn mud or grit from the soles.

Prepare Your Cleaning Solution: Mix a small amount of biodegradable soap with water. Remember, a little goes a long way, and it’s essential to use biodegradable soap to minimize your impact on the environment.

Scrub the Shoes:

  1. Dip your brush into the soapy water and gently scrub your shoes.
  2. Focus on the soles and the rand (the rubber strip above the sole), as these areas are critical for maintaining a good grip while climbing.
  3. Remember to clean the inside of your shoes, particularly if they’ve become sweaty or smelly.

Rinse: Rinse your shoes thoroughly with clean water. Remove all soap, as any residue can degrade the rubber over time.

Dry: Pat your shoes dry with your towel or cloth. Never leave them to dry in direct sunlight or near a heat source because it can cause rubber to degrade and the shoes to shrink. Instead, leave them in a well-ventilated area and let them air dry naturally.

Why Do Climbing Shoes Smell?

Climbing shoes typically smell due to the growth of bacteria. These types of shoes are often worn barefoot and used during intense exercise, which leads to the production of sweat. This creates a moist environment that is ideal for bacteria to thrive in.

One common bacteria in smelly shoes is Brevibacterium, which feeds on dead skin cells. Another type of bacteria is Propionibacterium, which also contributes to the bad odor. Moisture, dead skin, and stress make it easy for these bacteria to grow, causing an unpleasant smell.

How to keep climbing shoes clean and smelling fresh


Knowing how to prevent your climbing shoes from smelling is just as important as knowing how to clean climbing shoes. There are several ways you can keep your shoes smell-free. I have provided some of the ways below. 

  • Wash Your Feet More Often: Make sure your feet are clean before you wear your climbing shoes. If you’ve been wearing regular shoes all day, it’s beneficial to wash and dry your feet before switching to your climbing shoes. This reduces bacteria transfer and keeps your climbing shoes cleaner.
  • Air Out Your Shoes: After each climbing session, air out your shoes to dry any accumulated sweat, which prevents bacterial growth and odors.
  • Use Foot Powder and Clean Socks: Applying foot powder can help absorb sweat and reduce moisture in your shoes. Wearing thin, breathable socks can also help absorb sweat and keep your shoes cleaner.
  • Avoid Excessive Walking in Climbing Shoes: Limit walking around in your climbing shoes, especially outdoors, as this can quickly make them dirty. Put them on just before you start climbing and take them off as soon as you finish.
  • Use Shoe Deodorizers and Baking Soda: There are numerous products designed to deodorize shoes. Baked soda can also be sprinkled inside shoes while washing them to remove smell.
  • Regular Cleaning and Proper Storage: Regular cleaning can prevent dirt build-up and reduce odors. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to avoid damaging your shoes. If you need to store your shoes, opt for a breathable bag that evaporates any remaining moisture.
  • Take Shoes Off Between Climbs: Don’t walk around with your climbing shoes between climbs. If you rest or belay, take the shoes off. This keeps your shoes dry and less smelly.


Climbing shoes are composed of several parts, each with a specific function. Here are the main components and how to clean them:

  1. Upper: This is the top part of the shoe that covers your foot. It can be made from leather or synthetic materials. Cleaning the upper requires a soft brush and a mild cleaner. Gently scrub the material to lift dirt and stains, then rinse with warm water.
  2. Sole: A shoe’s sole is the part that contacts the rock. It’s often made of sticky rubber for better grip. To clean the sole, scrub it with a stiff brush to remove dirt, grime, or climbing chalk.
  3. Rand: The rand is the thin strip of rubber that wraps around the toe area of the shoe. It’s designed for toe hooking and jamming into cracks. Clean it similarly to the sole, using a stiff brush and mild cleaner.
  4. Lining: The lining is the material inside the shoe. It can absorb sweat and bacteria, leading to unpleasant odors. To clean the lining, turn the shoe inside out, and use a soft brush and mild cleaner. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.
  5. Closure System: This includes laces, straps, or elastic closures. Wipe these down with a damp cloth and let them air dry. If they’re particularly dirty, you can use a mild cleaner.

It’s helpful to have a cleaning kit when cleaning climbing shoes. A typical climbing shoe cleaning kit might include:

  • Soft Brush: For gentle cleaning of the upper and lining.
  • Stiff Brush: For more aggressive cleaning of the sole and rand.
  • Mild Cleaner: A specialized shoe cleaner that’s safe for the materials in climbing shoes.
  • Deodorizer: To combat odors, especially in the shoe lining.

Always air dry your shoes after cleaning, away from direct heat or sunlight. Always test any new cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t damage the material or color.

How to Clean Climbing Shoes With Cleaner Kit?


Maintaining the performance and longevity of your climbing shoes can be achieved by cleaning them with a cleaner kit. Here are the steps to do it:

  • Using a Brush: First, get rid of any loose dirt on your shoes with the brush in your cleaning kit. This helps avoid scratches or damage during cleaning.
  • Apply Cleaner: Use the special cleaner that comes with your kit. Follow the instructions to put a bit on a cloth or directly on your shoes. Spread it evenly everywhere.
  • Scrub: Gently use the brush to clean your shoes. Pay extra attention to really dirty spots. The brush helps get rid of dirt stuck in your shoes. Clean all parts, even the soles where stuff like climbing chalk can build up.
  • Rinse: After scrubbing, wash your shoes under cool water. It’s important to get rid of all the cleaner so no dirt sticks. Make sure to rinse off all the soap and cleaner.
  • Dry: Let your shoes air dry after rinsing. Keep them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and heat. These can mess up the shape and damage the rubber. Let them dry on their own.”
  • Optional Deodorizing: If your kit has a deodorizer, use it once your shoes are totally dry. Follow the instructions, usually spraying it inside the shoes and letting it dry.

Cleaning Your shoes with Toothpaste

An alternative method for cleaning Climbing shoes is using white Toothpaste. White Toothpaste can be an excellent choice if you want to clean your shoes effectively and affordably. Acting as an abrasive cleaner removes stains and dirt without damaging the mesh material. Here step by step-by-step method using Toothpaste:

  1. Remove any loose dirt from your shoes with a dry brush or cloth.
  2. Use non-gel white Toothpaste for this process. Apply the Toothpaste to an old toothbrush.
  3.  Work the Toothpaste into the dirty spots on your shoes using the toothbrush. Scrub in a circular motion to effectively lift the dirt from the material. Make sure to scrub the soles as well, as build-up of chalk or dirt can occur there.
  4. Leave the Toothpaste on your shoes for about 10-15 minutes. This allows the Toothpaste to break down the stains.
  5. Use a damp cloth or rinse under water to remove the Toothpaste from your shoes. Ensure all the Toothpaste is removed, as any residue left can attract more dirt.
  6. Let your shoes air dry. It is best not to place them near radiators or heaters, as heat can warp the shape of the shoes and damage the rubber.

How To Wash Climbing Shoes Quickly


If you don’t have time or are busy and can’t conduct a thorough cleaning of your climbing shoes, there are still quick measures you can take to improve their grip and control odor:

Boosting the Grip on Your Climbing Shoes: Over time, you might notice your climbing shoes losing grip, especially if exposed to chalk or outdoor elements. This is a natural part of the shoe’s wear and tear. To quickly enhance the grip, you can lightly brush the soles of the shoes to remove any dirt or chalk.

Controlling the Odor of Your Climbing Shoes: The infamous post-climbing shoe odor can be managed even if you’re short on time. Make sure to air out your shoes regularly, and consider using an odor-neutralizer for a fresher scent that lasts longer.

One effective product we recommend is Boot Bananas – these moisture-absorbing inserts can be placed into your climbing shoes when not in use. They neutralize bacteria and mask odors, helping keep your climbing shoes fresh.

Some Of The Best Climbing Shoes


I have researched some of the best climbing shoes these are: 

  1. La Sportiva Katana Lace: Recognized as one of the best overall climbing shoes, it excels in many climbing styles and rock types.
  2. La Sportiva Tarantulas: A great choice for beginners or those on a tight budget, these shoes offer excellent support and are easy to break in.
  3. Scarpa Furia S: These shoes are favored by boulderers for their sensitive, foot-conforming feel. They’re designed for high-performance climbing.
  4. La Sportiva Futura: Known for its innovative “no-edge” technology, the Futura allows for great sensitivity and performance on various rock types.
  5. Butora Acro: Offering a combination of precision and comfort, the Acro is suitable for steep sport climbing and bouldering.


As long as you know how to clean climbing shoes, you won’t have any problem when your shoes get dirty. You can confidently handle dirt or odor issues, ensuring your shoes are always in the best condition for your climbing adventures. Remember, each shoe may have specific care instructions, so always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines when cleaning.


Can climbing shoes be washed?

Yes, climbing shoes can be washed, but it is recommended to hand wash them to avoid damaging the materials. Machine washing is generally not advised unless the shoes are made of certain synthetic materials.

How do you get the smell out of climbing shoes?

To remove the smell from climbing shoes, clean them regularly and let them air dry completely after each use. Let your shoes air dry after washing them with mild soap or detergent.

How do you clean used rock climbing shoes?

Used rock climbing shoes can be cleaned using a gentle hand wash method. Do not use harsh chemicals, bleach, or fabric softeners, as these can damage the shoes. After cleaning, allow them to air dry in the shade.

How do you refresh climbing shoes?

Refreshing climbing shoes can be done by gently hand washing them with mild soap or detergent and letting them air dry. It’s also important to avoid putting them in direct sunlight, which can cause delamination[.

How long can climbing shoes last?

The lifespan of climbing shoes can vary greatly depending on how frequently they are used, the type of climbing they are used for, and how well they are cared for. However, with proper care, climbing shoes can generally last for several years.

Do climbing shoes expire?

Climbing shoes do not have an expiration date, but their condition and effectiveness will deteriorate over time due to wear and tear.

Why do climbing shoes smell?

Climbing shoes often smell due to sweat and bacteria build-up. Regular cleaning and proper drying can help minimize this issue.

How do you soften stiff climbing shoes?

Stiff climbing shoes can be softened by wearing them regularly to break them in. Some climbers also suggest lightly dampening the shoes and then wearing them to help mold them to your feet.

What should I do with my old climbing shoes?

Old climbing shoes that are no longer usable for climbing can be repurposed in a variety of ways such as planters, donation (if they’re still in good condition), or even as a piece of memorabilia.

Should I brush my climbing shoes?

Some climbers brush their shoes to remove dirt and dust, which can improve grip. However, it’s important to do this gently to avoid damaging the rubber sole.

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