Sold in more than 90 countries, Birkenstock has been crafting shoes since 1774. Konrad Birkenstock introduced the first flexible footbed insoles in 1892 and in 1902 added the arch support that continues to make these shoes so comfortable and beloved.
Today's Birkenstocks come in a variety of styles from clogs to sandals to shoes and boots. All of the styles feature the best quality cork, natural latex, copper, brass, wool felt, suede, and smooth leathers. The longer you wear Birkenstocks, the more comfortable they become as they begin to mold to your feet. But this also means, they become rather soiled. With just a few products that you probably have on hand, you can keep Birkenstocks clean for seasons to come.
Equipment / Tools
- Suede brush
- Microfiber cloths
- Art gum eraser or pencil eraser
- Blunt-edged knife or old credit card
- Small bowl
- Old toothbrush or small soft-bristled brush
- Cornstarch or baby powder
- Paper towels
- Dishwashing liquid
- Distilled white vinegar
- Commercial shoe polish
- Leather conditioner
- Petroleum jelly
- Commercial glass cleaner
- Commercial laundry stain remover
- Commercial cork sealant
How to Clean Suede and Nubuck Leather Birkenstocks
Regular cleaning—at least weekly—is the best way to keep the surface of suede and nubuck leathers looking clean.
Brush Away Surface Soil
Use a soft microfiber cloth to brush away surface dust and soil after each wearing. Follow up with a quick brushing with a suede brush to lift the material.
Rub Away Dried Stains
If you spill food or get mud on the suede, blot away as much liquid as possible but do not rub. Wiping away wet stains often drives them deeper into the suede and makes them more difficult to remove. Allow the stained area to dry completely before cleaning. Once the stain is dry, loosen and brush away the dried matter and use an art gum eraser or pencil eraser to rub away the stain before giving the suede a good brushing to lift the fabric.
Absorb Oily Stains
For oily drips on suede, cover the stain as soon as possible with cornstarch or baby powder to absorb the oil. Allow the cornstarch to remain on the stain for at least four hours before brushing it away. You may need to repeat the treatment several times to absorb all of the oil.
Scrape Away Gum and Tar
If anything sticky lands on the suede, don't grab a commercial glue/goo remover right away. The products can change the color of the suede. Use them only as a last resort. Instead, place an ice cube in a plastic bag and place it directly on the sticky mess. Allow the gum or tar to harden so you can gently pry it away from the suede. Use a blunt knife or the edge of an old credit card to scrape away the hardened goo. Repeat the ice treatment as necessary. When the solid pieces are gone, use an art gum eraser to remove any final traces of the stain and a suede brush to lift the fibers of the material.
How to Clean Cork Soles on Birkenstocks
Once you have the uppers cleaned, it's time to tackle the cork soles and footbed. If you have worn the shoes for extended periods without socks, the soles will develop a shadow of your footprint on the insoles from the oils and soil on your feet. This is nearly impossible to remove.
Mix a Cleaning Solution
In a small bowl, mix two cups of warm water, two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar, and one-half teaspoon of dishwashing liquid.
Dip an old toothbrush or a small soft-bristled brush in the solution. Working in a small area at a time, gently scrub the cork sole.
Rinse and Dry
When the soles are clean, wipe down the entire cork area with a cloth dipped in plain water. This will rinse away any soapy residue. Allow the shoes to air-dry away from direct sunlight and heat.
Condition the Cork
The cork soles of Birkenstocks are coated with a sealant to keep them flexible. If the cork is beginning to look dry, treat it with a new coat of cork sealant. The product is available in shoe repair shops, home hardware stores, and online.
How to Clean Leather Birkenstocks
Wipe Away Surface Soil
Use a slightly damp soft cloth to wipe away surface dust and soil after each wearing.
If your Birkenstocks have winter salt stains, dip a soft cloth in equal parts water and distilled white vinegar. Wring out the cloth and wipe down the shoe, then allow to air-dry away from heat or sunlight.
Polish and Condition Leather
To restore and condition natural and oiled leather uppers, use a commercial shoe polish in a matching color. This will remove most scuffs. To keep the leather pliable, use a leather conditioner following product directions. This is especially important if your shoes have been rain-soaked.
Brighten Any Patent Leather
The film coating that gives patent leather its shiny finish can usually be restored by simply wiping down the shoes with a damp cloth. If the leather is really dull, use a bit of glass cleaner on a soft cloth to restore the shine. To remove scuffs, use a dab of petroleum jelly on a soft cloth and buff away the marks.
Use the same techniques for patent leather to clean latex uppers on Birkenstocks.
How to Clean Fabric Birkenstocks
Brush Away Surface Soil
Use a soft dry cloth or soft-bristled brush to brush away dust and surface soil before spot-cleaning fabric shoes.
Mix a Cleaning Solution
In a small bowl, mix two cups of warm water and one-half teaspoon of dishwashing liquid.
Spot Clean Stained Areas
Dip a small cloth into the cleaning solution and gently rub stained areas. Do not over-saturate the fabric. Work in the direction of the fabric grain.
Tackle Tough Stains
For tough-to-remove stains, use a commercial laundry stain remover and gently scrub the area with an old toothbrush.
Rinse and Dry
Rinse by dipping a clean cloth in plain water. Wring it out well and wipe down the entire fabric part of the shoe to remove any remaining soapy residue. Blot the fabric with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. Air-dry the shoes away from direct heat.
Stuff the shoes with clean paper towels or white socks to help them hold their shape while they dry.
Tips to Keep Your Birkenstocks Looking Great Longer
- Keep Birkenstocks away from extreme temperature changes that can cause materials to deteriorate.
- Most Birkenstocks are not water-friendly. Over-saturation can cause glues to loosen.
- Always allow the shoes to dry completely away from direct heat and sunlight between wearings.