Background image is a pair of filthy dirty white flip flops on a deck. Text reads How to clean filthy flip flops and deodorize them too

How to clean flip flops (even when they stink)

I was so excited when I got my new pair of comfy white flip flops, I wore them just about everywhere. I wore them to the grocery store, running around doing errands, hanging with my friends and while I was working in the yard. They got dirty sometimes, but I didn’t worry about how to clean flip flops at the time because simply rinsing them off worked.

Last weekend I went camping and my feet got really dirty from all the sand and dust. Although I rinsed them (and my flip flops) frequently, I noticed that my white flip flops were stained. When I got home, I tested a couple of new ways to clean my flip flops to see which works best on rubber, foam, plastic or other water resistant flip flops.

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Why do flip flops get so dirty?

Flip flops get so dirty because they are the only thing standing between you and the dirty ground. The dust, dirt and grime are dispersed by your footsteps and combine with moisture from puddles, rain or foot sweat, leaving black stains on them. Over time, these stains get larger and can eventually cover the entire bed of your flip flop.

Stained white flip flops on deck with Dawn dish soap, water and a toothbrush for scrubbing

Dish soap to clean dirty flip flops

The first step to wash dirty flip flops is to rinse them off with cool water to remove sand and other dirty debris. Don’t use hot water as it may damage the construction materials. All you need is a dish of water, an old toothbrush and some Dawn or other dish soap.

Put a drop of dish soap on a wet toothbrush and scrub all surfaces of the flip flop including the insole, strap, toe post, sides and bottom. Wet the toothbrush and add another drop of dish soap as necessary to scrub the sandal. Rinse with clean, cool water and let them air dry.

Most times, this is all you have to do to clean your flip flops. If this simple process doesn’t remove all the dirt and stains (it didn’t with mine because I let them go too long), move on to one of the following methods for cleaning flip flops, depending on what you have on hand.

Image of a sudsy dirty white flip flop after being scrubbed with dish soap and toothbrush

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Clean flip flops with baking soda

To clean flip flops with baking soda, all you need is an old toothbrush, some baking soda, cool water and, of course, your dirty flip flops.

Sprinkle a layer of baking soda over the insole of the flip flop. Dip the toothbrush into the water and start brushing the baking soda with it, making a paste. Continue dipping and brushing until the entire flip flop is covered in the baking soda paste.

Let the flip flops sit in the paste for a few minutes. Then dip the toothbrush in fresh cool water and start scrubbing. Scrub the entire sole of the shoe and the top and bottom of the strap. Don’t forget to scrub the toe post as well. Then use the paste to scrub the outer edges of the shoe. 

Repeat the process on the bottom of the shoe to remove any dirt or bacteria and get the sole completely clean.

Rinse it with cool water to remove all traces of baking soda. You can dry it with a towel, or leave them to air dry.

I liked this method but found it a little messy as the baking soda tended to get all over the place while scrubbing and my hands were covered with it. I was pleased with how clean the flip flop was when I was done, although there’s still a little dirt in the logo.

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Image of a clean white flip flop on wood deck with dish of water, toothbrush and dish of baking soda

Use hydrogen peroxide to clean flip flops

To clean flip flops with hydrogen peroxide, gather together an old toothbrush, some water and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Pour a teaspoon or two into the insole of the shoe. If there is no hollow in the shoe to contain it, pour a few tablespoons of peroxide into a dish and regularly dip the toothbrush into the dish to apply 

Use the toothbrush to distribute the hydrogen peroxide. Gently brush the peroxide all over the flip flop to coat until the insole is covered. Then slowly spread the peroxide along the sides of the flip flop. Finally, spread the peroxide all over the strap (top, bottom and sides) and toe post.

Let the coated flip flop sit for 2-3 minutes and then scrub the entire surface with the toothbrush.

To clean the bottom of the sandal, you will have to apply the peroxide with the toothbrush. Scrub the bottom and the edges with the toothbrush and let sit.

Once both sides have been thoroughly cleaned, rinse them with cool water and air or towel dry.

This method was a little less messy and labor intensive than the baking soda method and I was very pleased with my clean white flip flop. I found it required a little less scrubbing and had better results in hard to reach areas.

Image shows clean white flip flop on wood deck with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and toothbrush
Check out that logo!

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Can you put flip flops in the washing machine?

Generally speaking, flip flops made of rubber, foam, plastic or other water resistant materials are safe to put in the washing machine. Use cool water, not hot, to lessen the chance of damaging them. This is a great method if you have many pairs of flip flops to clean.

I wash my flip flops in with a regular load of towels so the agitation creates friction between the towels and sandals to aid in the cleaning process. 

It’s not a good idea to put your flip flops in the dryer as heat can damage them. Air drying is a better option.

I’ve thrown my flip flops in the washing machine on the rare occasion I remembered to wash them when I’m doing laundry. It works well when the flip flops aren’t heavily stained. I would go with using baking soda or hydrogen peroxide to clean heavily stained flip flops.

Clean white flip flops on wood deck
You can buy these comfy flip flops!

Why do flip flops make my feet stink

Stinky sandals are quite common. Flip flop stink is caused by bacteria on your feet and shoes mixing with your sweat. The bacteria breeds, and the bad smell is the result. To deodorize flip flops, you need to remove the cause of the odor by killing the bacteria.

Clean and disinfect smelly flip flops

Baking soda will help to deodorize your flip flops and hydrogen peroxide will kill bacteria and germs. However, I prefer using 70% isopropyl alcohol (or rubbing alcohol) to clean and disinfect stinky flip flops. It is a very effective disinfectant that quickly kills various germs and bacteria. 

Note: Isopropyl alcohol is not recommended for leather flip flops as it can dry the leather. If you need to clean and deodorize leather flip flops, you should use the baking soda or hydrogen peroxide methods to clean the sandals and reduce odor.

To deodorize and disinfect flip flops, pour a couple of tablespoons of rubbing alcohol into the insole of the flip flop. Move the flip flop around carefully to ensure the alcohol covers the entire surface of the sandal.

If your flip flops are too flat to pour the alcohol, use a cotton ball saturated in alcohol to spread the alcohol around the surface of the sandal.

Let the flip flop sit for 30 seconds to give the alcohol time to kill any germs. If the flip flops are heavily stained, wait a few minutes. Then use a toothbrush to scrub the surface of the shoe, the strap, the toe post and sides of the shoe.

To clean the bottom of the flip flop, use a cotton ball to saturate the surface with alcohol. Let sit then scrub.

Once both sides of the flip flop have been scrubbed to satisfaction, rinse with cool water and let air dry (preferably in the sun for extra disinfectant action).

Isopropyl alcohol is an excellent stain remover, as well as a germ killer. This method solves 2 problems at once and is my preferred method of cleaning smelly flip flops.

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