Articles ยป How to Clean Rock Climbing Shoes

How to Clean Rock Climbing Shoes

If you’re wondering how to clean rock climbing shoes, the best way to clean them is to hand wash climbing shoes with a bit of soap, scrub them with an old toothbrush and then air dry them 100%.

Giving your climbing shoes a scrub is a great way to get extra life out of your shoes. I got a pair of my Five Ten Anasazis washed and then resoled and was able to get another few seasons of life out of them. And it’s surprisingly easy to get the shoes cleaned up and looking brand new. Check out our list of the best climbing shoes and keep this guide in mind to get extra life out of your shoes.

I do like to wear socks with my climbing shoes and that helps the inside of my shoes stay clean. But what about the outside? I’ll climb in all types of weather so it isn’t uncommon for my shoes to get a bit dirty.

If you’re washing to help remove the funk from smelly climbing shoes, you may want to use a scented soap to overcome the stench. Make sure the soap you smell doesn’t smell too strongly if you have a sensitive nose and are bothered by aromatic fragrances.

Some pairs of leather climbing shoes may stretch and bleed dye more than synthetic climbing shoes. Since leather shoes have a leather sole, the climbing shoe has a better time breathing and allowing moisture to pass through, just like our skin does. Leather shoes stretch more, but they will help a bit if you’re having issues keeping the inside of your shoes smelling fresh and clean.

Can I Wash my Climbing Shoes?

You can wash your climbing shoes. The best way to wash them is either by soaking them in soapy water (the soap isn’t necessary) and then scrubbing the shoe with and old toothbrush or sponge. Then stuff the shoes full of news papers and leave them near a fan to dry. It’s perfectly fine for your climbing shoes to get wet.

La Sportiva and Scarpa both say it’s fine to wash your shoes. But Evolv recommends to not wash your regardless if they are leather or synthetic shoes. Evolv even says to not use a brush when cleaning your shoes.

In my experience, using a soft brush, cold water, and a little bit of soap I’ve been able to clean climbing shoes just fine. Use your best judgement and don’t scrub too aggressively. If you notice the glue or rubber is already delaminating, then it may not be the best idea to soak the shoes in water.

Heat will reduce the lifespan of your shoes. Don’t store them in hot places or dry them in direct sunlight.

Should I Wash Climbing Shoes In a Washing Machine?

I would not recommend washing your climbing shoes in a washing machine. When you wash in a machine, you’ll be forced to wash your shoes tumble in the water over and over. You won’t be able to inspect the shoe as you clean and notice any deterioration occurring.

Check your shoe manual for better instructions. The La Sportiva Oxygym actually comes with a sticker that says they are machine washable. If you are going the machine wash route, use cold water and don’t keep them in there for too long.

If you’re using the machine to avoid all the scrubbing, soak them in a bit of soapy water and then air dry them. That is the safest low risk way to wash climbing shoes.

How to Hand Wash Rock Climbing Shoes

The first method we’re going to over is hand washing. For this method you’ll need the following:

  • Dirty climbing and bouldering shoes
  • An old toothbrush or a soft brush
  • A sink, bucket, or bath tub
  • Old news paper, microfiber cloth, or towel

Step 1: Rinse With Water

First, rinse your shoes in running water. I like to use cold water but warm water is fine too. Don’t use hot water because that can mess up the glue holding your shoes together. A good rule of thumb is that if the water is too hot for your hands, it’s too hot for your shoe.

All your trying to do here is cover the shoe in running water and rinse out any mud, dirt, and dead skin cells. If the water runoff is brown, keep rinsing until it’s clear.

Step 2: Scrub and Brush Your Shoes

Now take your soft brush, leaf, or long fingernails and gently brush. This doesn’t need to be anything crazy. Work with the lukewarm water to get as much dirt as possible out of your shoes.

Don’t forget to peek at your dirty soles. Get those puppies clean so you get more friction the next time you’re climbing.

Step 3: Stuff Em to Dry

Now we can begin the drying process. Get a paper towel, newspaper or any other absorbent material and stuff them inside the shoe. Don’t overstuff or under stuff, get it to that Goldilocks level. Justttt right.

Step 4: Air Dry

I’ll then leave my climbing shoes outside to get some fresh air on them. But I won’t keep them in direct sunlight or in extreme heat. Let the shoes air out and check in with them periodically to make sure they’re doing well.

How to Soak Rock Climbing Shoes

Step 1: Draw Your Shoe Bath

Dr Bronner’s biodegradable soap can add a nice scent

Draw your shoe a nice bath in a bucket, sink, or tub. Use cold to lukewarm water. We don’t want hot water because that can cause the shoes to deform.

You can also add a mild detergent (dish soap or laundry detergent) into the bath.

Step 2: Shoe Soak

Let your shoes soak! It doesn’t have to be for too long, maybe an hour tops. You can go do a hangboard session and come back and they’ll be ready to go.

If you did add a mild detergent to the bath, you’ll need to do some gentle hand washing and rinsing afterwards to get all the soap out. Rinse the shoes until soap suds are no longer coming out.

Step 3: Stuff Em to Dry

Fill up your rock shoes with some towels or other absorbent material. We’re including this step to help remove all the moisture from inside the shoe where it’s hard to get air.

A moist shoe is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and smelly stuff.

Step 4: Air Dry

Leave your shoes in front of a fan or in the shade outside. But do not leave them in direct sunlight, a hot car, or in any extreme temperatures. Check in on your shoes to make sure they’re completely dry before packing them away.

Voila! We now have a fresh pair of shoes to rock climb in.

How to Clean Your Climbing Shoe Sole

One thing I love to do before I go out slab climbing is scrubbing the bottom of my climbing shoe. I size my climbing shoes on the comfy side, so it’s not uncommon for me to stand at the base of the crag in my shoes.

As you’d suspect, the bottom of my shoes can be absolutely filthy. They’ll quickly get covered in mud and dirt since I’m hanging around in my all day at the crag shoes.

Before I climb, I’ll give them a quick brush on my pant leg. But that isn’t as effective as what I’m about to show you.

I actually learned this trick from La Sportiva. They said that you can use a damp cloth to wipe off debris, gunk, and dirt. And then you can reinvigorate your shoe by adding just a bit of rubbing alcohol and wiping down the rubber.

After I’ve done that, I break out the handy toothbrush again and start inspecting the bottom to make sure all debris is gone. I’ll do some light scrubbing to make sure it’s totally clean. Nothing too aggressive, just a gentle scrub to get it spiffy.

Maybe this is all in my head, but I need to trust my feet when slab climbing. The last thing any of us want is to take the cheese grating whipper on a slab climb.

Wipe your shoes dry with a towel, sweatshirt, or just dirtbag it rub the shoes together to create some friction. You’ll shoes will now be sticky for sending.

How to Quickly Clean Climbing Shoes at the Crag

The quickest way to clean your climbing shoes at the crag is to wipe them on your pant legs before you send. Tie into the rope, do your buddy checks, wipe each shoe and then climb on.

If you want to get a better clean after stepping in some mud or crag dog doo. Then you can modify the rinsing method. Take a water bottle and lightly wash your climbing shoes. Then grab an old towel from your bag, sweatshirt, or leaf and gently scrub.

Tips to Keep Your Rock Climbing Shoes Clean

  • Take your shoes off at the base of the crag
  • Store your shoes in your gym bag or outdoor climbing pack when not in use
  • Switch to your crocs or approach shoes when belaying
  • On a multipitch climb, keep them clipped in the anchor at the belay station or on your harness with the rest of your climbing gear
  • Store your shoes in a cool, dry place. Avoid keeping your shoes in direct sunlight
  • Wear socks with your climbing shoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can rock climbing shoes be washed?

Climbing shoes can be washed with a bucket, water, and soap.

Can I put climbing shoes in the washing machine?

Don’t put your climbing shoes in the washing machine, they will be prone to deteriorating quicker than normal.

Can you clean climbing shoes with dish soap?

You can clean climbing shoes with dish soap, but just use a little bit when you’re soaking them. Soap is not necessary when cleaning your shoes.

Can you use lysol in climbing shoes?

You can spray lysol or other disinfectant in your climbing shoes to kill germs and reduce the smell.

Why should you not put climbing shoes in the washing machine?

The washing machine can cause the shoe glue to melt and the rubber to delaminate. Many climbers report that their shoes don’t fit the same after they put them in the washing machine.

Should I put chalk on my climbing shoes?

Don’t put chalk on your climbing shoes, chalk works great for drying our sweaty hands but on our shoes it just makes them feel slippery.

Can you clean climbing shoes with laundry detergent?

You can use laundry detergent to help clean your shoes, but use just a small amount when you are soaking them.

Which biodegradable soap should I use with my rock climbing shoes?

I like to use Dr. Bronners organic biodegradable soap when I’m cleaning my climbing shoes at the crag or while camping.

Can climbing shoes get wet?

Climbing shoes can get wet, especially when you deep water solo. Make sure you dry your shoes 100% after they are wet so they don’t get moldy.

Can I wash my climbing shoes?

You can wash your climbing shoes by hand or by soaking them in a tub of water.

Photo of author
Rob developed ORB to help himself categorize and find all the outdoor gear he needed at great prices. He loves writing about the outdoors and climbing. Rob is a certified Single Pitch Instructor through the AMGA.

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