Friday, June 01, 2007

De-Stinking Birkenstocks

Edited 10/03/09 to add:
For those of you here trying to find out how to de-stink your Birk footbeds, the short version is a) buy the official footbed cleaner, available in the Birkenstock care kit, or b) try some of the suggestions in the comments such as bag them up in some unused cat litter for a period of time, try baking soda, etc.

Should you choose to read further and take offense at the amazing lack of practical suggestions past this point, note: this post is rambling, and was NEVER written to be used as some sort of instruction manual for cleaning the footbeds. I can't help that it's one of Google's top links when you search "Stinky Birkenstocks". I didn't put it there. It's just what comes up. Bitch to Google, not to me.

Should you opt to ignore this fact and instead read on and leave some wisecracking comment here such as "Talking about a whole lot of blablalbla indeed..." like one of the anonymous commenters did today (again), your comment will be deleted and furthermore will not have the dubious honor of being enshrined forever in italics at the top of this post.

You're welcome to your own opinions, but do try not to be an asshat on someone else's blog.


As you can likely figure by the title, I'm trying to figure out how to de-stink my beloved well-broken-in Birkenstocks.

I'd noticed they were getting a little funky, especially when my sister-in-law expressed her gratitude that I was taking them off and tucking them away. Ouch. And then as I was sitting at my desk at work this past Tuesday, a rank stench wafted up from under my desk, doubtless hurried on its way by my computer's fan.

UGH! Lysol, lysol, lysol... (I hope it doesn't have a bad effect on nubuck leather)

I need these shoes. I am a total klutz, and having a nice, wide, firm foundation under me is my only hope for remaining even marginally upright. My first Friday back at this job I was heading out the door to go home. I wasn't looking as closely at the ground as perhaps I should have, and the one of the flat heels on my cutsie little sandals slid out from under me at the bottom of the stairs. I splatted right on the parking lot, one knee bent up under me with the side of it on the ground, and the rest of my body kind of splayed out. It took two of the guys at work to help me get up (poor men, I weighed at least 200 lbs. at the time).

I managed to get home and spent the weekend doped up on ultracet. I had a gorgeous bruise that entended from a huge one the size of a grapefruit on the side of my right knee (the swelling was also impressive) all the way down to the inside of my right ankle. It took nearly a month for all the swelling and bruising to go away.

Then, right after I was supposedly all better, I was dashing out the door to lunch because a new book from an author I like (J.R. Ward, if anyone's interested) was out. The bookstore said they had one copy left, so I was in a bit of a hurry to get there.

You can see where this is leading, right?

Yep, splat. Same fall position, same everything except this time the pavement wasn't wet so at least I didn't fall quite as hard. I did manage to scrape the skin on top of my right foot though, somehow. This time I managed to get up on my own, limped to the car, drove to the bookstore, and bought my book.

Yes, the book was worth it.

As a side note, both times I was carrying a can of Diet Coke. Both times I managed to keep the Diet Coke can upright. You can tell where my priorities lie.

Anyway, after my second close encounter of the blacktop kind, I realized I needed something a bit more substantial under me than my current shoes. All my shoes are flats -- I own one pair of heels and try to break my neck once every couple of years wearing them -- but their soles are leather and don't have any gripping power. Not only that, but the heels tend to get really slippery especially as I put most of my weight on them first.

I already owned one pair of Birks, but they were over 15 years old and, well, yucky. They weren't stinky as I didn't wear them every day, but they were most hideous. Originally they were blue suede Arizonas, but time had faded them to a kind of dark-puke-green. I'd also left them in my car one day and the material on the bottoms shrank up a bit from the heat and curled away from the heel just a tad. The nibbling on the cork from my then-still-puppy Little Guy hadn't improved their appearance either.

Hmm. Must buy professional looking Birks! Yeah, total oxymoron, but I think the falls addled my brains a bit. Anyway, I ended up with a pair of medium-brown nubuck Arizonas, and for the past year I have worn them almost Every. Single. Day.

You know how much your feet sweat in a year? You don't want to.

I searched online for a cure for my stinky Birks. The tops look great (as far as Arizonas can look great), so they aren't ready for the trash bin yet, but we needed a cure. I Googled a a range of terms from "Birkenstocks, cleaning" to "How to De-Stink Birkenstocks." I learned through clicking on various links that a) I'm not alone in my Birk love, and b) apparently people who wear Birkenstocks are thought by much of the world to not shave their legs. Okay. Tell that to my razor.

I also have cutely pedicured toes with bright red toenail polish. So take that. Yes, my "crunch" factor is minimal, hideous shoes and homebirth notwithstanding.

The only solution I could find after all my searching was the Official Birkenstock Footbed Cleaner, sold only in the Deluxe Birkenstock Care Kit.

Additionally, to keep this problem from happening again, I know that wearing the same pair of shoes each day doesn't really give the shoes a chance to breathe and recover from the heavy-duty wearing, so I needed to add to my Birkenstock collection especially after a second day of Lysoling my Birkenstocks (not recommended, for the record).

So Thursday I went out to our local "We Sell Comfortable Yet Alarmingly Hideous Shoes" store. Deluxe Birkenstock Care Kit? Check. New Birks? Check and check!

The first linked new shoe is the "Cozumel", which is actually pretty cute for a Birkenstock when on the foot, believe it or not. The second linked shoe is the "Florida". I don't know why the Florida has three straps, but whatever. THOSE are hideous, but they're neutral and beggars can't be choosers.

I got home with my new Birks and my cleaning kit, and proceeded to do the leather protecter on my new Birks. I then hauled out the footbed cleaner for my now unwearable (due to the stench factor) beautifully broken in Birks.

Let's just say that one round of cleaning hasn't had the desired effect, although it has improved matters greatly. I'm giving the footbeds a rest tonight, although I did clean off the nubuck with the nubuck block and used the leather protector on the uppers. I also re-sealed the cork on them.

My hope is that I'll soon have three acceptable pairs of Birks to wear day-to-day. And that I'll remain upright in the wearing.

I still walk into doorways I know darned good and well are there, though. I don't think there's a cure for that.


Anonymous said...

Hey there BirkBabe. :)

I love vintage clothing which sometimes comes with odors. The best solution I've found to date and what I recommend for your (ahem) shoes, is to put those bad boys into a tightly sealed container or zip lock type bag with a whole bunch of kitty litter. Let them sit for a few days. If you become super desperate, use baking soda, but be warned, baking soda is harder to clean off offending (ahem) shoes.


Amanda said...

Speed, I knew if nothing else, this subject would draw you in ::evil grin::

My (ahem) shoes are getting cleaner. It's just taking some time. And I swear, the Cozumel ones really are cute!

Gotta get all the shoes wearable, though, because next Monday (June 11th) the little boys and I are leaving for vacation up in northern Georgia with the whole fam dambly. Husband has to stay home to work and stare at the cats. The tril will either be great fun or a huge cluster... you get the picture.

So, the well-broken-in Birks absolutely, positively must be decent by then! Or else my feet will be deeply saddened. And likely blistered.

Amanda said...

tril = trip.

This is what happens when I don't proofread. I also found an egregious spelling error at the end of one of my posts that's been up for a couple of weeks. UGH! Hate that.

Maria said...

I have 6 year old still in great condition Tatami's by Birkenstock and I had the same odor issues. Horrid smelling and my feet don't usually smell. I spayed the footbeds with water and then I soaked them in dry Oxyclean crystals over night. Magic!!! No more stink at all ;) Cant say if this would work with a standard cork bottom Birk cuz the Tatami are rubber.

MICHELLE said...

I had the same problem with my stinky Florida's last Summer. Unfortunatly I retired them because I wear the outside of the heal on my shoes quite badly. $70 to re-sole or $100 for a new pair. I opted for the new pair. However I do not want the "stink" to come upon the new ones. I read somewhere that brushing the soles with a firm bristle brush often can help. I too wore my everyday without resting the poor darlings. Guess I'll have to go buy another for a spare.

~*~Shadow.Crystal~*~ said...

I love my birks... and I recommend baking soda mixed with essential oil (I notice someone stated it's hard to clean baking soda, but that's not true... I use it all the time in my birks)

I generally mix a cup of baking soda with 5 drops of tea tree oil, or eucalyptus oil (really, you could use nearly any oil) and fill the footbed... then empty them the next morning. Mind you, this has to be done every few days... but it's really simple.

Kow said...

Woah that was one big wall of text... with no info whatsoever haha :P

Good luck with the cleaning anyways! I'll be trying Lysol myself.

JooseMoose said...

Apparantly freezing them works... but if yours smell anywhere near as bad as mine I'm not sure the freezer is appropriate ho hum!

Liz said...

I've had the best results, with both stinky Birks and stinky Tevas, by washing the footbed w/ soapy dishwater (you can immerse the Tevas, but i only wash the Birks on the surface), then blot dry, then saturate the footbed with rubbing alcohol, and let it dry IN THE SUN. kills everything. :-) i do it about once every couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

WOW - Finally some solid solutions to this pesky problem! Until finding this blog, I honestly thought this was just me.

I have a pair I wear daily around the house - and whoa, are they ripe. Never thought about rotation - thankfully, I have several to choose from.

I've tried soap and water followed by setting them in the sun - it knocks things down a bit but the odor comes right back.

Thanks for giving me a few new options - and I'm sure a few other people in my life will thank you as well :)

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem with smell too. I also get physically ill from wearing my Boston clogs. I did some research and found that the leather is tanned with a chemical called glutaraldehyde. This is a formaldehyde like product and emits a strong smell and can absorb into skin. I have never had a problem with getting ill from the shoes till this new pair. Too bad, Birkenstocks are so comfortable, but I can no longer wear them.

Robin Crow said...

You are one funny lady.

My Birks are stinkin' and I found your post. My eyes are watering, not from the stink but from your prose. Funny.

I think I'm going to try vinegar and baking soda. ??? A little bit...confined to the foot bed....

Amanda said...

LOL -- thanks, Robin! And good luck with your Birks. Since I first wrote this post I've purchased another pair of Birks and I still haven't solved the problem with the stench factor. I just scrub out the footbeds as best as I can (I now use dishwashing soap, like Dawn) and pray it's sufficient.

If it's bad enough, I'll get another pair.

Robin Crow said...

:-) Well I just washed them with the baking soda-vinegar mixture. It was satisfyingly fizzy, but I don't think I got them near clean, so I used a shot of Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint soap, scrubbed, and rinsed. These are oldies anyway...maybe they'll get me through until the fall sales! Best regards to you.

Amanda said...

Best to you also, Robin -- I hope it worked sufficiently at least until fall! :)

U_Hoo said...

Maybe it's more about preventative maintenance? I just got my first pair of Birki's 2 weeks ago and I'm already in love with them! I just mixed up a spray of rubbing alcohol, peppermint eo, tea tree, & eucalyptus oil. I'm gonna try spraying lightly every other night or so to see if maybe I can PREVENT the dread-stench. Wish me luck!

Amanda said...

Perhaps so, U_Hoo -- let me know how it works out for you!

At this point I have 3 pair that I rotate through, so it's not as if I'm marinating in them daily. Still, over time it gets noxious LOL

Wishing you the best of luck :D

danab said...

Would love to hear an update from U_Hoo about the spray!

Tarot By Arwen said...

I'm just seriously amused by the opening comments about griping to Google. :D Gotta love their algorhythm.

Amanda said...

danab, I'd be interested to hear an update regarding that spray as well!

And Arwen, I believe I had a bit of a moment that day, LOL. Yup, gotta love that Google algorithm!