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How to Clean Flip Flops

Your feet a much deserved beach vacation. But, buying new flip-flops might cost you more. Here are some tips on how to clean your flip-flops.

A photo of flip-flops with different colors.

“I am in my element when it’s the summer or when I’m anywhere that’s hot,” says Clean My Space Host Melissa Maker.

Maker offers advice about how to clean rubber flip flops. I wouldn’t bother with this, however. The amount I invest in those types financially isn’t worth my time.

Instead, I’d buy a new pair. I would, however, concern myself with how to clean leather, suede, and other delicate types made of higher quality materials. Melissa and other online publishers do provide additional guidance on this harder-to-clean shoe type too. 

Related to: 5 Different Types of Flip FlopsHigh Heels vs Flip Flops vs Sandals (Compared)

What You Need

In most cases, you can use vinegar, baking soda, or both to remove odors. Each type still has its cleaning requirements, however. Make sure you don’t use solutions that could damage the shoe material.

For instance, you shouldn’t use water on most leather or suede surfaces unless you wipe them dry as soon as you cleaned them. Stick to the information below that applies to the type of flip flops you own.

Cleaning Rubber Flip Flops

A photo of washed rubber flip-flops.

Some rubber flip flops are the exception, costing more than a standard pair. Either way, I reference Melissa Maker’s rubber cleaning method.

She seems to have the same sentiment that I do about cheaper flip flops, and she does say not to expect them to come out perfect. According to Melissa, you also must consider the lifespan of the shoe.

A primary problem with rubber flip flops is that they soak up all your sweat along with other dirt and grime. That’s what makes them stink.

However, you can use baking soda, peroxide (or vinegar may be), and water with a toothbrush and/or a cloth – but Melissa says not to use a microfiber cloth. That’s probably because microfiber material soaks up too much water and may cause you to drench your shoes.

Use these steps to clean your rubber flip flops:

  1. Sprinkle baking soda on them. Cover the whole bottom surface (insole) where your foot goes.
  2. Spray them with water. Using a spray bottle prevents you from adding too much water to the shoe material.
  3. Spray hydrogen peroxide on them. This helps with combating hard-to-remove stains. You can apply the peroxide right on top of the water and baking soda.
  4. Scrub the insole with a toothbrush. The scrubbing action will activate the baking soda, water and peroxide mixture that behaves like a detergent. Make circular motions to help you cover over every “pixel” of your shoe surface.
  5. Wash the shoe upper. Usually, this part is made of plastic, and you can wipe that area with the same solution used for the insole. Wipe it dry.

Additional Tips

Use the same steps for the top of your flip-flops to clean the bottoms of your shoe. Make sure you keep rinsing your cloth or brush during the process.

Furthermore, pate and soak as much of the water from your flip flops to remove odors and excess water from the shoe’s pores. You may also place them in a washing machine, but they don’t seem to come as clean as washing by hand.

Cleaning Plastic Flip Flops or Jelly Shoes

A close up shot of someone wearing a pink jelly shoes.

I think the plastic flip flops and sandals require the least amount of effort to clean. Just make a batch of dishwater and dip a clean, soft cloth into it. Then, use that wet, soapy cloth to rub away stuck-on mud, grass stains, or food debris and other waste.

Using a scuff mark eraser may also work in most cases when applied to plastic.

If your flip flops stink, you could spray them with vinegar and let them sit for about a minute. Then, wipe away the vinegar with a dry cloth. For the most stubborn stench removal, you may have to scrub them with baking soda, vinegar and water. Then, rinse and dry them.

I also found a fast, alternative way to clean plastic flip flops:

“Use a water hose, a shower jet, or a powerful faucet to shoot water at the shoes. Try to knock dirt loose with water pressure.”

That’s the advice offered by a group of WikiHow collaborators. Keep in mind that this hose-down method may only work on plastic flip flops, and one online anonymous community member warns that using this on fabric shoes could “do permanent damage.”

How to Clean Leather Flip Flops

A leather Reef Drift flip-flops.

Source: Reef

“You can rub soap and water on your gym shoes and not care what happens to them but deciding how to clean leather sandals requires a little more thought,” says Bustle author Sienna Fantozzi.

I agree. Also, I side with Fantozzi when she says that you can’t treat sandals – whether flip flops or not — like old jelly shoes or gym sneakers. Here’s how to clean and care for your leather flip flops in different instances.

Preliminary Warning

Shoe Brush - 100% Horsehair Shoe Brush - Concaved Handle for Premium Grip (Black)

Make sure you don’t apply too much pressure using the leather cleaning steps, especially if using a brush. You don’t want to leave permanent scratches on your shoes.

If They Just Stink

Use this advice if your shoes don’t appear dirty, but they stink. First, sprinkle them with baking soda. Then, seal them in a plastic bag, and let them sit overnight.

Then, use a soft-bristled show cleaning brush (or toothbrush) to whisk away the baking soda the next day. You might have to apply mild pressure as you rub away the powdered substance, but your shoes shouldn’t stink after this.

If They’re Just Muddy

After the mud has dried, brush away the dirt with a dry, soft-bristled toothbrush or leather cleaning brush. Alternatively, use a soft, dry cloth that has just enough of an abrasive surface to wipe away the dirt.

For Stubborn Stains

A photo of an eraser kit for leather flip-flops.

Source: Red Wing Shoes

If you see black scuff marks, for instance, you might eliminate them using an eraser tool. However, you could also apply a damp cloth with dish soap and water. If you do use water, make sure you wipe the surface dry immediately after the washing step to preserve the material.

The Conditioning Step

You only need a few drops of your preferred conditioning solution on a dry cloth. Gently distribute the conditioner over the entire leather surface. Then, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away the excess substance and dirt.

How to Clean Suede Flip Flops

A photo of a pair of Reef Drift suede flip flops.

Source: Reef

I found some advice from John D. Hollander, DPM. This podiatrist offers seven different ways to clean sandals, and he recommends rubbing sandpaper on suede in a circular motion. He suggests the 125- or 150-grit paper, and he says to do this gently.

That’s a first. I never had advice from a foot doctor on how to clean shoes, but it makes sense to me. If you’re too apprehensive about damaging your suede, however, I’d suggest a finer sandpaper grit of at least 300 and see what happens. 

Otherwise, do it in a hidden spot first and see how that works out for you. I do wish you the best on your shoe-cleaning endeavor no matter what!