When it comes to warm-weather footwear, sandals, also known as flip flops, are a staple. They’re perfect for strolling along the beach , running errands, hanging out at a barbecue, going on road trips, or just padding around outside your home. And with all this action, your clean flip flops are bound to get a little dirty. If you wear your sandals every day, just a few times a week, or even just wear sandals for the beach, they’ll start to accumulate dirt, grime, stains, and sticky residues.
Needless to say, your summertime shoes might not look or feel as fresh as they used to. And while flip-flops and slides might be open-air footwear styles, sweaty feet can still leave odors in the soles. The good news is that it’s actually pretty easy to spruce up your sandals—and there are several ways to go about it. Find step-by-step instructions on how to clean flip flops below.
Why You Should Clean Your Sandals Regularly
Before we get started, let’s briefly touch on why keeping your sandals clean is crucial. Washing them regularly will make them look better, of course, but the reasons go beyond aesthetics. Viruses and bacteria can spread through surfaces. When you’ve been out and about in your sandals, the soles can track germs and bring them into your home.
Of course, a lot of people remove their shoes before going inside, but every time you put them on, your skin is still coming into contact with the germs. You probably know why it’s important to wash your hands frequently. Similarly, just because your rubber sandals don’t look dirty doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying pathogens. Cleaning your shoes can help prevent the spread of various illnesses and keep you healthy. Besides cleaning the bottoms of your shoes, you’ll also want to clean the footbeds and uppers.
You’re unlikely to get athlete’s foot from wearing sandals, as the fungus thrives in damp, dark areas, like inside athletic sneakers. But when your feet get sweaty in hot and humid weather, staph and other types of bacteria can dwell on your sandals and cause skin infections.¹ So, take the time to clean and disinfect your flip-flops, wedges, slides, or strappies. Your feet and your health will thank you for it.
10 Ways to Clean Sandals
Whether you’ve been treading through the sand, wandering around the park, or pounding on the pavement, your shoes can probably use some TLC. Here are some easy ways on how to clean flip flop s.
How to Clean Sandals with a Bristle Brush
A shoe-care brush with boar or nylon bristles can help you get dirt, dried mud, and other debris off your shoes.² Bring them outside and scrub the tops and bottoms to get as much off as possible. This won’t disinfect your sandals, but it’s a good place to start if they’re extra dirty.
How to Hand-Wash Water-Resistant Sandals
If your sandals are made of rubber, foam, neoprene, recycled plastic, or another water-safe material, you can wash them by hand. Here’s what to do.
- Fill up your sink (or a big bowl) with warm water.
- Place your sandals in the water and allow them to soak for about 15 minutes.
- Gently scrub them with your fingers or a soft toothbrush to loosen up any stuck-on dirt.
- Mix in a couple of drops of mild laundry detergent or dish soap.
- Let your sandals soak in the laundry soap solution for another 15 minutes or so.
- Rinse your sandals with clean water and let them air-dry.
How to Clean Leather Sandals with Vinegar
A leather sandal is a little trickier to clean, but distilled white vinegar can be a gentle yet effective leather cleaner solution.
- Mix one part vinegar with one part water.
- Dip a clean soft cloth or a soft sponge in the solution, then wring it out so it’s not dripping wet.
- Gently scrub each leather shoe to remove stuck-on grime, excess dirt, and sweat stains.
- Let your sandals air-dry.
How to Clean Leather Sandals with a Toothbrush
Strappy sandals, slides, and toe-post sandals with leather footbeds and uppers can be cleaned using a soft toothbrush and baking soda.
- Mix three parts baking soda with one part water to create a paste.
- Dip the toothbrush into the paste and gently scrub it all over the uppers, footbeds, and soles, focusing on extra-dirty or discolored areas.
- When your leather sandals appear clean, wipe off the excess baking soda with a clean, dry cloth.
How to Clean Sandals with Footbed Cleaner
You can clean the stained, smelly microfiber footbeds of your sandals with a footbed cleaning solution, like Vionic Footbed Cleaner.
- Give the bottle a good shake.
- Apply a few drops of the solution to a clean, dry cloth.
- Thoroughly scrub the footbeds of your sandals.
- Wipe away the excess moisture and any remaining dirt or residue with another clean, dry cloth.
- Let your sandals air-dry in indirect sunlight.
How to Clean Sandals with Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol works as a footbed cleaner as well. Not only does rubbing alcohol dissolve dirt and grime, but it also kills germs and bacteria-causing odors.³
- Start by soaking a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol.
- Thoroughly wipe down the footbeds of your slides, toe-post sandals, strappy sandals, or wedges.
- Wipe a damp cloth over the material.
- Allow your sandals to air-dry.
How to Clean Suede Footbeds with Sandpaper
If you’re rocking sandals with suede footbeds, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to clean them. All you need to do is gently rub the sandpaper in small circular motions until the stubborn dirt and stains come out.
How to Clean Flip-Flops with Baking Soda
A good wipe-down with a disinfectant wipe or a wet cloth can go a long way. But when your rubber flip-flops become discolored or develop an odor, baking soda can do wonders for freshening them up.
- First, rinse off your flip-flops with warm water in the sink or bathtub.
- Without drying them off, place your flip-flops on a towel.
- Sprinkle a spoonful of baking soda onto each sandal and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
- Next, thoroughly scrub the soles with a soft toothbrush or a clean cloth.
- Rinse your shoes off again and let your flip-flops air-dry.
How to Hand-Wash Flip-Flops
Hand-washing is another excellent way to give flip-flops new life.
- Fill your sink or a large bowl with warm water.
- Add a few drops of dish soap or laundry detergent.
- Place your flip-flops in the soapy solution and let them soak for an hour or two. If your rubber or foam flip-flops float to the top, you might try weighing
- them down with heavy mugs or another water-safe item that sinks.
- After an hour or two, take your sandals out and scrub them with a cloth or toothbrush.
- Rinse them with clean water and let them air-dry.
How to Wash Flip-Flops in a Washing Machine
Tossing plain, unembellished rubber sandals in the washer isn’t totally out of the question. While we recommend hand-washing, this is how to wash flip-flops in a washing machine.
- Place your flip-flops in the washer.
- Add a small amount of laundry detergent cleaning agent and about a quarter-cup of white vinegar.
- Set it to a delicate cycle with cold water.
- At the end of the cycle, take your flip-flops out and let them air-dry.
Comfortable Sandals for Men and Women from Vionic
Getting into the habit of cleaning your sandals every couple of weeks will keep them looking nice while also helping your feet stay healthy. Having said that, there comes a time when even the best sandals need to be replaced. If you could use a fresh pair of comfortable walking sandals, slides, wedges, platforms, strappy sandals, toe-post sandals, or flip-flops, Vionic has you covered.
We’re all about shoes that feel just as good as they look. That’s why every pair of our sandals is embedded with our exclusive orthotic technology (one of the best sore feet remedies), but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at them because our styles are always fashion-forward and endlessly cool. Shop men’s and women’s sandals from Vionic today!
1. “Foot care for a lifetime”. HRSA. https://www.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/hansensdisease/leap/footcareforalifetime.pdf
2. Carroll Kelly. “How to Clean Sandals”. Wiki How. July 18, 2019, https://www.wikihow.com/Clean-Sandals
3. Jamie Eske. “Disinfecting shoes: A how-to for COVID-19 prevention”. Medical News Today. April 17, 2020, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-to-disinfect-shoes