Join 3,441 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How to clean seriously smelly Birkenstocks?
May 24, 2010 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I have many pairs of Birkenstocks, about 25 or so, and I can no longer wear some of my favourites due to their funky odour. I've tried using the Birkenstock brand footbed cleaner, and other mild detergents, but haven't had great success getting the funk out. Looking for suggestions for how to clean old smelly pairs, and also how to prevent the funk from settling into new pairs. Natural solutions preferred, please.
posted by laura_carter to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you tried freezing them yet? The smell is almost certainly due to bacterial growth, and putting them in a big ziploc back and freezing them for a while may help to kill off some of the bacteria.
posted by scarykarrey at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


what are the main ingredients in the Birk cleaning solution?
posted by edgeways at 1:12 PM on May 24, 2010


seconding giant freezer ziplock, but with the added caveat of an ENTIRE can of (cheap, unused) coffee grounds. for like 10 days, turning and shaking occasionally.

your feet will smell freshly roasted for a bit, but that's better than funk!
posted by 2003girl at 1:14 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've had some success with bicarbonate of soda and rubbing alcohol, used separately. If that fails, some bergamot essential oil seems to help. Letting the shoes completely dry between wearings will help too.
posted by Solomon at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2010


Also, give your shoes at least a day off, more if possible. Let them air out, and take them off as much as possible. Socks, never a particularly fashionable choice with birkenstocks, would also help.
posted by fontophilic at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2010


A generous amount of vinegar (saturate and let dry thoroughly, usually for a couple days) de-funks shoes for me pretty reliably.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:34 PM on May 24, 2010


If you're desperate, try sending an old pair to Birk or one of the official repair places for a new footbed liner.

For new ones: wear socks. If not socks, then give them at least one day off (24 hours) in between wearing.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:42 PM on May 24, 2010


Obligatory male astonishment: 25 pairs? Really? Anyway with so many you should be able to let them dry out properly between wearings.

The smell is due to the byproducts of bacteria, so you may need to kill the bacteria and deodorize the shoes.

Bicarb and/or leave them out in the sun for a few days. Perhaps (see next remark) a mild disinfectant. I'm not sure about the effect of some of these liquid cures on leather, so ahem, tread carefully with some of this advice.

With so many to choose from why not try different treatments on different pairs and see which works best
posted by epo at 1:54 PM on May 24, 2010


seconding giant freezer ziplock, but with the added caveat of an ENTIRE can of (cheap, unused) coffee grounds. for like 10 days, turning and shaking occasionally.

Thirding giant freezer ziplock, but with baking soda instead of the coffee grounds.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:36 PM on May 24, 2010


I also have several pairs of birkenstocks, but not quite that many. Mrs. Hoenikker complained about one pair having a horrible smell, so she covered them in baking soda and left them on the porch for several days. Then she washed them off and gave them back to me. I assume that fixed the problem, since there have been no complaints since.
posted by Hoenikker at 4:26 PM on May 24, 2010


Nthing baking soda. I've had success shaking a thick layer of baking soda on the footbeds and then letting it sit for a day or two. When you shake it off the stinkiness should be gone.
posted by apricot at 4:26 PM on May 24, 2010


Bleach is my go-to bacteria killer for funky footwear. However, I'm usually dealing with sports sandals, so I can safely just soak the entire sandal. In your case, I'd recommend trying either something like gel toilet bowl cleanser with bleach, or else a baking soda-bleach slurry that you can keep confined to the footbed and off any dyed leather parts that you don't want to fade. Bleach does not need too long to kill bacteria (a few minutes), and left longer it can break down the material.
posted by drlith at 9:01 PM on May 24, 2010


what are the main ingredients in the Birk cleaning solution?

No ingredient listing on the bottle, and a quick internet search didn't turn up the list either.
posted by laura_carter at 8:00 AM on May 25, 2010


Thanks for all the suggestions! I think I will give freezing them a go and see what happens. I'm wondering if this will damage/shorten the life of the cork at all, though (which would be my concern about using bleach and possibly vinegar)?
posted by laura_carter at 8:03 AM on May 25, 2010


I don't know if bleach or vinegar will shorten the life of the cork but if that happens maybe it would be an acceptable trade-off in order to be able to enjoy wearing non-smelly shoes.
posted by 6550 at 12:45 PM on May 25, 2010


« Older I want to buy my F150 truck a ...   |  Help me brainstorm a limerick ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.