Here at Rock/Creek, we consider ourselves to be Chaco Sandals experts. After all, we live in a climate where we can wear ours almost year-round, and many of us do. This also, of course, means we’re experts in what they smell like after a long summer of daily wear. Hint: it’s not good!
Have no fear, though, because washing your new favorite sandals is super easy. Out of necessity, we’ve become experts in cleaning Chaco sandals. An occasional wash is all that’s required to keep your sandals from smelling like… well, like stinky feet. How often you’ll need to do it depends on how often you wear them, of course.
The care instructions vary depending on which kind you have, and there are a couple of different ways you can go about it; these are our recommendations based on many years of experience.
Before you start reading, three warnings!
- Don’t ever use bleach on your sandals. Besides the obvious concerns about the color changing, the chemical itself can damage the webbing significantly. No bleach!
- Don’t put your Chacos in the dryer, and don’t put them in the dishwasher. Both run the risk of melting the glue that holds your outsoles (the part with the tread) to your midsoles (the part you are trying to clean). Nobody likes a delaminated sandal.
- If you have leather sandals, the care instructions are completely different. Skip down to read about caring for leather products. You definitely don’t want to put leather stuff in the washing machine, and you don’t want to soak it.
If your sandals AREN’T leather: OK, still with us? So the easiest way to wash your Chacos, as long as they’re not made of leather, is to just put them in the washing machine. You don’t want the water to be on the hottest setting, but machine washing is perfectly safe for any and all of the typical styles with webbing straps and polyurethane midsole. No dryer!
You can also take a bristled brush and wash the footbed with a gentle detergent or a baking soda & water solution. This may be preferable if you don’t own your own washing machine, or if you’ve been thrown out of your local laundromat for letting your Chacos bang around their front-loaders one time too many. This is how I clean my own Z/2s. Sometimes I use a dash of peppermint castille soap.
Did this not do the trick? If they’re already a couple of seasons old already, and this is your first cleaning, you’ll have to do a bit more work. Don’t worry, it’s not anything too serious! As you probably know, all of the Z sandals (Z/1, Z/2, ZX/2, etc) have long, continuous webbing straps that run into and back out of the footbed of the sandal. The openings where this webbing enters or exits the sole can collect dirt and grime, and every couple of washes you’ll need to “floss” the webbing around a little bit to work this out.
Get the webbing good and wet before you try this, and don’t be afraid to dump some liquid fabric softener on there to help things slide around. Flossing is KEY if you have a recurring Chaco funk issue. Some people do it every wash; most do it on an as-needed basis.
If you’ve managed to pack a bunch of beach sand or gritty mud in there, flossing the sandal webbing gives you a chance to scrub this grit out — which helps prevent abrasion to the webbing in addition to the obvious hygiene issues. For the Z sandals, this will mean your sandals last longer before needing to be re-webbed.
Obviously, the more frequently you wash your sandals, the easier keeping them clean will be be. Between washes, it can help if you wear your sandals in the shower, slosh through a creek in them or jump in a lake… all of which are way more fun than scrubbing with a brush!
If your Chacos ARE leather: If you have leather Chaco sandals, you need to approach this differently. First, no washing machine. You’ll want to hand wash — scrub the area gently with a damp cloth. We don’t recommend using any cleaner, just a damp cloth and a little bit of elbow grease; the leather footbed isn’t as prone to hold dirt.
It’s VERY important to keep leather out of the dryer, even more so than with the webbing styles, because it can cause leather to shrink or crack. In addition, you can (and should) use leather conditioner. It may darken the color of the leather, but it’s just as good for your sandals as it is for leather boots.
Well, that’s it. Chacos last a long time, which is likely part of why you bought a pair in the first place… and with a small amount of routine maintenance that long life won’t come with an olfactory price. Enjoy that fresh air!