This summer, I was sailing in Chesapeake Bay with my wife when the rain started coming down. We were a few hours from the marina, and I was wearing my Birkenstocks. The water was gently splashing on the deck, but soon it began to pour, and the initial puddles started to pool.
The rain wasn’t stopping soon, so I raced below deck, grabbed a towel, and headed back up to the deck in my Birkenstocks. They were drenched within minutes—the water had seeped through the openings between the straps and left my feet soaking wet. I know what you’re thinking: Hold on, can Birkenstocks get wet?
Though most Birkenstocks can withstand a little moisture, extended exposure to water can damage the leather and affect the sealant that protects the cork. If they do get wet, don’t dry them in the sun or near any source of direct heat. Instead, let the sandals air-dry at room temperature.
I know you love how these sandals look and feel, but love won’t hang around if they fall apart early. Do you want to keep your Birks around for years? Then take good care of them! I’ll show you how, but we need to know what makes a Birkenstock so special before we can understand how to treat it right.
What materials comprise Birkenstocks?
For decades, Birkenstock has been making quality products that withstand rain and moisture exposure. The company’s line of footwear is comfortable, and durable thanks to the use of these four materials:
The cork-and-latex footbed lies between two layers of jute. The bottom jute layer stabilizes the natural latex and cork and reinforces the bond among the cork granules.
The second layer of jute is situated on top of the cork-and-latex footbed and covers it entirely. This layer reinforces the cork to avoid fractures and absorbs any moisture lingering on the footbed.
2. Natural cork and latex footbed
The footbed, made of cork and latex, is described as the “heart” of each Birk sandal. Cork is lightweight and cushions well, while springy latex milk binds the cork granules in place to stabilize the footbed. While these are going on, the latex component lets your foot breathe freely and insulates it from heat and moisture.
3. Foam Insert
Birkenstock soft footbeds have shaped foam inserts filled with tiny air bubbles, on a mission to bless your foot with incomparable comfort.
Birkenstock uses suede for the footbed of its sandals because it absorbs moisture and won’t smell like fabric. The leather has pores, allowing your foot to breathe, and it won’t wear out quickly as other materials would.
The outsoles are made of EVA foam, lightweight yet sturdy material with millions of tiny air bubbles that contribute to its one-of-a-kind nature.
When you purchase brand new Birkenstocks, they have a thin layer of waterproof sealant on the cork’s surface. The sealant protects the cork from absorbing water, but it will wear off over time.
If you want your sandals to remain water-resistant, always store your Birkenstocks in a dry place when you aren’t wearing them. Never expose the soles to excessive heat or water. And stick around as I unveil the secret to maintaining Birkenstock soles.
What will you do when your Birks get wet?
Got your Birkenstocks wet? Use a soft cloth to wipe them, then let them air dry in a well-ventilated area.
Please resist the temptation to expose them to direct sunlight or other heat sources in a bid to make them dry faster. Like water, intense heat weakens the granulated cork and hastens its disintegration.
What are the preventions and maintenance for Birkenstocks?
The factory finish on new Birkenstocks is shiny and waterproof. Over time, the finish wears off, so it’s best to recoat your cork soles with cork sealant (following the directions on the bottle). You don’t want moisture to wreak havoc on your sandals, do you?
Steps in applying Cork Sealant
- Please wait until the sandals are thoroughly dry before applying a sealant.
- Next, wipe the edges of the cork soles with a cloth.
- Use a soft-bristled brush to remove excess dirt and dust from the footbed. Be sure to clean off every particle, or they will form tiny lumps on your footbed after it has been sealed.
- Use a brush to apply cork sealant to the sides and edges of the footbed.
- Ensure every inch of the footbed is covered with the sealant.
- Leave the sandals to air-dry at room temperature.
Depending on how worn your Birkenstocks are, you may need to apply sealant regularly to lengthen their lifespan.
Steps in cleaning suede leather footbed
- Choose an appropriate cleaner for the type of leather.
- Thoroughly brush the footbed with the cleaner to remove stubborn stains.
- Using a cloth, wipe the dirty suds created during the brushing session.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the footbed is satisfactorily clean.
- Let the footbed (and, by extension, the sandal) dry for 24 hours.
- Brush the footbed again with a soft brush.
- Then, apply a leather-suitable waterproof spray to it.
Birkenstock Regular Maintenance Tips
- Regularly apply water-repellent spray on the sandals to protect them from moisture and dirt.
- Apply this spray only when necessary.
- Clean the leather straps as you would the suede footbed.
- Never use water when cleaning.
- Do not use ordinary detergent to clean the soles. Ever.
Here’s an insightful YouTube video that shows a cobbler maintaining a pair of Birkenstocks. I love the before and after photos!
- Birkenstock sandals aren’t designed to be worn in the water. The company discourages customers from wearing them in the ocean, lakes, or pools to protect the shoe’s sturdiness and longevity
- Likewise, do not leave the sandals to dry in the sun unless you can monitor them. If you can’t endure the heat of the sun for the sake of your darling Birkenstocks, then don’t sun-dry them.
- Letting your cork-soled shoes sit in a closed car in summer is not the best idea. This can cause their natural moisture to evaporate, making them less flexible and uncomfortable to wear.
Birkenstocks’ selection of premium materials has made the brand a favorite among wearers, who love its durable, comfortable shoes. It is not about the name—it’s about the experience that Birkenstocks give each wearer that keeps them coming back for more.
All that said, getting your Birkenstocks wet once or twice in the rain will not ruin them, as long as you take the precautions listed above.
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