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How to Clean Flip Flops

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on March 1, 2021. In

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If you need to clean your flip flops, you may be wondering what the best approach is. Should you use some baking soda and an old toothbrush? Should you toss them in the washing machine? Soak them in some warm water and dish soap? There are a lot of potential answers, and some are better than others.

Figuring out how to clean your flip flops depends on what kind of flip flops you mean. Cleaning suede flip flops is a different process than cleaning rubber flip flops. The cleaning process for these sandals requires a different approach. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to clean flip flops. Also, the different ways that apply to different materials.

How to Clean Suede Flip Flops

Suede sandals and flip flops look a lot nicer than rubber. They also last longer. But you need to be careful when cleaning them. Some cleanser can ruin suede.

The best cleaners for suede are white vinegar and rubbing alcohol. These won’t stain the suede and should remove most stains. This is especially helpful if your flip flops were exposed to salt water. Stains from salt water on suede can be very unsightly.

Start by using a suede brush. Brush in one direction to get rid of any surface dirt and grime. Once you’ve gotten the loose stuff off, you can start scrubbing back and forth. Try to get out as much as you can with these dry methods.

You don’t want to use water on suede because it stains. So try the vinegar or alcohol on a cloth. Rub it in vigorously to scrub out your stained areas. Let it air dry and then use your suede brush again. This will pick up the fabric, which probably dried a little crusty and flat.

Pre-treating suede is always a good idea. Why wait for a stain to form when you can prevent it? Suede protection sprays are sold at just about any place that sells shoes. You can get them on Amazon as well. It’s just a can of spray that protects from water and dirt. They only cost a few dollars, so it’s a good investment.

How to Clean Rubber Flip Flops

Cleaning rubber flip flops is easier than cleaning suede. They’re rugged and can handle some more harsh cleaning methods. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to take care though. But it does mean you can at least use water.

The Simple Method

If we’re talking a simple pair of flip flops that cost less than $10, you don’t need a lot of effort. Put them in the tub and run some warm water on them. Maybe use a small amount of laundry detergent or dish soap.

If you need to scrub, use an old toothbrush for the tough spots.

The Washing Machine

If you have several pairs of flip flops to clean, consider the washing machine. You’ll save yourself some effort and get a good result. This is best reserved for ones that aren’t so cheaply made they fall apart easily. Use the most gentle cycle your machine has and cold water. You should only need a small bit of laundry detergent.

If your flip flops have a funky odor from getting too wet or sweaty, use vinegar. One cup of vinegar in the wash will help kill nasty odors. Just remember not to put them in the dryer. Your flip flops should air dry just fine.

The Toothbrush Method

If you have some stubborn flip flops, this may do the trick. An old toothbrush and baking soda can rejuvenate even the nastiest pair. This is ideal if other methods don’t seem to work. It takes more time, but it’s more thorough. Make a paste with water and baking soda, then scrub your flip flops with it. Scour any problem spots, but use it all over.

Baking soda is the best choice for any funky odor. Commercial cleaners work too, but not as well. Baking soda is cheap and easy. And it won’t damage your flip flops and sandals.

Cleaning Other Flip Flops and Sandals

If you’re not sure what your flip flops are made of, don’t worry. If it’s not rubber or suede, there are only a few other choices out there. Things like plastic, leather, canvas and so on.

  • Leather should be handled similarly to suede. You can buy some saddle soap to clean your leather sandals. If you’re having an issue with an odor in leather, sprinkle in some baking soda and let it sit for a day before you clean. If your leather is treated, you can use vinegar and water on a cloth to wash away outside stains. You can tell your leather is treated if water beads on it.

 

  • When it comes to plastic, this isn’t much different from rubber. Plastic flip flops and sandals, things like Crocs, are easy to wipe clean. You can hose them off if need be as well. Stick to cold water, or at most, warm. You don’t want these in hot water and the washing machine is probably not necessary.

If you don’t have a toothbrush handy for scrubbing, you can improvise. A washcloth or an old kitchen sponge will be useful. Make sure you get into all the grooves and cracks to get any gunk out.

  • If you need to clean canvas or fabric sandals and flip flops, stick with a mild detergent. Baking soda will help for odors, but detergent is best for stains. Scrub gently with a brush or a cloth on stains and use warm water, then rinse clean. As always, make sure you let them sit out to dry somewhere.

A washing machine could damage canvas and fabric, so be careful. Avoid bleach with these materials as well, just to be on the safe side.

Things to Avoid When Cleaning Flip Flops

  • When cleaning any flip flops, you want to avoid harsh chemicals. Bleach and other products may do more damage than good. Plus, if the sole of your flip flop is absorbent, you could irritate your flesh. Never apply bleach directly to the flip flops.

If you’re cleaning rubber flip flops that are especially dirty, you may try soaking them. You can weigh them down in a tub of warm water and dish soap. A small amount of bleach added to the water can help clean them. Let them soak for an hour or two, then try scrubbing them clean.

Rinse them thoroughly with cold water when you’re done. This will remove all soap and bleach residue. Let them air dry.

  • Always let your flip flops dry thoroughly. Put them in the sun if possible. Machine drying may ruin or even melt them so don’t do that. But don’t forget them when they’re damp. If you leave them somewhere dark and moist, they may grow mold and mildew. Now only would that look gross, it could be unhealthy.

 

  • Don’t power wash your flip flops. You may be tempted to try this for a quick, deep clean. Most flip flops are not constructed out of material that could stand up to a power wash. There’s a good chance a power washer would damage if not destroy your flip flops. With a cheap enough pair, it could cut a hole right through the material.

If you need to use some water pressure, a normal hose attachment should do the trick. These methods should work for flip flops, sandals, water shoes and beach shoes.

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