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How to Wash Climbing Shoes

Phew! I notice an odor from my climbing shoes, and they sure don’t smell awesome. I have some extra time, and my shoes need a bath, asap. I can’t remember the last time they were cleaned. So, today is their washing day.

Here’s how the process goes:

1. Fill a bucket/container/or sink with warm soapy water

A couple of pairs of climbing shoes in a bathtub.

As tempting as it may be, don’t use hot water to wash the shoes. From what I’ve read, heat may mess up the glues that keep the shoes together. One can use detergent or dish soap to clean them. I opted for the detergent.

You might ask, “why can’t you throw them in the washer like tennis shoes?” While researching how to wash climbing shoes, I read that many people have done so and ruined them. Climbing shoes are expensive, so I don’t want to risk destroying them. Handwashing seems to be the best solution for me.

2. Put shoes in and scrub

You can use an old toothbrush or washcloth to clean the shoe. I used a scrub cloth on the inside and outside of it. If you have multiple pairs of shoes to wash, don’t throw all of them in and wash them. Depending on the shoe, you might have leather dye bleed off, and you don’t want that on the others.

3. Rinse

As soon as I finish scrubbing, I turn on the faucet and rinse the shoes out. It takes a while for the water to come out clear. Eventually, it does.

A couple pairs of climbing shoes propped in-front of a floor fan.

4. Drying time

I read after washing climbing shoes to stuff them with either newspapers or paper towels and let them dry out. I don’t have either, so I stuck old socks I use for rags instead. Stuffing them prevents the shoes made from natural materials such as leather from shrinking.

5. Now The Waiting Game

After stuffing the shoes, I propped them up on a couple of towels on the floor in front of a fan to help speed up the drying process. Periodically, I check to see how much they have dried. After four or five hours, I take out the socks and let them completely air dry. Next, let them dry overnight and see how they are in the morning.

Any More Smell?

After washing my shoes, they look almost like new. Most of the stink came out. However, I can still faintly smell some of it in from one of the pairs. Crap, I hoped washing would take the stench out. Maybe in about a week, I’ll rewash them but be more aggressive on the scrubbing.

Now, the fun part is stretching my shoes back out. I tried them on, and they feel as stiff as if they were right out of the box. I think they did shrink some. I might not have had enough rags in them or left them to air dry too early. So, I’ll have fun breaking them back in.

Some Helpful Shoe Beta

To prevent your climbing shoes from smelling bad, keep them out of your bag or backpack after climbing. The bag traps their smell and makes it worse. Let shoes air out completely. Then wash them at least once a month to keep the odor maintained. Or sooner, depending on how much your feet sweat and sink wearing them.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Until next time, stay safe and happy bouldering!