Clean Your Rock Climbing Shoes for Better Climbing

Rock climbing shoes are essential for climbers, connecting your feet to the challenging terrain. Over time, these companions get dirty and affect their appearance and performance. Knowing how to clean climbing shoes is important for grip and longevity.

In this guide, we explore how to keep your climbing shoes in good condition. We cover everything from shoe materials to cleaning methods. We’ll show you different ways to clean your hands, including traditional methods and unique approaches like freezing and using baking soda and vinegar.

What are Rock Climbing Shoes?

Rock climbing shoes are special shoes that help climbers climb better and safer on rocks, cliffs, or indoor walls. Rock climbers need harnesses. These shoes are designed for grip, precision, and comfort, specifically for the sport’s needs.

Rock climbing shoes have a tight and shaped fit. Climbing shoes fit snugly to the foot for better contact with the rock. The snug fit helps climbers use their toes effectively for precise placements on small edges and crevices.

Rock climbing shoes have sticky rubber soles for good traction on different rocks. This rubber helps climbers grip better and make secure movements. The sole’s thickness and stiffness vary for different types of climbing – bouldering, sport climbing, trad climbing, or indoor climbing – each needing specific attributes for better performance.

Climbing shoes have different styles like lace-up, Velcro, and slip-on, with varying adjustability and convenience. There are shoes for different climbing styles, like aggressive shoes for bouldering and sport climbing, and comfortable shoes for long multi-pitch climbs.

Steps to Clean Rock Climbing Shoes

Cleaning climbing shoes is important for their performance and lifespan. Dirt, sweat, and oils can build up on shoes, making them slippery and smelly. Clean climbing shoes regularly to keep them in good condition and last longer. Here’s a guide to clean rock climbing shoes:

How to clean smelly rock climbing shoes

Materials You’ll Need

  • Climbing Shoes: The shoes you want to clean.
  • Warm Water: Not too hot, as excessive heat can damage the shoes.
  • Mild Soap: Dishwashing liquid or a gentle hand soap is suitable.
  • Soft Brush: A toothbrush or a soft-bristle shoe brush.
  • Microfiber Cloth or Towel: For drying.
  • Odor Absorbers (Optional): Cedar shoe inserts or baking soda can help combat odors.

Get Your Supplies

Before you start cleaning, gather all the supplies you need. Being prepared in advance helps make tasks easier and faster. You’ll need climbing shoes, warm water, mild soap, a soft brush, a cloth or towel, and optional odor absorbers like cedar inserts or baking soda. Choose a mild soap like dishwashing liquid or gentle hand soap to avoid damaging the shoe materials, especially the rubber soles. Also, get a basin or sink to make a soapy solution for cleaning shoes.

Take out Laces and Insoles

To clean climbing shoes, remove laces and insoles. This step is important for cleaning all parts of the shoe. Laces trap dirt, making it hard to clean underneath. Removable insoles can be cleaned separately, keeping the whole shoe dirt-free and odor-free. Be careful when removing laces to avoid damage. After detaching the components, you can start cleaning.

Rinse with Water

Now, clean your climbing shoes. Wash your shoes under lukewarm water. The first rinse removes dirt and grime from the shoe’s surface. Gently rub with your hand to remove particles. Don’t use too much force or high-pressure water, as it could damage the shoe.

Make Soapy Solution

Clean your shoes by making a mild soapy solution. Fill a sink with warm water, not too hot, to protect your climbing shoes. Add a bit of mild soap to the water and mix until it becomes soapy. This solution will clean your shoes effectively. Soap removes sweat, oils, and stains from climbing.

Clean the Shoes

Now, let’s start cleaning with the soapy solution. Dip your chosen soft brush into the soapy water. Gently scrub your climbing shoes, focusing on dirty or stained areas. Be systematic and gentle. Be gentle when handling the shoe to prevent damage. Use circular motions and light strokes to remove dirt and oils from the shoe’s surface. Apply more pressure cautiously to stubborn spots.

Rinse Well

After cleaning, make sure your climbing shoes are soap-free. Rinse them well with lukewarm water. Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap. Soap residue can make shoes slippery and uncomfortable for climbing. Check your shoes carefully after rinsing to make sure there are no suds or soap bubbles left. Water running clear means shoes are clean.

Dry the Shoes

Dry your climbing shoes completely after cleaning and rinsing. Use a cloth or towel to pat the shoes dry. Avoid twisting or wringing the shoes to prevent damage and maintain their performance. Drying shoes properly is important to prevent bacteria growth and bad smells. Ensure the entire shoe is dry, including the insides and seams.

Drying times may vary based on humidity and airflow. Make sure to let your shoes air dry completely before using them again. The process can take a few hours to a day or longer, depending on conditions. To dry your climbing shoes faster, put them in a well-ventilated area with good air circulation. Avoid direct sunlight or high heat, as it can damage the shoes.

Dry Insoles and Laces Separately

After drying your climbing shoes, focus on the insoles and laces. If you removed these parts in Step 2, they probably need to be dried too. Let them air dry separately to ensure all parts of your shoes are moisture-free. Drying insoles completely helps prevent sweat and odors for a better climbing experience. Dry laces are important for cleanliness. Only put the insoles and laces back in your climbing shoes when they’re fully dry.

Step 9: Preventing Odor (Optional)

To prevent odors in your climbing shoes, try some extra measures. Although not required, it can greatly improve your climbing shoe maintenance routine. Cedar shoe inserts work well. These inserts absorb moisture and keep shoes smelling fresh. You can also sprinkle baking soda inside your shoes to neutralize odors. Shake off extra baking soda before using the shoes again.

Store Correctly

Store clean, dry, and odor-free climbing shoes properly. Proper storage maintains shape and performance. Store clean climbing shoes in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and extreme temperatures. Don’t leave them in a hot car or damp gym bag, as it can damage the shoe’s materials and rubber. Climbers use shoe bags to protect their shoes when not in use.

To keep your climbing shoes in good condition, follow these steps and take care of them properly. This will ensure they continue to provide the performance and comfort you need for climbing.

Alternative Methods to Clean Rock Climbing Shoes

Clean climbing shoes regularly for better performance and durability. There are other ways to clean based on what you want.

Best way to clean rock climbing shoes

Quick Wipe

If you’re in a hurry or your climbing shoes are only a little dirty, a quick wipe can help. Get a wet cloth or baby wipes. Clean climbing shoes by gently wiping off visible dirt, chalk, or sweat. This method is good for routine maintenance and can help keep your shoes clean between deeper cleanings. Note that it may not remove tough dirt or odors. Dry the shoes completely before your next climb to avoid moisture buildup.

Freeze it

To remove odors from climbing shoes, try freezing them. It works well. Freeze shoes in a bag for 12+ hours. Cold kills odor bacteria and reduces smells. Let shoes thaw, then shake out ice and smells. This method is great for people worried about water damage or climbers with little time for odor control. Use cedar shoe inserts or sprinkle baking soda to prevent odors.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Use baking soda and water to make a cleaning paste for better cleaning and odor removal. Mix ingredients to form a paste. Apply the paste to shoes with a brush or cloth, and focus on dirty areas. Wait 15-30 minutes for the baking soda to clean.

Rinse the shoes with water to remove the paste. Use a vinegar-soaked cloth to clean shoes and remove odors. Vinegar neutralizes odors. Rinse shoes with water and let them dry after vinegar treatment. This method is good for very dirty or smelly shoes.

Shoe Cleaners for Climbing Shoes

You can buy climbing shoe cleaners and deodorizers made for climbing shoes. These products clean and refresh climbing shoes well. Follow the label instructions to use them. Clean shoes by applying cleaner, scrubbing, rinsing, and drying as directed. Using cleaners for climbing shoes can be convenient and efficient, but they may cost extra. They are designed for hassle-free cleaning.

These cleaning methods give climbers options to choose what works best for them. Clean climbing shoes properly to keep them in good condition for your next climb.

How Often Should I Clean my Climbing Shoes?

The frequency with which you should clean your climbing shoes depends on various factors. After each climbing session, it’s advisable to perform a basic cleaning routine, which involves removing surface dirt, chalk, and sweat using a dry cloth or brushing off loose debris. Regularly inspect your climbing shoes for wear, damage, or persistent odors, as these signs may indicate the need for more thorough cleaning.

If your shoes become visibly dirty, stained, or muddy from your climbing environment, it’s time for a more comprehensive cleaning. The frequency of this cleaning will largely depend on your climbing habits and the conditions you encounter. Persistent odors are also a cue for cleaning to eliminate the buildup of bacteria.

Additionally, the material of your climbing shoes can influence how often you should clean and maintain them, with leather shoes often requiring more regular care and conditioning to prevent deterioration. In summary, there isn’t a fixed schedule for cleaning climbing shoes, but attentive maintenance and cleaning practices tailored to your specific circumstances will help extend the lifespan of your shoes and ensure their continued performance on the rock.

Can I Clean My Climbing Shoes with Just Water?

Cleaning rock climbing shoes with just water can be effective for basic maintenance, but it may not always suffice for more thorough cleaning. Water alone can help remove surface dirt, chalk, and sweat, which are common contaminants after a climbing session. You can use a damp cloth or sponge to gently wipe down the exterior of the shoes, paying particular attention to the rubber soles and the areas where your feet make the most contact.

However, water may not effectively remove stubborn stains, oil, or deeply ingrained dirt. Climbing shoes can also develop an unpleasant odor over time due to the accumulation of sweat and bacteria inside. In such cases, using only water might not eliminate the odor entirely.

For more thorough cleaning, specialized climbing shoe cleaning products or mild detergents designed for delicate fabrics can be employed. These products are better equipped to break down tougher stains and odors while preserving the shoe’s integrity.

Additionally, it’s essential to consider the shoe’s material. Leather climbing shoes, for instance, may require more careful cleaning to prevent damage. Overall, while water can be a useful tool in maintaining the cleanliness of your climbing shoes, a combination of appropriate cleaning products, gentle scrubbing, and proper drying is often necessary for keeping your shoes in the best condition and extending their lifespan.


Can I wash my climbing shoes in a machine?

Don’t use a washing machine for climbing shoes. Washing machines can harm climbing shoes. Too much stress on shoes can make them break and not work well. Use warm water and mild soap to gently clean your climbing gear. It’s the best way to avoid damage.

Can bleach remove stains from climbing shoes?

Don’t bleach climbing shoes. Bleach can damage rubber and change its color. Bleach can damage shoes and make them less grippy for climbing. Use mild cleaning agents like dish soap or gentle hand soap to clean shoes without causing damage.

Should I clean my climbing shoes after each climb?

Clean climbing shoes after each climb to remove dirt, chalk, and moisture. Clean less often, depending on climbing frequency and conditions. Clean shoes after dirty or sweaty sessions to keep them fresh and prevent odor and bacteria.

Clean climbing shoes inside?

Yes, clean your climbing shoes inside for freshness and hygiene. Climbing shoes can get smelly due to sweat and moisture. To clean inside, use a freezer or wipe with a damp cloth. Clean climbing shoes for better comfort and no odor.

Can I clean climbing shoes in a dishwasher?

No, don’t use the dishwasher for climbing shoes. Dishwashers can damage your shoes with heat, detergent, and agitation. Heat can damage rubber and detergents can harm adhesives. Clean climbing shoes gently by hand to maintain their integrity.

Is using a hairdryer safe for drying?

Use low heat on the hairdryer for drying climbing shoes, but be careful. Heat can harm shoes, especially if they are made of sensitive materials or glued together. Air-dry climbing shoes at room temperature to keep their shape and integrity.

Can I use shoe deodorizers in my climbing shoes?

Yes, using shoe deodorizers for sports shoes can help keep climbing shoes smelling fresh. Make sure the deodorizers work for closed-toe shoes. Follow instructions, and replace deodorizers regularly to keep them effective.

Should I tie my climbing shoes tightly when storing them?

Store climbing shoes with loose or untied laces. Storing them like this prevents stress on laces and materials. Tying laces too tight can damage shoes. Keep your climbing shoes in good shape for better performance.

Can I clean leather climbing shoes like synthetic ones?

Cleaning leather climbing shoes is similar to cleaning synthetic ones, but leather shoes may need extra care. Use leather conditioner to keep leather supple and prevent cracks. Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions for leather climbing shoes.

Should I clean my climbing shoes if they’re sensitive?

Yes, clean climbing shoes, even if they’re sensitive. Be careful when cleaning these areas. Use a soft brush or cloth gently to avoid damage. Clean shoes are important for better climbing performance and durability. Protecting edges and rands helps achieve good results and prolongs shoe lifespan.

Final Words

Taking care of your climbing shoes is crucial for success. Clean your gear properly to maintain grip, precision, and comfort for climbing. Choose hand-cleaning or alternative methods like freezer or baking soda and vinegar, but be consistent. Clean your climbing shoes regularly to make them last longer and perform better.

Don’t let dirty or smelly shoes stop you. Follow our guide and consider your shoes’ materials. Take care of your climbing shoes to climb better and enjoy new challenges.


Hi, I'm Asim! I love giving you cleaning guides, tips and tricks that will make your place sparkle and shine. Through years of practice, I've learned effective ways to clean and can't wait to help you. From tough spots to general cleaning, I can help you. Come along with me on this cleaning adventure, where I'll give you tips and tricks to make your cleaning process easier. Let's work together to make clean haven.

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