Why do Birkenstocks turn black? Detailed instructions on how to clean the shoes

Why do Birkenstocks turn black? 5 easy ways to clean shoes


Birkenstock shoes are one of the most favorite shoes for many people. They get chosen for their comfort and durability. Lots of interesting designs and purposes push the shoes to the top of the sale list.

There are a few moments to consider, though. Wearing Birkenstocks requires you to take care of them if you don’t want them to lose their attractive appearance and turn black.

Why do Birkenstocks turn black? There are a few reasons that lead to this outcome. In this article, we will discuss the main points that cause Birkenstock turn black.

How can you clean different models of Birkenstocks? What can be done to prevent Birkenstocks from turning black? The information will be useful for all owners of these shoes. Let’s begin.

Why do Birkenstocks turn black in time?

You probably already know that the material Birkenstock shoes are made out of has a porous structure. It makes it easier for dirt particles to get stuck inside.

Aggravated by excess moisture from sweating and oil buildup, it results in Birkenstocks turning black in time. In some cases, it is not just the black stains you will experience, it can also lead to a stinky smell and even mold growth.

There is no need to start panicking. It is all can be prevented by taking care of your shoes. Cleaning mustn’t be postponed.

It has to happen straight after you have returned home and discovered that your shoes are dirty. This way you won’t have to fight severe contamination and your shoes will last longer, keeping their original appearance.

How does mold affect leather Birkenstocks?

Those who don’t pay attention to cleaning their shoes in time can eventually face a very unpleasant result. Not only will Birkenstock turn black, but they will also develop mold growth.

It often happens in regions with quite humid weather conditions. If you don’t pay attention to drying the shoes properly, that will be the outcome you are going to experience.

So, this is another reason why do Birkenstocks turn black. There is nothing pleasurable about mold on your shoes.

You must clean it before mold forms. Mold can destroy the shoes, and you will end up needing to purchase a new pair.

Below you will find instructions on how to clean the shoes and what cleaning solution to use.

Why do Birkenstocks develop a bad odor?

We have explained why do Birkenstocks turn black, now it is time to discuss the bad odor that can develop as well. You probably might have heard that Birkenstocks are odor-resistant.

Yet many customers claim the shoes do develop a bad smell. The cause of Birkenstocks smell bad is excess sweating. If the shoes don’t get maintained and cleaned in time, you will face a bad odor.

It is preventable, though. Just take care of your shoes in time. The bad smell can be removed using baking soda.

You can layer baking soda on top of the Birkenstock footbed and leave it for a few hours.

Clean Birkenstocks with a soft cloth, wiping the remnants of baking soda. Repeat the process if needed.

How to remove black stains from suede Birkenstocks shoes?

So now, after we have answered the question of why do Birkenstocks turn black, it is time to tell you how to clean suede Birkenstocks.

We will look at the necessary cleaning equipment first, so you are all prepared. Then you can move to the actual cleaning process.

What will you require?

  • A special suede brush
  • A suede eraser
  • Some white vinegar
  • A microfiber cloth

Step 1. Getting rid of loose dirt

Start with brushing off all the dirt particles on Birkenstocks. Use the suede brush to ensure you don’t damage the top layer of Birkenstocks.

Step 2. Cleaning with a suede eraser

Go over suede Birkenstocks with sweeping motions. Some dirt in the top layer will be eliminated after this step.

Step 3. Using white vinegar

If the Birkenstocks are still dirty after cleaning them with a brush and an eraser, try using vinegar. It is easy to find in the kitchen and the result will be quite impressive.

Soak a microfiber cloth in vinegar and rub it into the stains. Leave it to dry completely. The footbed reacts great and the black stain disappears.

If you struggle with the removal of the stains, you might have to repeat the whole process again to achieve the result you are happy with.

The process of cleaning leather Birkenstocks shoes

Leather shoes require a different approach to cleaning. It will take longer and will be more difficult, but still can be done, knowing the correct procedure.

If you are too worried, that you might ruin Birkenstocks, you should look into seeking professional help.

If you have decided that you want to do it yourself, find the right tools for that. A couple of microfiber cloths, a leather cleaner, and some water will be needed.

1. Clean the surface of the shoes

Soak a cloth in water first. Then spray a leather cleaner onto the damp cloth or a damp towel and start rubbing the stained area of the shoe.

2. Scrub the stains

Concentrate on the tough stains. You might want to use a soft brush to help to get rid of it.

3. Let the shoes dry completely

This is the most important part. Once you have been able to remove all the stains off the Birkenstock sandals, you have to leave Birks dry properly.

As they haven’t been immersed fully in water, the drying process might take a couple of hours. If you don’t allow them enough time to dry, it will result in sandals becoming dirty again fast.

If you weren’t able to get all the dirt off the shoe the first time, try repeating the same steps again.

Instructions for cleaning Birkenstocks footbed

When you are finished cleaning the upper part of your pair of Birkenstocks, it is time to focus on the footbed. Usually, the most amount of dirt is concentrated on the footbed.

Regular cleaning of your Birkenstocks ensures no stubborn stains will occur, and the process of taking care of your pair of Birkenstocks will be fast and easy.

Prepare the necessary cleaning equipment to make Birkenstocks clean. You will require baking soda, a clean cloth, a soft brush, a cork sealer, and some water.

1. Start with cleaning the entire shoe including the cork sole from the dirt particles and city grime. If the shoe has a buckle, you have to unbuckle it, so you can get to all the tricky spots.

2. Prepare the cleaning mixture out of the two ingredients you have prepared – water and baking soda. The substance must have a paste texture. You can always add more water if it is too thick.

3. Apply the mixture using a cloth. Grab some paste onto the cloth and rub it on the bottom part of the footbed. Keep rubbing in circular motions.

4. Leave the footwear and wait until they are completely dry. It will take a few hours before you can repeat the previous steps for the tough stains that will still be remaining.

5. If you want to prolong the lifespan of your Birkenstock footwear, you have to protect them by applying the cork sealer. That will ensure the cork will be able to withstand different conditions better and will last longer.

For stubborn stains, you can try adding dishwashing liquid to the cleaning mixture. Dishwashing liquid will help to dissolve grease and oily stains better.

Tips for preventing Birkenstocks shoes from turning black

There are a few tips you should consider to avoid damaging your Birkenstock footwear.

  1. Don’t leave Birkenstocks under the direct sunlight. Your shoes might shrink or lose their color.
  2. Contact professional cleaners. If the stains are too tough, it is worth it to get professional help. They have all the necessary cleaning agents that won’t ruin your Birkenstocks.
  3. Always clean the footbed. It will prolong the shoes’ lifespan.

Also, bear in mind that some models of Birkenstocks turn black faster and the developed stains are more severe than other models. Below is a table with general information.

Type of footbedThe result of extensive sweating
Suede BirkenstocksEven though suede isn’t the cause for extreme sweating, any moisture will be soaked in, which in turn will result in black stains
EVA shoesThese types of shoes are perfect for wearing to the beach as they don’t get impacted by water. It is easy to maintain them in perfect condition
PU shoesBirkenstocks shoes have a footbed that can be removed for cleaning purposes. Due to that, they are easy to keep in clean condition
Shearling shoesShearling is a natural material, hence there will be no sweating while wearing Birkenstocks. These shoes never turn black
Microfiber shoesThe footbed of these shoes will absorb the excess moisture, but it will keep all heat in as well


How do you keep Birks from turning black?

You should take care of your shoes if you don’t want Birkenstocks turning black. You can either use special cleaning kits and stain repellent Birkenstock sells, or use a homemade cleaning mixture to save money.

It is also quite effective. Regularly clean your footwear with baking soda paste. Applying leather conditioner every now and again will ensure the leather shoe won’t dry out.

Is it normal for Birkenstocks to get dark?

Birkenstocks do get dark if you don’t clean them. Dirt gets stuck in the footbed and over long periods of time can develop a bad odor as well.

The key is regular cleaning. Don’t neglect this advice, otherwise, the soles will be destroyed fast, and you will have to purchase a new pair.

What is the black stuff on Birkenstocks?

The black stuff that you see on your shoe is all the dirt and oil buildup that happens from wearing footwear and not cleaning it in time. The leather footbed absorbs moisture fast, resulting in black stains appearing.

Make sure you keep your feet dry and if shoes get wet outside, allow enough time for them to dry properly. When you don’t wear Birkenstocks, leave a silicon bag inside, so it catches all the moisture.

Why are my Birkenstocks moldy?

Moldy Birkenstocks happen when you come home in wet sandals, chuck them in the shoe cupboard without letting them dry, and stop wearing them altogether. Leather orthopedic insole will develop mold spots that are quite difficult to get rid of.

Leaving the Birkenstocks in a dry place after you have cleaned them will ensure mold will never start growing. Just remember to not leave sandals under the direct sunlight.


Now that we have answered the question of why do Birkenstocks turn black, your favorite pair of shoes will always be in perfect condition. Always take care of them, don’t leave them under direct sunlight, and if you see that they are dirty or wet, address them immediately.

Clean the Birkenstocks with baking soda and a damp cloth and allow them to dry. Avoid wearing wet shoe because it will destroy them faster.

If this information is helpful, please share the article with your friends. If you still have questions, post them in the comment section below. We will get back to you as soon as we can!


  • Paula Mareen

    Paula Maureen has collaborated with famous shoe brands and designed popular women’s sandals. As a proofreader, she contributes to foot wisdom.

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