How to Clean Chacos: The Best Ways to Wash Your Chaco Sandals

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This guide will show you how to clean Chacos and the best ways to easily wash your Chacos to make them fresh again!

Let’s face it. Well used Chacos can get pretty smelly.

Any footwear certainly is bound to pick up a little eau de foot eventually. Sandals are especially prone to becoming home to colonies of smelly bacteria.

That’s why Chacos come from the factory with a fresh coat of antimicrobial protection that keep them from getting funky.

But to be honest, there’s nothing on this planet that can fight foot funk forever.

A well used pair of Chacos doesn’t just have to contend with typical footbed bacteria like most sandals. Because Chaco straps thread through the sole of the shoe, eventually grit, grime, and sand will all fall into the openings where the straps pass through. If not properly flossed, this will make them smell and impair the adjustability and lifespan of your Chacos.

In order to keep your shoes smelling, and feeling nice there are a couple of tips for cleaning Chacos we’ll fill you in on. We also have a few hints about how to wash Chacos and how to repair Chacos.


The Best Ways to Clean Chacos

When it comes to how to wash Chacos make sure you read about the most important things to avoid when washing Chacos, as well as how to floss Chacos.

It may sound like a lot, but it’s really pretty simple once you break it down. So that’s just what we’re going to do.

Washing Chacos in the Washing Machine

A lot of people get nervous when you start talking about throwing shoes or expensive clothing in the washing machine. Certainly there are some instances where a washing machine, or particularly a drier can damage your things.

However, Chacos do great in the washing machine. Do NOT use hot water. Most washing machines can’t achieve enough heat, but hot washing and particularly drying can damage the adhesives that hold your soles together.

So, as just mentioned, don’t put your Chacos in the dryer. Even if it’s on the most delicate setting. Just don’t do it. It’s not worth the possibility of ruining your perfectly molded pair of Chacos. Besides, these sandals dry so quickly that you don’t need to rush them along.

I should mention that Chacos aren’t just sensitive to the dryer. They also don’t get along with radiators, camp fires, space heaters, or boot warmers. These sandals can do a lot of things. But they don’t do heat.

When you wash your Chacos, use a small amount of a gentle detergent or soap. Do not use bleach or other harsh chemicals. These could damage the materials of your sandals and reduce their lifespan considerably.

Unless they are really bad, you don’t even need to use detergent. Just a solid spin in cold water will do plenty to clean your messy, old sandals off.

And it doesn’t seem like we should have to say this, but we have had people ask– do not wash your Chacos in the dishwasher. Aside from that being a terrible and disrespectful thing to do to your dishwasher, it’s bad for your Chacos. Dishwashers run on high heat and are liable to melt your soles, just like the dryer. And besides, that’s just gross. Feet and food don’t mix.

How to Clean Chacos (and Floss ‘Em!)

Chacos aren’t like most sandals. That’s why you love them and why we are so crazy about them. Owning a pair of sandals this nice comes with certain responsibilities though. After all, you can’t let them fall apart on your watch.

Keeping your Chacos clean and flossing your Chacos every couple of months will help keep them stink free and increase their lifespan.

Need to know how to clean Chacos? Brushing and flossing Chacos is a little like cleaning out the fridge. You don’t have to do it, but if you don’t, some stuff is going to fall through the cracks, or spill and rot.

Pretty soon, you’re going to have a pretty stinky mess. You may think that all Chacos are bound to be stinky, but that’s not true! Whoever’s Chacos you’ve been sniffing just need a good brushing, flossing, and washing.

How To Floss Chacos

If you regularly wear your Chacos Flossing is best done once a month. It really depends on how much dust and dirt you get in your shoes though. If you rarely get your feet dirty, your Chacos won’t need as much attention as normal.

If you live in the desert or are frequently slogging through mud, dirt, or rivers, then your Chacos are going to need regular flossing. Twice a month might be a good idea.

1. To floss Chacos, get yourself some fabric softener and warm water.

2. Wet the straps down with the warm water and then drip a couple drops of fabric softener into where the straps enter the soles of your sandals.

3. Slide the straps back and forth as much as possible.

4. With a bit of work, they should slide freely through. You should see gunk of all sorts push out of the inside of your soles until the action is smooth and the dirt is gone.

This is easiest if you focus on one part of the strap at a time. Loosen them up all the way before you start so that you have maximum strap to work with.

If there’s no end to the amount of gunk that is coming out, you can try using a couple drops of detergent soap such as Dawn. Floss the strap a couple of times and then submerge the sandal in warm (not hot) water while you continue flossing until all dirt and soap is gone.

Whatever you use to floss your Chacos, be sure that you wash it all out completely after you’re done. If you leave soap or softener residue inside the soles of your sandals, you could be in for an even worse mess the next time you floss.

Clean The Footbed

Flossing isn’t the only way to fight foot odor though. A sweaty footbed is a great place for bacteria to grow. Even though Chaco footbeds are treated with anti-microbial coatings, eventually you’re bound to develop some foot stink.

But it’s easy to deal with!

Just get a firm bristled brush (do not use metal bristles or steel wool), some detergent soap and some warm (not hot) water. There’s no secret here. You soap and scrub that footbed like you were swabbing the deck.

Never swabbed a deck?

Well just scrub in small circles with medium pressure for several minutes. Then, scrub away the soap using warm water and set them in the sun to air-dry. If they still smell, you probably just didn’t scrub for long enough or go deep enough. Try repeating the process one more time and see if you make any more progress.

It’s very important that any time you are drying your Chacos, you do not put them in the dryer or near to a heat source. I know, it’s inviting to hang them up by the fire or set them on the radiator to dry. Dont do it!

High heat may damage the adhesives holding together your soles. Chacos can stand up to an insane amount of abuse. However, high heat is one of Chaco’s main weaknesses. Just don’t tell Teva.

How to Clean Leather Chacos

Although most of our favorite pairs of Chacos are synthetic, there are a number of models that are made with real leather. They are incredibly comfortable, and look really good.

If you own a pair of leather Chacos, you’re going to want to keep them looking their best by cleaning them regularly.

Leather is far more sensitive than the synthetic materials used in other pairs of Chacos. So you need to take extra care with how to clean leather Chacos.

Cleaning leather Chacos is best done daily in small doses. Just a bit of spit or water and a rag will polish away most grit and grime. If you keep them clean, you’ll be able to avoid having to do a more serious job as often.

The less you have to wash leather Chacos, the better. Too much water, harsh chemicals, and drying too quickly can all make leather dry out and crack.

For that reason, never use soap, bleach, or other cleaning agents on leather Chacos. If small amounts of water isn’t enough to get them clean, then try buying a special leather cleaner.

For most high-performance materials, Nikwax makes the cleaner you want to use. We’ve mentioned their products in a number of reviews.

Nikwax makes high-tech cleaning, waterproofing, and materials technologies. Their leather-cleaner is top of the line and won’t just clean leather Chacos, it will re-hydrate the leather and condition it for better breathability.

Using cleaning products like those from Nikwax is one of the best ways to care for your outdoor gear. You can check out some of their most recommended products here.

What To Avoid When Cleaning Your Chacos

Now, we’ve already told you about a couple of the big culprits that can ruin your Chacos. However, there are some things so dangerous to your sandals that it’s worth reiterating. Chacos are tough, but they do have a couple of weaknesses which you need to be aware of.

For people that don’t know how to wash Chacos correctly, bleach is a big culprit of Chaco death. For many types of shoes, bleach is a regular addition to the washing cycle. However, Chacos will be in for a bad day if they get the same treatment.

Bleach hides in a lot of types of laundry detergent and can reek havoc on your soles. No amount of salvation or exorcism saves Chaco soles once they have messed around with bleach.

So read your labels carefully. When in doubt, leave it out. If you think your detergent or soap might have bleach or other chemicals you are unsure of, don’t use it. Your Chacos would be better served by a simple water bath than by a chemical soak.

In general, if you’re not familiar with a chemical, chances are that your Chacos aren’t familiar with it either. And they’d better not meet.

The other big killer when it comes to washing Chacos is heat. It can seem pretty tempting to set your Chacos in front of the fire to dry after a long day on the river. Some people even think to put them in the dryer after they wash them.


High heat can melt the adhesives in you sole and footbed and make your Chacos fall apart long before their time. This is especially dangerous because most people think they only need to avoid melting the rubber of the soles.

That is not true. Although melting the rubber on your Chacos would definitely mess them up for good, the adhesive inside of your soles is actually more fragile. You’ll damage your Chacos from the inside out and never even realize it. At least, not until your sandals fall apart.

So avoid heat when you’re drying your Chacos in all situations. The closest you should come to heat-drying is leaving them out in the sun, and even that will leave them feeling more brittle than normal. Chacos air dry unbelievably fast. No need to rush.

That means no hair dryers, no space heaters, no camp fires. Don’t even blast them with the fancy, new hand dryers in the public bathroom. Just don’t do it.

Still Smelly? Maybe It’s Time for a New Pair of Chacos

Some pairs of sandals, for reasons beyond discussion, just smell too bad. I’ve seen sandals soaked in all sorts of liquids. Some of the more unpleasant ones, just never quite wash out.

If you have an old pair of Chacos and you’ve tried all of the tricks for washing Chacos, but they just won’t come clean, maybe it’s time to replace them. Babies, dogs, and drunk people have been known to completely ruin a pair of sandals from time to time. There’s no shame in admitting that it’s time to let them go.

If you do need to replace yours, or are just in the market for a new pair regardless, here we’ll cover some of the best Chacos for hiking, rafting, and just about anything else.

Thinking about jumping ship and giving Tevas a try, read up on our Chacos vs Tevas guide here.

Chaco Z1 Review

The Chaco Z1 is the quintessential Chaco sandal. It was the first model to go into production and make a name for the company.

Even the name Z1 is a play on words. When the founder of Chaco, Mark Paigen, was having trouble coming up with a name for his premier prototype, his friend said in a silly accent, ‘this is zee-one!’. The name Z1 stuck and is still one of Chaco’s most classic shoes.

The Z1, like all of Chaco’s sandals these days, features their Chacogrip sole. It’s a high-tech material inspired by the Vibram soles that once graced Chaco’s footwear. Chacogrip, however, sports a couple of improvements over it’s predecessor and is one of the best soles on the market.

Your foot will sink right into the LUVseat footbed Chaco specially designed with scientific precision. Featuring a single strap, woven through the sole in Chaco’s signature Z-pattern, this sandal is snug.

No toe loop on this baby, just a simple and comfortable over the foot design. Just like all of Chaco’s classic sandals, the Z1 loosens and tightens with a single, sturdy buckle.

If you like the Z1 but would prefer a sandal with a toe loop, then check out the Chaco Z2. The Z2 features the same classic design and the same quality materials, but includes a toe loop for added control.

Read the differences between Chacos vs Tevas & which is the best hiking sandal

Chaco ZX2 Review

If you love Chaco’s design and ethic, but are looking for a slightly snugger fit, then the ZX2 might be for you. The primary difference between the Z and the ZX models is in the strap.

Although both models technically have only one strap, woven through the sole, the strap on the ZX models is split in half for the front-foot portion. This means that rather than one wide strap holding your foot in place, you have two thinner, parallel straps doing the same job.

That means that your Chacos will fit closer to form on your feet and will wiggle less while you’re on the move. The ZX is best for anyone who needs an athletic pair of sandals, fit for running, hiking, or real river work.

As indicated by the name, the ZX2, like the Z2, has a toe loop. Between having a place to put your big toe and the added adjustability of the split-strap, the ZX2 is one of the most form-fitting sandals money can buy.

However, if the toe loop isn’t your thing, then the ZX1 has your back. It features the same split-strap as the ZX2, but comes without the toe loop for those of you who don’t like flossing your feet.

Chaco Z/Volv Review

If you’re looking for the peak of Chaco technology, then the Z-Volv is the one for you. Utilizing all that Chaco has learned over decades of sport sandal production, the Z/Volv is manufactured with the highest quality materials. It is lighter-weight than Chaco’s other models and makes a great backpacking sandal.

The secret to the Z/Volv’s lighter weight is a high tech polyurethane compound that is 20% lighter than their normal footbeds. It doesn’t just feel lighter, it feels softer and more form fitting.

All of that adds up to make Z/Volv look and feel like the best sport sandal around.

However, Chaco knew not to stray too far from what makes Chacos so great in the first place. The same Z-stap design holds your foot firmly in the footbed. Chacogrip still keeps you well grounded. If you’re already familiar with how it feels to wear Chacos, then just imagine the ultimate evolution of a Chaco sandal. That’s what the Z/Volv is like.

Just like Chaco’s other models, the Z/Volv comes without a toe loop. However, if you want one, the Chaco Z/Volv 2 is just what you’re looking for.

Need to learn how to adjust Chacos? Check out my guide here

Need New Soles? How to Resole Chacos

Now, there’s two schools of thought when it comes to how to resole Chacos. Some people want to know how to DIY resole Chacos, and other people would rather get Chacos resoled professionally.

We’ll cover both.

Chaco’s ReChaco Program

First, and by far the better option, is to get your Chacos resoled professionally by sending them back to Chaco. Chaco has a great program called ReChaco my Chacos. They will replace your straps, sole, buckle or footbed on either or both shoes.

Think of it like ordering custom repairs specific to your sandals.

Chaco has three types of soles to choose from. Colorado and Terreno are variations on a traditional Vibram sole and vary in tread design and depth. Chacogrip is Chaco’s proprietary sole and is designed specifically for Chaco sandals.

Colorado is better for boat and water work, featuring a thinner, slip-resistant tread. Terreno is a better all around sandal sole. It has a deeper tread and weighs a bit more for added durability on the trail.

Chacogrip is by far the best sole you can step on. It is durable, lightweight, and slip-resistant. Really everything you could want underfoot on your wildest adventures.

Custom shoe repair isn’t free, but it will certainly get you the best results. That means the same high quality materials and construction as originals. You won’t have to deal with the inconsistencies and mistakes inherent in resoling your own sandals.

To have Chaco resole your sandals for you, visit their website. You can find the ReChaco my Chacos program in the ‘explore’ tab. Or head straight to the order page here.

How To DIY Chaco Resole

However, if you’re a true believer in doing your own repairs, then we’ll tell you how to DIY resole Chacos as well, even though it won’t be as good as the real thing.

First, you’re going to have to find a material to use for your new soles. The 1″ compression mats that gyms use work great. They come in usually one meter squares and if you’re good with people, you can probably score an old square for free from the local martial arts school. But finding your soles is a personal process I’ll let you undertake in private.

Before you start measuring and cutting new soles though, you should prepare your Chacos for resole. If your old soles are coming off, then you’re going to have to finish the job. Use whatever you have to us to carefully remove the sole from the footbed. Heating them up a bit can help loosen the adhesive, as we may have mentioned once or twice already.

If your old soles are simply wearing through, it may work better to use something like a belt sander to finish the job. Just be careful that any sole left on is firmly adhered to the footbed.

The goal of this step is to create a flat, smooth surface to attach your new soles to. If you’re resoling Chacos, you want them to last a long time. So take the extra steps to do it right.

When you’re tracing your Chacos and cutting out your new soles, don’t cut all the way to the lines at first. You can trim them later once they’re on your Chacos. For now, just cut them out roughly so they are easy to work with.

To do this, you’re going to need a can of contact cement. If you don’t know what that is, go to the hardware store and ask them. Buy a respirator while you’re there. This stuff isn’t something you mess around with. If you smell it, you screwed up.

So you have your new soles, roughly cut, and your old Chacos, properly prepared.

Now, lightly brush on contact cement to both of the surfaces you will be joining. Use enough to see a smooth, shiny coat, but not enough to run or drip.

Do not stick them together right away!

This is not glue. If you do it that way, then your shoes will come apart and you will be sad. Contact cement needs to dry before it adheres. It doesn’t take long, but it needs time to set up. Once the surfaces look matte and not glossy, that will do.

Be extremely careful not to touch any part of them together until you have them exactly lined up. This is where a little extra around the edges can really come in handy, just in case you miss by a hair.

Once you’re all lined up, just go for it. Press them firmly together all around. After they feel joined, stomp around in them and really smash them together for a minute.

Then, trim the edges, cut your tread, go wild. Your sandals will feel (almost) as good as new.

The Bottom Line

If it’s not already clear to you, owning Chacos is like being in a relationship. It is incredibly rewarding and it makes you feel really good. However, every relationship requires a little work from time to time.

Proper maintenance of your Chacos will keep them comfortable and youthful for years and years. However, a neglected pair of Chacos, like a relationship, will become uncomfortable, difficult to fit into, and sometimes even painful to be in.

Fortunately, by now you know everything you need to know about how to repair Chacos, how to resole Chacos, how to care for Chacos, and how to clean Chacos.

You could almost go into business. Although cleaning other peoples sandals for a living might be smelly work. Better to just clean and floss your own Chacos and then get back out on the trails.

Image Credits

Featured Image:

In-article image 1, 5, 6:

In-article image 2: Jade Thoemke

In-article image 3, 4, 7:

In-article image 8: amyjvos

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About The Author

Rand Shoaf

Rand Shoaf

Introduced to traveling at a young age, Rand has since traveled to over 45 countries. Learning how to maximize credit card sign-up bonuses in college has allowed him to earn millions of travel miles and points. Using the same tips and tricks he writes about here has ultimately allowed him to explore the word for pennies on the dollar.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, and recommendations on this site are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any bank, card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. You can read our advertiser disclosure here.

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