How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Why do you think your rock climbing shoes need to be washed after every climbing trip? It is because they go through a lot of abuse and pressure, as they are the lonely thing between you and the steep rocky path. Rock climbing shoes come in contact to grime, dirt, pebbles, mud, and even environmental toxins.

If not washed properly this dirt and mud will settle on your shoes and damage their condition causing them to wear out faster than normal. 

It is important to keep your rock climbing shoes clean. Washing them will also remove all the sweat and dead skin cells that accumulate inside your shoes. If you are looking for ways how to wash your rock climbing shoes then stay with us. In this article, we have discussed How To Wash Your Rock Climbing Shoes in a step-wise detailed mode .

Ways to wash your rock climbing shoes - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Photo by : Extremepedia

You can clean your shoes either by 

  • Hand wash: if you want to deep clean every corner and hidden spots

  • Machine wash: if you have less time and want to give them an overall wash

How to deep clean your rock climbing shoes by hand wash - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Things you will need:

A medium or large bowl (should enough to sink your shoes)

  • Warm water
  • Mild detergent
  • Toothbrush 
  • A dry piece of cloth
  • Knife

Steps for hand washing your shoes: - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

1. Take a bowl full of water - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Take a medium or a large sized bowl and fill it with warm water. The water should be around 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. This is the perfect water temperature to remove any stone, debris, dust, or pebbles off from your shoes.

However, do not make your water too hot (70 to 90 degree Celsius) as it will damage your shoe’s outer materials and rubber soles. Also, the water should not be too cold too either.

2. Take a suitable mild detergent - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Choosing the right detergent is very important. Strong detergent has high alkalinity and harsh chemicals in it which will damage your rock climbing shoes and wear it out. Your soles and upper liner might even come off.

Use a detergent that is not too strong and has an alkaline pH of 8 to 10. Add two tbsp. of detergent into your bowl of warm water and stir it. Use your hands to brush the water so that you can see white foam on top of your bowl.

3. Remove all the dirt, pebble, and stones that are stuck - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Do not put your shoes directly into the bowl to wash them. First of all, take a dry piece of cloth and clean off all mud, dust, and debris from it. Take a knife or a sharp object and use it to take off all the small rocks and pebbles stuck under it. Do not be too rough, work gently to remove the debris or you might end up cutting through the rubber sole beneath your shoes.

4. Turn your climbing shoes and pad them - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

A lot of dust and debris will be stuck near your toe box, they will not come out easily. Turn your climbing shoes upside down and pad them. Make sure to pad them heavily on the toe box region to get all the rocks, chalks, and dust out through the opening.

5. Scrub the outer part of your climbing shoes - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

In this step, do not completely soak your shoes in warm water yet. Take your dry cloth soak it in the water and use it to brush and scrub your climbing shoes. However, do not scrub the tongue, sole and upper part of your shoe.

6. Submerge them in warm water

Take your shoes and submerge them in the warm water containing detergent. Keep them soaked for 30 to 40 minutes. Take a toothbrush to scrub your shoes. Toothbrushes are great for removing any stains that are hard to reach with normal brushes. Remember not to brush too hard, gently go over the stains. 

Take off your inner soles and soak them in the water as well. Warm water will loosen up the soles and dirt will eventually come out of them. Also, do not completely soak your shoes, only submerge them. The water should not get inside your shoes or it will take too long for it to dry them.

7. Use a brush to clean shoes from the inside 

After soaking them and brushing the dirt off. Use a piece of cloth to wipe away all the water from your climbing shoes. Now, it is time to wash the inside, take your toothbrush and scrub the inner part of your shoes. Try to reach all the parts, including the toe box and the upper parts of your climbing shoes. Make sure the inner part of your shoe is not completely wet. Is your shoe has laces, you can put them in the bowl and soak them in detergent water. You can also use your brush to scrub the laces clean.

8. Rinse your Rock Climbing with warm freshwater

Your water must have turned brown by now, filled with dust, dirt and debris. You need to replace the brown water with lukewarm water. After draining the brown water, rinse your bowl, and refill it with warm water. Submerge your rock climbing shoes to wash them again. Move them up and down, scrub them lightly to remove any extra detergent off from them. Wash them in this manner for 5 to 10 minutes.

9. Air Dry your shoes

Take your rock climbing shoes and shake them to remove any water present on them. Take a towel to wipe your shoes clean. Take them to a clean dry place to air dry. You can leave them in your balcony or in your garden where they will get a proper air circulation. Do not put the laces, Velcro, and the inner soles inside your shoes yet. 

Take all the pieces and allows them to dry off separately. Make sure to not put your shoes in a place where they will get direct sunlight. UV rays can damage your shoes’ material within a short time. If you are having winter months, it is better to keep them near a radiator or your chimney. Do not put them on top of your radiator though.

Steps for Machine washing your shoes: - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

1. Clean all the dirt - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

This step is the same as hand washing, you need to remove and wipe off all the dirt and dust from your shoes. Use a towel or a piece of cloth to wipe it clean. Do not directly put your climbing shoes into the machine.

2. Pad your climbing shoes - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Remember to get all the stones, chalk, and dust from the toe area and from inside your shoes. Padding them helps the dirt to come off. You can also use a brush to get the stones and pebbles out.

3. Set your washing machine - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

If your washing machine has a program for synthetic material wash or delicate, then set that program. If your washing machine has the option for gentle cleaning wash then you can set that as well.

If your rock climbing shoes are made of synthetic material, set your machine above 1000 rpm always. If your machine doesn’t reach that much, set it to 500-800 rpm. This range works best with 30-40 °C or (85 to 100 °F).

4. Add mild detergent 

Never use any strong detergent, always add mild detergent. Remember to never use bleach to clean your climbing shoes.

5. Rinse your shoes with warm water 

After your machine is done, clean your shoes with warm water. Rinse all the detergent and air dry them.

Never put your rock climbing shoes in an Air dryer - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Air dryers are horrible for rock climbing shoes. They damages your shoe’s outer materials, destroy the sticky soles and the rubber. If your shoe contains leather, it will melt it and damage it completely. Always opts for air drying your rock climbing shoes after getting them machine washed.

Odor removal - How to Wash your Rock Climbing Shoes

Even after a nice wash, some rock climbing shoes contain a stubborn smell. This smell does not wear off no matter how much detergent you add in your bowl. You need to wash your shoes with alcohol. Make sure the alcohol is not too concentrated, dilute it with ounces of water.

Rub them for 15 minutes, and let them dry. You can also add few drops of essential oil of any flavor of your preference to make your rock climbing shoes smell as fresh as new.

Bottom Line

Wash your rock climbing shoes regularly. It that’s too much work washes them once a week. Always remember, your climbing performance and success depends on your experience and your shoes’ quality. Clean shoes will help you get a steady grip and climb smoothly.


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