How To Clean Your Rock Climbing Shoes?

So, you did it! You found the perfect climbing shoes for your adventure. You sized down like it is supposed to, and you locked your feet in their grip for weeks.

Since clean shoes lead to secured and sound climb, this is the right time to focus on their maintenance. And to help you with that, we have come up with an effective guideline on how to clean your rock climbing shoes.

Before you jump into the steps, have more ideas on why you need clean shoes through your climb.

Are you aware of how much abuse the climbing shoes take as they stand between you and the ground that you walk on?

As they are exposed to dirt, grime, and environmental toxins, they become vulnerable to wear out and weaken. Additionally, the sweat collects on the inside, which may lead fungus to develop in them quickly.

The sweat makes your shoes stinky – that’s so cringy, right?

It’s not just stinky shoes you have to worry about. Making sure you have properly cleaned your climbing shoes can have important implications for your safety as well.

When you invest in rock climbing shoes, you may often fail to take care of them. But it is an obvious fact that cleaning and taking proper care of your shoes can affect your climb in more ways than one.

Why Should You Clean Your Climbing Shoes?

There are two main reasons why you should keep your climbing shoes clean and maintained:

The first one is safety and the other one- hygiene!


As you get used to climbing rocks for a few weeks, your shoes slowly begin to collect dirt in the grooves on the bottom of the shoes, which eventually leads to them losing their grip. Therefore, keeping your shoes clean can help protect you from slipping during your climb.


Rock climbing is a highly-active exercise. It means that your feet are going to get all sweaty as you carry this physical activity. The sweat your feet produce begins to collect in your shoes, giving them a bad odor and putting you at risk of getting fungus.

Methods to Clean Your Rock Climbing Shoes

There are a few methods that you can follow for properly cleaning your climbing shoes. But while following the steps, you need to take certain precautions to make sure you won’t damage the materials.

The methods we are going to explain in this article are hand washing and machine washing. Both cleaning methods are described with detailed steps.

Let’s explore the process now!

Hand Washing Rock Climbing Shoes

The primary and most effective method of washing your climbing shoes is to wash them by hand. To get this done, you need to have some right equipment.


  • Large bucket or a tub
  • Mild detergent
  • Soft cleaning brush
  • Lukewarm water

Now follow these detailed steps to hand wash your rock climbing shoes properly:

Step 1: Fill the Bucket or Tub With Lukewarm Water

The first step to follow while cleaning your climbing shoes is filling your bucket or tub with lukewarm water. The water temperature helps to loosen the dust, dirt, debris, and other particles that need to be washed away.

You should never use hot water as it can soften the rubber or other sole materials. Similarly, cold water is not sufficient for loosening grime or any deposits of sweat or body oils as well. Therefore, lukewarm water is an effective way to go.

Step 2: Add Mild Detergent to the Water

The next step is to add some mild detergent to your lukewarm water. Make sure you avoid harsh chemicals while cleaning your shoes as they can damage the uppers, laces, sole, or padding materials.

Cleaning your shoes with plain water is not effective in removing unwanted particles from them as the sweating and dirt get ground deeply into the materials. Using a small amount of detergent is recommended if you are concerned about killing bacteria and removing as much dirt as possible.

Step 3: Clean Dust and Debris with a Brush

Take a small soft brush to brush away all the dust and debris from your shoes before you soak them into the solution. You can use a toothbrush for this process as it is small and easy to process around every corner of your climbing shoes.

If there are unwanted particles on the inside, turn the shoes upside down and tap them to allow debris to fall out on the ground.

Step 4: Scrub the Outside of the Shoes

Using the soft brush gently scrub the outside of the shoes, including the upper, the tongue, and the sole. Likewise, use the brush properly to loosen any stubborn stains. Don’t scrub so hard that you tear or fray the materials.

Dip the shoes in the lukewarm water and loosen the dirt. Make sure you submerge them fully; else, there is the possibility that some germs will remain inside. For a proper wash, it is recommended to soak the shoes in the soapy water.

Step 5: Clean the Inside of the Shoes

Like with the outside, use the brush to scrub the inside of your climbing shoes gently. Make sure your brush reaches all the hard places inside your shoes for a thorough cleaning. You may also have to use your fingers to rub the areas that the brush can’t reach.

Move the shoes around in the soapy water to further remove any particles left inside of them.

Step 6: Rinse the Climbing Shoes Completely

The next step is to rinse the climbing shoes. Drain the bucket or tub of the soapy water and refill it with clean water. Now place your shoes in the clean water and agitate gently with your hands. Swish the shoes around to remove any dirt and soap remaining inside of it.

Make sure to repeat this step until the water is clean – without any dirt, debris, or soap.

Step 7: Thoroughly Dry

Now that you have washed your climbing shoes, it is important to dry them. Make sure there is no water left inside of your shoes. For a better drying process, you can use a clean, soft towel and wick up as much moisture as possible.

The best method to dry your climbing shoes is to open them as far as possible and let them air dry. But while doing so, make sure they are away from direct sunlight as it could damage the materials. Leave them under the shade where there is a breeze as it can help speed the drying. Don’t put them on until they are thoroughly dry.

Machine Washing Rock Climbing Shoes

This method is ideal for climbing shoes with synthetic materials. Don’t try this with leather shoes as it may ruin them.


  • Washing Machine
  • Mild Detergent

Follow these steps to properly machine wash your climbing shoes:

Step 1: Set the Washing Machine in a Gentle Cycle

Setting your washing machine to a gentle cycle makes sure your climbing shoes remain secured from any kind of damage. This cycle uses a slow-slow combination meaning that the wash cycle uses a lesser degree of agitation, and the spin cycle uses a slow spin to extract water from the shoes.

The gentle cycle usually lasts between 4 to 7 minutes during its actual wash cycle.

Step 2: Add Mild Detergent to the Water

You can add some mild detergent to the wash water to remove unwanted elements from your climbing shoes. Do not use bleach in the process as it comes with a hypochlorite that will simply destroy nylon, and will permanently damage polyester.

While using the mild detergent, run through the wash cycle for cleaning your climbing shoes thoroughly.

Step 3: Hand Dry the Climbing Shoes

The vital thing you need to take note of is never to place your synthetic climbing shoes in a hot dryer. Doing so will break down the sole material, and it could also damage other materials used in the construction of the shoes.

It is recommended that you chose the air-drying method. Keep the shoes in the place where they are secured from the direct sunlight but are open to a gentle breeze.

Few Important Tips

The methods mentioned above come handy for keeping your climbing shoes clean. To make your cleaning process easier, here are a few crucial tips that you can take note of while choosing any of the mentioned processes:

  • If the odor is the main problem, add some baking soda in the wash water to help neutralize the bad smell.
  • To remove the foot odor, you can choose the air-drying option.
  • It is also helpful if you use a deodorizing powder in the shoes when they are dry.
  • Never use the powder in wet or damp shoes as it will clump or form a crusty residue on the inside of the footwear, which is very hard to remove.

Things to Avoid When Washing Your Climbing Shoes

There are a handful of things that you should avoid when you wash your climbing shoes. Avoiding these practices could help to prevent the wearing and tearing of your shoes.

  • Never heat dry your climbing shoes.
  • Don’t use harsh cleaners and other chemicals as they could damage the materials and even make them wear out faster.
  • Avoid using hot water while cleaning as it can start to undo the glue that holds the shoes together.
  • Avoid not using chalk in your feet as using it can absorb moisture and keep your shoes less swampy and bacteria-free.


Washing your shoes may not cause them to shrink; however, improper drying methods can. Even if you throw your shoes in the washing machine, they should be okay. Nothing you do in this stage will cause them to shrink.

The issue comes when you dry them out. Don’t expose them to any unnatural heating sources – even a blow dryer. Simply air them out in the sun until they are dry, which will prevent any kind of shrinking at the most.

Removing chalk out of your climbing shoes is an easy process. Take your wet, damp rag and wipe around the insides of your shoes. The rag helps to collect extra dust, powder, and chalk that may be lying there.

For keeping out the bad smell, you can consider buying a foot odor eliminating powder. These powders are specially designed to put inside shoes that smell. The best part of these powders is that they are not shoes specific.

Moreover, using alcohol to clean the insides of your shoes can work as well. However, this method is not as popular as using deodorizing powders.

There are many odor-eliminating sprays available on the market to kill bacteria and leave your shoes smelling fresh. But comparatively, these sprays are often less effective than powders.

The main reason is that they leave your shoes damp and make them more susceptible to bacteria in the future. Moreover, they also don’t add as long-lasting protection as you may require.


It is essential to give your climbing shoes a little makeover now and then. Cleaning them regularly not just protects their durability, but also helps make sure you have a safe and sound climb.

Additionally, washing your shoes frequently also helps to get rid of the bad smell caused due to the sweat your feet produce while practicing rock climbing.

With the cleaning methods mentioned in this article, you can make sure of your shoes’ durability and performance. Either you hand wash or machine wash them, follow the precautions properly for the ultimate result.

And trust us, with the dos and don’ts we have added above; you should find ease on following the cleaning guidelines. Keep your shoes clean for the safe and proper climbing experience.