How to Clean Cork Sandals

Cork sandals have become a staple in eco-friendly fashion, celebrated for their comfort, durability, and sustainable materials. Yet, maintaining their unique appearance and functionality requires special care.

How to Clean Cork Sandals

Unlike typical footwear, cork’s natural properties necessitate a gentle approach to cleaning to preserve its resilience and prevent damage. In this guide on how to clean cork sandals, we will explore effective methods to clean cork sandals, ensuring they retain their beauty and comfort for years to come.

What is Cork?

Cork is a remarkable, renewable natural resource harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, predominantly found in the Mediterranean region. This material is unique for its impermeable, buoyant, elastic, and fire-resistant properties, making it an ideal choice for a variety of uses, including wine stoppers, acoustic and thermal insulation, and, notably, in the fashion industry for products like cork sandals.

Cork’s harvesting process is environmentally friendly, as it does not harm the tree; the bark regenerates, allowing for harvesting every nine to twelve years throughout the tree’s long lifespan. This sustainable cycle underscores cork’s appeal as an eco-conscious material in the production of durable and comfortable items.

Why Do Cork Sandals Need Special Cleaning?

Cork sandals are prone to absorbing moisture, dirt, and body oils from daily wear. As with any material, if left uncleaned, these substances can cause discoloration and odor. Cork’s porous nature also makes it susceptible to damage from harsh chemicals or abrasives typically found in cleaning products.

Cork Sandals Are Prone To Absorbing Moisture

Moreover, cork is delicate and can easily crack or chip if mishandled during the cleaning process. Thus, it is essential to use gentle techniques and suitable products when cleaning cork sandals.

Needed Materials

To effectively clean cork sandals, you will need the following materials:

Soft-bristled Brush or Toothbrush:

This will be used to gently scrub away any dirt or debris on the cork surface.

Mild Soap or Detergent:

Choose a gentle, pH-neutral soap or detergent. Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach, ammonia, or vinegar that can damage cork.

Warm Water:

Warm water is ideal for breaking down and removing stains without causing any harm to the cork material.

Clean Cloth or Towel:

A soft, clean cloth or towel is necessary for wiping and drying the sandals after cleaning.

11 Step-by-step Guidelines on How to Clean Cork Sandals

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

Lay a clean towel or cloth on a flat surface, such as a table or countertop. This will serve as your work area. The towel will protect your sandals from any potential damage, and it will also absorb moisture during the cleaning process. It is advisable to clean cork sandals indoors, away from direct sunlight.

Step 2: Brush Away Debris

Begin by using your soft-bristled brush or toothbrush to gently brush the surface of the cork sandals. This initial step is crucial for removing any loose dirt or debris lodged in the cork’s porous surface. Start from the top and move in a singular direction to ensure you cover the entire area without spreading the dirt. Be as thorough as possible during this step to prep the sandals for a deeper cleaning. Remember to brush gently to avoid damaging the cork’s natural texture.

Step 3: Mix Soap and Warm Water

Choose a Gentle ph-neutral Soap or Detergent

In a small bowl, mix a few drops of the mild soap or detergent with warm water to create a gentle cleaning solution. The warmth of the water will help in dissolving and lifting dirt and stains, while the mild soap ensures the natural properties of the cork are not disrupted. Stir the mixture lightly until bubbles form, indicating it’s ready to use. Be mindful to use just enough soap to clean effectively without leaving a residue that could attract more dirt to the cork surface.

Step 4: Dip the Brush in the Cleaning Solution

After preparing your cleaning mixture, dip the soft-bristled brush or toothbrush lightly into the solution. Ensure the brush is damp but not overly saturated to prevent excessive moisture from soaking into the cork material. Excess liquid can be detrimental to cork, causing it to expand and potentially degrade over time. Therefore, it’s crucial to wring out or shake off any excess liquid from the brush before proceeding to the next step.

Step 5: Gently Scrub the Surface

Using a circular motion, gently scrub the surface of the cork sandals. Take care not to press too hard or use excessive force as this can cause damage. You want to lift any stains or dirt without altering the cork’s natural texture. Focus on areas with visible dirt or discoloration, such as around straps or the sole. If necessary, you can apply more cleaning solutions to stubborn stains and continue scrubbing until they are removed.

Step 6: Rinse with Warm Water

After scrubbing the cork surfaces clean, it’s important to rinse them thoroughly to remove any soap residue. Dip a clean cloth or sponge in warm water, ensuring it is damp but not soaking wet, to avoid saturating the cork. Gently wipe over the sandals to rinse away the cleaning solution. You may need to rinse the cloth or sponge several times in fresh, warm water to ensure all soap is removed from the sandals. Be thorough yet gentle to avoid waterlogging the cork, which can cause it to swell and potentially damage its structure.

Step 7: Dry with a Clean Towel

Use a clean, dry towel to pat the cork sandals dry. Again, avoid using excessive force and instead gently blot the surface of the cork until it is fully dry. If necessary, you can use multiple towels or allow them to air-dry in a well-ventilated area. However, avoid placing them in direct sunlight, as this can cause discoloration or warping of the cork material.

Step 8: Let Them Air Dry

After patting the sandals dry with a towel, leave them out to air dry completely in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. This natural drying process is crucial for maintaining the cork’s integrity, helping to prevent cracking or warping. Ensure the sandals are placed on a flat surface to avoid any distortion in their shape. Depending on the humidity and airflow, it may take several hours for the sandals to dry fully. Avoid the temptation to speed up this process with artificial heat, as it can damage the cork.

Using a Circular Motion Gently Scrub the Surface

Step 9: Apply a Protective Finish

As an optional step, you can apply a protective finish to the cork sandals after they have fully dried. This will help seal and protect the cork from future stains or damage. You can use specialized finishes designed for cork or opt for natural oils like olive oil or coconut oil, which also provide moisture to keep the cork supple. Apply the finish with a clean, soft cloth, rubbing it gently into the cork surface in circular motions.

Step 10: Let Them Cure

After applying a protective finish, allow the sandals to cure for at least 24 hours before wearing them again. This gives the finish time to fully absorb and dry, ensuring maximum protection for your cork sandals. If using natural oils, it may take longer for them to cure compared to specialized finishes, so be patient and avoid wearing the sandals until they are fully cured.

Step 11: Store Properly

After cleaning and caring for your cork sandals, it’s important to store them properly to maintain their quality. Avoid folding or squeezing them in a tight space as this can cause creases and damage to the cork material. Instead, store them in a cool, dry place where they can lay flat or stand upright without any pressure on the cork. This will help preserve their shape and prevent any potential damage while not in use.

Following these simple steps on how to clean cork sandals on a regular basis will help keep your cork sandals clean and well-maintained, ensuring they last for many wears to come. With proper care, you can enjoy the comfort and unique style of cork sandals while also contributing to sustainable fashion practices. 

It’s a win-win for both you and the environment! So, next time you slip into your trusty cork sandals, remember to give them a little TLC and show your appreciation for this eco-friendly material. Happy cleaning!

Using Your Soft-bristled Brush

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I Use a Harsher Cleaning Solution for Tougher Stains on My Cork Sandals?

A: It’s not recommended to use harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners on cork, as they can damage the material. Stick to mild soap and warm water for best results. It may take a little more elbow grease, but it will protect the integrity of your cork sandals.

Q: Can I Clean My Cork Sandals in the Washing Machine?

A: It’s not advised to put cork sandals in the washing machine as the agitation and excess moisture can damage the material. Stick to hand-cleaning for best results. The only exception may be for certain types of synthetic cork materials specifically designed for machine washing, but always check the manufacturer’s instructions first.

Q: How Often Should I Clean My Cork Sandals?

A: It depends on how frequently you wear them and the conditions they are exposed to. If your sandals get dirty or muddy after one wears them outdoors, it’s best to clean them immediately to prevent stains from setting in. Otherwise, a deep clean every few weeks or once a month should suffice.

It's Not Recommended To Use Harsh Chemicals


With these simple steps on how to clean cork sandals, you can easily clean your cork sandals and maintain their quality for extended wear. Remember to always use gentle cleaning solutions and avoid harsh chemicals to prevent damage to the cork material. With proper care, your cork sandals can continue to be a stylish and sustainable choice for footwear. 

So don’t hesitate to add this eco-friendly option to your wardrobe and enjoy all the benefits that come with it!  So go ahead take on the world in your trendy and comfortable cork sandals, knowing that they are clean and well taken care of.  So go forth and rock those cork sandals with pride, knowing you’re doing your part for the environment!

Photo of author

Jennifer Branett

I am Jennifer, a passionate blogger since 2016. I like to write informative articles to help peoples in my free time. I am a family person. I have two kids who keep me busy all the time. I always try to give importance to my family. Sometimes it becomes challenging for me to maintain the time along with my family. But I never lose hope. I hope my articles are helping you in some way. If so, You can give me a thumbs up to my inbox, which means a lot to me. Thank you. You can email me at

Leave a Comment