How to Wash and Care for Slippers
Techniques for Fabric, Suede, and Leather Slippers
Although they are often overlooked, your slippers may spend more time on your feet than any other footwear you own. Wearing slippers indoors is beneficial because they protect your feet from injury and from spreadable disease (think athlete's foot), keep you stable on your feet, and warm you up. But all that use means that they require regular cleaning—probably more often than you are currently cleaning them.
The proper way to clean slippers will depend on the materials they are made from. Cloth fabric, suede, and leather all require different techniques, which can be further complicated by structural elements such as arch supports or sole cushions. But whether you are washing cloth slippers in a clothes washer using a warm regular cycle or hand-cleaning fine leather slippers with saddle soap, you'll be eager to clean them more often once you learn these easy, simple methods.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Washing machine or large sink
- Suede brush
- Soft cloth
- Clothes drying rack
- Heavy-duty laundry detergent
- Suede cleaner
- Saddle soap
- Leather conditioner
- Baking soda
- Wool wash or gentle detergent
- Baby wipes
How to Clean Cotton and Synthetic Fabric Slippers
Cotton terry cloth slides and any slippers made from polyester fabrics, even those lined with faux fur, can be machine or hand-washed to revive and deodorize them.
|Drying Cycle Type||Air-dry only; do not machine dry|
|Special Treatments||Handwash soles, pretreat stains|
|How Often to Wash||Monthly (or more frequently, if needed)|
Wipe Down Soles
If the slippers have been worn outside, wipe down the soles with a damp cloth or baby wipes (they are infused with gentle soap) to remove any mud or grit.
If the slippers have food stains or heavily soiled areas like interior soles, use a dab of heavy-duty detergent that contains enzymes (like Tide or Persil) to pre-treat and break apart stains. Work the detergent into the stained area with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Allow the detergent to work for at least 15 minutes before washing.
Machine-Wash Fabric Slippers
If you are machine-washing fabric slippers, add them to a load of similar colors and fabrics. A load of towels usually works well. Wash in warm water with your regular detergent on a regular cycle.
Hand-Wash Fabric Slippers
Fabric slippers can also be hand-washed in a sink in warm water with about one teaspoon of a heavy-duty detergent. Add the slippers to the soapy water and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes to lift the soil. Gently squeeze the solution through the slippers and then drain away the soapy water.
Fill the sink with fresh water and rinse the slippers until no more soap bubbles appear. Gently press out excess water. Roll the slippers in a thick towel to help absorb water.
Drying Washable Fabric Slippers
Whether machine or hand washed, all slippers should be allowed to air-dry. Reshape the slippers and place them in a well-ventilated space to dry. If you are concerned about them holding their shape, stuff the slippers lightly with paper towels or white tissue paper. Don't use newspaper because it can leave ink stains on your slippers. Change the paper frequently as the slippers dry.
Never place slippers in an automatic dryer. The high heat can cause the soles to become distorted and any glues used in construction to dissolve.
How to Clean Suede Slippers
Suede slippers, like those from Deckers X Lab, are made from leather hides and must be spot cleaned to maintain the finish. Diligently work on the inside of slippers because when they become moist, bacteria begin to grow, which is the reason your slippers have that lingering odor.
|Cleaning Agent||Cornstarch, baking soda, gentle detergent|
|Special Treatments||Clean soles, uppers, and interiors separately|
|How Often to Clean||Monthly (or more frequently, if needed)|
Remove Loose Soil
Use a suede brush or a soft cloth to remove loose soil from the surface of the suede.
Spot Clean Stains
Treat grease stains by sprinkling them with cornstarch to absorb the grease. This is most effective if done as soon as stains happen. Allow the cornstarch to sit on the stains for several hours and then brush away. Repeat until no more grease is absorbed.
Use a commercial suede cleaner to treat heavy soil and stains following the product instructions.
Clean the Interior of Suede Slippers
Most suede slippers have a shearling-lined interior. To clean and freshen the lining, sprinkle in a heavy layer of baking soda. Use the suede brush to work it into the lining and allow it to sit for several hours. Vacuum out the baking soda.
If the lining is heavily soiled, mix a solution of 2 cups of warm water and 1 teaspoon of wool wash or gentle detergent. Dip a soft cloth in the solution and wring until just damp. Gently scrub the interior of the slippers until most visible soil is removed, and rinse the cloth frequently.
Finish by rinsing the cloth in clean water and wiping down the interior of the slippers to remove any soapy residue. Allow the slippers to air-dry for several hours. You can also use a blow-dryer on a low setting to dry the interior; use your fingers to work the fur to make it fluffy again.
How to Clean Leather Slippers
Leather slippers should not be machine-washed but they can be hand-cleaned. Careful care of the leather will keep your slippers in good shape for many years.
|Cleaning Agent||Saddle soap|
|Special Treatments||Finish with leather conditioner|
|How Often to Clean||Monthly (or more often, if needed)|
Remove Loose Soil
Wipe down leather slippers with a slightly damp cloth or baby wipes (wring them out a bit to remove excess wetness) to remove loose soil.
Clean With Saddle Soap
Mix a solution of warm water and Castile or saddle soap, following product directions. Dip a soft cloth into the solution and wring until only slightly damp. Working in sections, gently wipe down the exterior and leather interior of the slippers.
If the interiors are shearling-lined, clean them separately, as described above, after the exterior leather has been cleaned and conditioned.
When the leather is cleaned, wait about five minutes and then buff with a clean, soft cloth.
Apply Leather Conditioner
To keep the leather soft and supple, apply a commercial leather conditioner following the product directions. Finish by buffing to a shine.
Allow to Dry
Allow the slippers to air-dry for several hours before wearing them. This will help prevent stretching.
Slippers Care and Repairs
Most people simply discard worn-out or damaged slippers and buy new ones, but if you have a favorite pair you can't part with, there are some repairs that might be possible.
- Loosened seams can be resewn to secure the uppers to the soles.
- On cloth or felt-bottomed slippers that wear through on the soles, you can cut out a piece of felt to match the outline of the slippers, then stitch it over the bottom of the slipper to create a new sole.
- If the inner soles lose their cushiness, you can also cut and insert a piece of felt to fit inside the slippers. There may also be commercial inserts you can buy to fit into your worn-out slippers.
If your slippers have leather uppers, regularly applying conditioner or polishing the leather will help keep it supple and prevent cracking.
You may well have different slippers for warm weather and cold winter weather. This means that the slippers may need to be put away for storage for a good portion of the year. Before putting them away for the season, give your slippers a good cleaning and make sure they are fully dry. Then, stuff paper towels into the slippers so they hold their shape and store them away in the original shoe box or in plastic containers. Store them side-by-side rather than atop one another, as this will help preserve their shape.
Never store leather slippers in sealed plastic bags, as they need to breathe during the months they are in storage.
How Often to Wash Slippers
Generally speaking, it's a good idea to clean your slippers once a month, but you may well find it beneficial to clean them more often. How often slippers need to be cleaned depends on several factors:
- Do you wear slippers outside?
- Do you wear socks with slippers?
- Do you deal with foot fungus and odor?
Every type of slipper should be cleaned as soon as any odors or heavy soil become apparent.
Tips for Keeping Slippers Clean Longer
Do not wear the slippers outside. If you do wear your sheepskin slippers outdoors, protect the interiors from sweat and other dirt by wearing lightweight no-show socks.
- Put on fresh socks before changing into slippers after work.
- Clean slippers regularly.
- Rotate slippers so they have a chance to breathe between the times you wear them.
Can I wash cloth slippers with other laundry items?
Yes, but it's best to place them in a laundry bag to prevent them from rubbing against other clothing. And always use a medium temperature setting and standard wash cycle.
My slippers still smell, even after washing. What should I do?
Sometimes slippers will still smell a little dank if they haven't dried out completely. Dry setting them in direct sunlight outdoors, where sunlight and good air circulation can work their magic. It's also possible that deep-set foot odor will require multiple washings.
How do I clean wool slippers?
The technique for cleaning most slippers made of wool fabric is similar to that for suede: brush them lightly to remove surface dirt, and use a damp cloth and mild detergent to scrub the insides of the slippers. Stains on the wool outer fabric can be cleaned by gently scrubbing with a damp cloth. Never machine-wash wool slippers, and never dry them in a clothes dryer.
How do I clean sheepskin slippers?
Sheepskin is a type of leather in which the woolly animal hair is left attached to the animal skin for the benefit of its warmth. Sheepskin slippers are exceptionally warm on the feet. The outer surface of sheepskin slippers can be cleaned as you would any form of suede, while the wool insides should be scrubbed with a damp cloth moistened with gentle detergent.