Note: We’ve updated this article a bit. Click here to see our How to Clean Chacos article!
So, you’re the proud owner of a pair Chacos and you take them everywhere, you wear them everywhere, and you would die without them in your life… but now…. they stink! It’s okay. You do not have a nasty foot funk. The “not so pleasant aroma” wafting from your feet to your nostrils is something that comes with owning Chacos. But, with a little cleaning and maintenance, it’s not something you have to live with!
Here’s a little science and anatomy lesson for you to explain what’s going on… hey, I was once a nursing major! Our skin (epithelial tissue) is a protective barrier from the elements. Like everything else in this world, there is a life span for our skin cells. On our feet, there is a tougher and thicker layer of skin called the “stratified squamous epithelium” (whew, say that three times fast). This type of tissue has a high “turnover rate,” as it is found on locations of high wear and abrasion. New layers are created internally, and scale off from the top as they die.
If you plug your nose and look into the footbed grooves of your Chacos, you will notice a build up of these dead cells. Please don’t be grossed out, it is a fact of life. The smell resonating from the sandals is simply the cells being decomposed by bacteria. All YOU have to do is wash that out.
Here at Rock/Creek, we’d like to offer several possible remedies. We are not chemists nor rocket scientists, but we wear our Chacos constantly, and we know what works and what doesn’t. We also believe in helping you maintain your investment to keep your Chacos going for years. Our suggestions are low-impact, safe methods and will not delaminate the rubber, nor cause the webbing to crack or fade.
Essentially, there are two good options for washing your non-leather Chaco Sandals (we’ll get to leather later). We recommend the washing-machine method. Here is a brief video explaining the process, including how to “floss” the webbing in your Chacos, or you can read instructions below. Very simple!
Option 1: Machine Washing
Option 2: Bucket Soaking
Special Note: In the peak of the humid, summer season, washing your Chacos once every two weeks is considered a good idea for the sake of the company around you. It is not possible to over-wash Chacos, as long as the treatment solutions are mild. You’ll only increase the durability of the sandal, by removing debris that can be abrasive on the straps.
DO NOT wash your Chaco sandals with bleach. Seriously, don’t. Some websites recommend making a blend of bleach and water, and letting the sandals soak in this toxic concoction. This is bad for the sandal webbing, bad for the planet and bad for you! As we mentioned above, avoid the dishwasher as well, which can cause the soles to delaminate. Plus, we don’t want to come have dinner at your house if you wash the dishes the same place that you wash your stinky shoes.
Leather Chaco sandals require more attention then non-leather Chacos. You want to treat this material gently because it is natural. We suggest starting with a damp cloth, without any cleaning solution, in order to wipe off any residue.
Leather conditioners are most favorable for prolonging the life of your leather Chaco Sandals. We suggest a high-quality leather conditioner called “NikWax Leather Conditioner“. This conditioner will add water-repellent qualities to your sandals, and help soften areas that may have already been affected by age and cracking. It’s rich with moisturizers, so you may notice your sandals darken in color slightly after application. Please be careful not to over-saturate the leather.
As before, dry the sandals in a cool, dry location. Be absolutely sure to keep them out of the sunlight while drying. The heat will make the leather brittle and crack!
Now that you’ve rescued your stinky sandals, you can continue wearing them for years and years. Of course, there are always exciting new colors and styles available! Check out our full selection of Chacos at rockcreek.com, and like us on Facebook so you can tell us all about where your Chacos have taken you!