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How to Clean Your Smelly Flip Flops

How to Clean Your Smelly Flip Flops

                By: Natalie Tull

smelly flip flops

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Are you and your loved ones suffering from your smelly flip flops?

It’s ok.  It happens to everyone.  You are reading this article and that is the first step towards your freedom from funky flip flops.   

What causes smelly flip flops? 

Throughout the day, the footbed of your flip flops absorb your sweat and the skin cells you shed.   And this combination of sweat, skin cells and moisture create the perfect storm for bacterial growth.  Since bacteria are living organisms, they feed, reproduce and excrete waste.  In the case of flip flop footbeds, the bacteria feed off of our skin cells and sweat. They use the moisture to break down their food and to create waste.  This waste is excreted and produces volatile smells. We often smell the results of this process in rotting food, fermentation and our own body odor.

How Can You Prevent Them from Smelling?

  1. Clean your feet.  It may sound simple, but skimping on foot hygiene is a fast track to smelly flip flops.  Make sure you always dry your feet completely before slipping on your flip flops or a pair of socks* to avoid trapping moisture.
  2. Rotate your footwear.  If you wear the same pair of flip flops every day without any kind of cleaning, you are constantly building prime bacteria real estate.
  3. Use foot powders, sprays or antiperspirants.  You can use baby powder or something stronger such as medicated foot powders and sprays, as well as antiperspirants designed for your feet.  You can make your own shoe powder or buy products like Gold Bond, Dr. Scholl’s or 2Tom’s
  4. Use dryer sheets, essential oils, charcoal or kitty litter.  Stick dryer sheets into the toes of your flip flops and tie them in a plastic bag overnight to keep them smelling fresh.  You can also put a drop of cedar wood or sandalwood essential oil onto the footbed to counteract the smell.  Or, fill a plastic bag with crushed charcoal or kitty litter and seal for 24 hours.  Wipe them clean with a dry cloth.  The charcoal and litter help to absorb moisture. 
  5. Clean your flip flops.  It’s best if you give them a little maintenance cleaning every week or two with vinegar and water and a deeper cleaning every couple of months.  Timing between cleanings all depends on how often you wear them and where.  

*Do not wear socks with flip flops unless you get one of these pairs.

One item that is often used to remove bad smells is vinegar.  Why? Simply put, vinegar neutralizes odors because odors are alkaline (basic) and vinegar is acidic.  So, when vinegar comes into contact with the basic odor molecules, it neutralizes them.  Vinegar is used for cleaning and deodorizing all types of surfaces, including flip flops.  Use a wet towel with vinegar on it or a spray bottle with a vinegar/water combination to quickly rid your flip flops of smell until you can do a thorough cleaning.

How do You Clean Flip Flops?

So, the way you clean your flip flops depends on the type of material they are made out of.  I’ll explain different ways to clean your rubber, leather and suede flip flops.  

Rubber Flip Flops

  • Baking Soda. A simple combination of water and baking soda are great for removing stains and odors from rubber flip flops.  Just form a paste with the baking soda and water and apply liberally to the footbeds and soles of your smelly flip flops.  Then, use a toothbrush to scrub away dirt.  Wipe clean with a wet cloth and let air dry.  Check out this video or this article for detailed, step by step instructions.  
  • Washing machine or dishwasher. Throw in a little vinegar and set the washing machine on a delicate cycle.  Or, put them in the dishwasher with vinegar and a cool dry setting.  Let them air dry if still damp.  (Don’t use these methods if your flip flops have decorations such as beads, flowers, ribbon, jewels, etc.)
  • A combo of both.  After taking them out of the washing machine, apply baking soda to the footbed while still wet, then spray with a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar.  Let it sit for five minutes, then rinse and air dry.  (This should keep them clean smelling for a week or two.)
  • Magic Eraser cleaning pads.  Use as directed for an easy clean.

Leather Flip Flops

First, you need to figure out if your flip flops are treated or untreated leather.  If leather is treated, water drops will bead up on it. 

Untreated Leather: 

  • Saddle soap. This product is made of soft, fine soap and softening ingredients like lanolin and beeswax.  It prevents brittleness and adds suppleness while maintaining strength.  It is used to clean saddles, baseball gloves, boots, car seats – any kind of smooth leather.  All you do is work the soap into a lather by rubbing a soft cloth together, then you gently rub the lather onto your flip flops.  Afterward, wipe the soap away with a damp cloth and towel dry. Let air dry. You can use a toothbrush on hard to clean areas.
  • Baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda onto the footbed and let it sit for a day.  Wipe away with a damp cloth.  Let air dry. 

Treated Leather:

  • Vinegar. Wipe with a wet cloth and vinegar.  Let air dry.
  • Newspaper. Placing crumpled newspapers into the toe will attract moisture away from the footbed
  • Moisturizing body soap or hand soap.  Work the soap into a lather on soft cloth and clean the flip flops. Clean off soap with a new damp cloth and let air dry.

DO NOT dry your flip flops in the sun – especially leather ones. If they are left in the sun for too long, it will cause the material to dry out, crack, fade and warp.

Suede Flip Flops

  • Sandpaper. You can use sandpaper to gently rub against the footbed to remove dirt.  Wipe off extra grit with a dry towel.
  • Dish soap.  Dip a toothbrush into a mixture of dish soap and warm water and scrub the footbed gently.  Dry with towel.
  • Suede cleaning kit.  You can buy a three piece kit on Amazon for about $20.  They are highly reviewed and can be used on any of your suede covered items.  


smell roses free

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I hope these tips have your smelly flip flops smelling like roses in no time!  And, let me know if you have some tips to cleaning your smelly flip flops in the comments section.  


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A Guide to Finding the Best Flip Flops for You



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