How to Clean Oiled Leather Birkenstocks? – Tips & Tricks

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when your favorite pair of oiled leather Birkenstocks starts to show signs of wear and tear? I know I have.

From days spent exploring city streets to lazy afternoons in the park, my Birkenstocks have been through it all, accumulating their fair share of stains and marks.

But with a little research and some readily available tools, I managed to transform them back into the stylish, comfy sandals I fell in love with.

This blog post is your Birkenstock revival plan.

We’ll walk through everything you need to know about cleaning and caring for your oiled leather Birkenstocks.

How to Clean Oiled Leather Birkenstocks Infographic

Anatomy of a Birkenstock

Before we explore how to properly clean oiled leather Birkenstocks, understanding the different parts will help us know where to focus our cleaning efforts and how to take the best care of each component.

The Upper: The upper part of the Birkenstock is what covers the top of your foot. In the case of oiled leather Birkenstocks, this is rich, durable leather that gives your sandals their classic look.

The Footbed: Birkenstocks are known for their iconic cork footbed that molds to your foot for ultimate comfort. It’s usually covered with a layer of suede or leather.

The Straps and Buckles: These are typically made from leather or a combination of leather and metal. The buckles are usually nickel-free and coated for durability.

The Sole: The sole of your Birkenstocks can be made from various materials depending on the style. Oiled leather Birkenstocks often have a cork outsole with an EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) layer for added traction.

Preparing to Clean Oiled Leather Birkenstocks

Alright, now that we know the ins and outs of our Birkenstocks, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get ready to clean them.

1. Gather Your Supplies

First, let’s make sure we’ve got everything we need. Here’s a handy checklist:

  • A soft brush
  • Mild leather cleaner or saddle soap
  • Soft cloths or microfiber towels
  • Leather conditioner
  • Bowl of lukewarm water

2. Find a Good Workspace

Find a comfortable, well-lit workspace like a kitchen counter or a sturdy table. Lay down old newspapers or a towel to protect the surface from spills or drips.

I usually use my dining table and cover it with an old towel. It makes the whole process feel more like a fun DIY project.

3. Remove Laces and Insoles

If your Birkenstocks have laces or removable insoles, take them out. This allows you to clean every nook and cranny properly.

I once skipped it and ended up with dirt hiding under the straps.

4. Brush Off Loose Dirt

Grab your soft brush and gently remove loose dirt from the surface, focusing on seams and edges where dirt accumulates.
This step is crucial to prevent scratching the leather during cleaning.
Before applying cleaner to the entire shoe, do a patch test.

5. Test Your Cleaner

Dab a small amount on an inconspicuous area, like the inside of a strap. Wait a few minutes to check for discoloration or any reaction.
I learned this the hard way when I once used a new cleaner that slightly darkened my leather sandals. Now, I never skip this test.

6. Ready Your Cleaning Solution

If you’re using a concentrated cleaner, mix it with a bit of lukewarm water in your small dish. Follow the instructions on the cleaner’s label to get the right ratio.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning every part of your oiled leather Birkenstocks: the footbeds, straps, and soles.

Step 1: Clean the Dirt and Dust

Grab a soft brush and brush any loose dirt or debris from the entire sandal, including the oiled leather upper, footbed, straps, and soles.

Pay special attention to the crevices around the buckles and the edges of the footbed where dirt can accumulate.

2. Cleaning the Straps

Mix mild leather cleaner with lukewarm water as per the cleaner’s instructions. Dip a soft cloth into the solution, wring it out, and gently rub over the oiled leather straps, focusing on stains.

When I clean my straps, I always do it in circular motions. 

3. Cleaning the Footbeds

Mix mild soap with lukewarm water in a small bowl. Dip a soft cloth into the soapy water, wring it out, and gently scrub the footbeds.

Focus on the areas where your feet rest, as these tend to accumulate the most dirt. Pat the footbeds dry with a towel and let them air dry completely before wearing them again.

I once let my Birkenstocks dry in direct sunlight, and it caused the footbeds to dry out and crack. Now, I always dry them indoors in a shaded spot.

4. Cleaning the Soles

Mix mild soap with water in a bowl. Use a cloth dipped in this soapy water to scrub the soles thoroughly.
For tough dirt, gently scrub it with a toothbrush. This method will keep your Birkenstocks clean and ready for your next outing.
Rinse the soles with clean water, either by wiping them down with a wet cloth or lightly rinsing them under a tap.

5. Final Touches

Once everything is clean and dry, reinsert the laces or insoles you removed during preparation.

Apply a small amount of leather conditioner to a soft cloth. Gently massage the conditioner into the leather in circular motions.

I only condition my oiled leather Birkenstocks a couple of times a year, or whenever they’re looking a bit dirty.

Source: Repair Studio YT Channel

How to Remove Stains from Oiled Leather Birkenstocks

We all know how frustrating it can be when our oiled leather Birkenstocks get stained.

But don’t worry, here’s a step-by-step guide to remove the stains and keep your sandals looking their best.

1. Identify the Stain Type

Determine if the stain is water-based (like mud or food stains) or oil-based (like grease or ink), as different stains may require different treatments

2. Light Stains

Grab a microfiber cloth and dampen it with clean water.  Gently wipe the stained area in a circular motion to lift the stain without spreading it or pushing it deeper into the leather.

I find that being gentle and patient here really pays off. Rushing might cause the stain to set in more stubbornly.

2. Stubborn Stains

For tougher stains, a suede eraser works wonders. You can find these at most shoe stores or online.

Gently buff the stain with the suede eraser in a back-and-forth motion. Be careful not to rub too hard, as you don’t want to damage the leather.

The first time I used a suede eraser, I was amazed at how well it worked on a stubborn oil stain. Just remember, gentle pressure is key.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Oiled Leather Birkenstocks

Cleaning oiled leather Birkenstocks is straightforward, but there are a few common mistakes to avoid to ensure they stay in top shape:

Using Harsh Cleaners: Harsh detergents, scrubbing brushes, and even those tempting magic cleaning wipes are best left on the shelf. They can damage the leather’s finish and strip away its natural oils. I once used a harsh cleaner on mine and ended up with dull spots that took a while to restore.

Overwetting the Leather: While water can help remove light dirt, using too much or soaking your Birkenstocks is a big no-no. This can saturate the leather, cause it to shrink or warp, and even lead to mildew growth

Skipping Patch Tests: Always do a patch test! I skipped this once and regretted it when the leather reacted unexpectedly to a new conditioner.

OverConditioning: Over-conditioning can clog the leather’s pores and make it feel greasy. Stick to a light application of leather lotion or wax a couple of times a year, or whenever the leather feels dry.

Using Excessive Force: Gentle is the way to go. I’ve accidentally scratched my leather by scrubbing aggressively.

How Often to Clean Birkenstocks

When it comes to cleaning your oiled leather Birkenstocks, it depends on how often you wear them and the kind of wear and tear they go through

I find giving them a quick brush and wipe down after every few wears keeps them looking fresh.

If they get particularly dirty or wet, I clean them right away to prevent any damage or stains from setting in.

How to Care for and Maintain Oiled Leather Birkenstocks

Here are some tips to keep your Birkenstocks looking their best for longer:

  • After each wear, brush off loose dirt or debris to prevent scratching the leather.
  • Keep Birkenstocks out of heavy rain or snow, and avoid direct heat when drying.
  • When not in use, store Birkenstocks stuffed with paper to maintain their shape.
  • Try to avoid situations where your Birkenstocks could get stained from spills or splatters.

Source: Desert Birkenstock YT Channel


So there you have it, keeping your oiled leather Birkenstocks in top shape is pretty straightforward.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your sandals look great and feel comfortable for years.

I’ve found that regular cleaning with a gentle touch and promptly dealing with stains makes a huge difference

Keep them clean, and cared for, and enjoy the journey.

Resources Consulted

James Chiles

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