Anyone who has spent time dancing in ballet shoes knows that they can get dirty quickly. Stuffing them into your dance bag can stink up your other dance wear. They stain easily and can look grimy on stage.
The good news is that ballet shoes can be washed. Each type of shoe has different requirements and great care should be taken when cleaning your shoes and shoe accessories to ensure that they retain their shape and lifespan.
A lot questions come up when talking about how to clean and deodorized ballet shoes. This list is a compilation of frequently asked questions that will shed some light on what you can and can’t do to keep your ballet shoes fresh and clean.
1. Can You Wash Ballet Slippers?
There are many different types of ballet shoes made out of a variety of different materials such as canvas, leather, or satin. This means that not all ballet shoes should be washed in the same way. For example, flat leather ballet slippers should be washed differently than a satin pointe or demi-pointe shoe.
It is possible to wash most ballet shoes. However, it is imperative to be mindful of how you wash your ballet shoes to avoid deforming, shrinking, or discoloring your shoes.
2. Can You Wash Ballet Flats?
Flat shoes, also known as ballet slippers, are often made out of leather or canvas. Ballet slippers made out of either of these materials can be carefully washed and air-dried. For example, canvas shoes can be machine washed, but leather shoes should only be spot cleaned or hand washed.
3. Can You Put Ballet Flats in the Washing Machine?
It seems simple to just throw your ballet slippers into the washing machine. You should avoid putting leather or satin ballet slippers into the washing machine. However, you can wash canvas ballet slippers on a gentle cycle in the washing machine.
There are a few things to keep in mind when washing your canvas ballet shoes in the washing machine. Firstly, make sure to put your shoes into a wash bag to prevent them from getting tossed around too much in the machine. Secondly, always use a gentle cycle and mild detergent. Harsh chemicals and hot water can damage your shoes.
Washing canvas ballet slippers in a washing machine can cause discoloration to varying degrees. Keep this in mind if you are washing shoes that are part of a costume, for example, that need to retain their precise color. Stick to careful spot cleaning if this is the case.
4. Can You Put Canvas Ballet Shoes in the Dryer?
You can wash canvas ballet shoes in the washing machine or by hand, but you should never put canvas ballet shoes in the dryer. Tumble drying your shoes will cause them to shrink.
The best way to dry ballet slippers is to let them air dry on a flat surface. Reshape them while they are still wet so that they retain their original shape and size when they are dry. Avoid putting them outside or in direct sunlight, as this can cause discoloration.
5. Can You Wash Leather Ballet Shoes?
You can hand wash leather ballet shoes. All you will need is a dish of warm water, gentle dish soap, a sponge or rag, and a towel to dry with.
Here’s what to do:
- Add gentle dish soap to a bowl of warm water, stirring it up to lather the soap.
- Use a gentle sponge or dish rag and the warm soapy water to wash the outside of the leather ballet slippers. Be careful not to damage any of the seams.
- Rinse the soap off of the shoes carefully using the sponge or rag and some fresh water. Do not submerge the ballet slippers.
- Dry the ballet slippers off with a towel. Never put your leather ballet slippers in the dryer.
6. Can You Wash Pointe and Demi-Pointe Shoes?
Pointe shoes and demi-pointe shoes are both made out of satin with various other materials used throughout such as leather, paper, canvas, and glue. It is recommended to not ever get your pointe shoes wet. Water can break down the box and shank, significantly shortening the life-span of the shoe.
There are a few ways to spot-clean your pointe or demi-pointe shoes safely:
- One common method is by using a wet paper towel to gently scrub a small spot of your shoe. Be careful not to let too much water soak into the shoe.
- Baking soda is another good option. You can stir it with a bit of water to create a paste. This paste can be used to clean stains off the satin.
- Since washing satin pointe shoes can be difficult, many people opt to cover up any stains or marks on their shoes. This can be done with a foundation that matches the color of the satin.
7. Can You Wash Ballet Toe Pads?
You can wash fabric toe pads in the washing machine, but hand washing them is better for their lifespan. You can hand wash them by letting them soak in warm soapy water or just massage them with gentle soap and warm water. Then rinse the pads with clean water.
If you choose to wash your toe pads in the washing machine, use a delicate cycle and always put them in a bag. Never put toe pads in the dryer.
Some toe pads are made of other materials such as silicone. Never put silicone toe pads in the washing machine. You can wash them by hand with a rag or sponge and some warm soapy water.
Once you’ve washed your toe pads, lay them out to air dry, always avoiding direct sunlight. Don’t ever put toe pads of any kind in the dryer.
8. Can You Wash Toe Spacers?
Many dancers use toe spacers to prevent or protect bunions. Most of the time, toe spacers are made out of silicone or a similar material. The easiest and safest way to wash toe spacers is by soaking them in warm, not hot, soapy water. Make sure to use a gentle dish soap.
Lay your toe spacers out to air dry. Do not put toe pads in the dryer.
9. How Often Should You Wash Your Shoes and Toe Pads?
You may be wondering if you should be washing your ballet shoes on a regular basis. You should wash your ballet slippers as needed. Stains, increasing dirt and grime, or unusually bad odor are good indicators that you should consider washing your shoes.
Pointe shoes shouldn’t be washed unless absolutely necessary. Excess water will break down the shoe quickly. Only spot clean or conceal your pointe or demi-pointe shoes and never submerge them in water.
Toe pads should be washed on a regular basis, preferably at least once a month. This is to prevent any bacteria from growing. Washing your toe spacers, if you use them, at the same time is a good practice as well. Replacing all of your toe pads and spacers once a year helps with hygiene as well.
10. How Can You Keep Ballet Shoes Clean?
Washing ballet shoes can be difficult and can reduce the lifespan of your shoes. There is always risk involved with washing your shoes as the seams and materials are often very delicate. Discoloration and deformation aren’t uncommon when washing ballet shoes.
You may be wondering how you can keep them clean without going through the effort and risk of washing your ballet shoes. Here are a few ways to keep your shoes clean without washing:
- Avoid wearing your ballet shoes outside the studio or stage. This will increase your shoes’ lifespan and keep them clean and stain free.
- Spot clean any stains or grime. You can’t completely avoid your shoes getting dirty. When the inevitable stain appears, make sure to spot clean with a wet paper towel as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage. Use baking soda if the stain is particularly pesky.
- Conceal small stains instead of cleaning them. Many dancers conceal stains on their pointe shoes with a matching foundation or calamine lotion. This is a good way to keep them looking clean without risking water damage to shoes.
11. How Do You Deodorize Ballet Shoes?
Ballet shoes get stinky. Hours of dancing leave your shoes sweaty and grimy. This inevitably leads to odor that can spread through your dance bag and absorb into your clothes. While sweating in your ballet shoes can’t be avoided, there are a few ways to reduce the odor:
- Let your ballet shoes air dry after dancing. Once you’re done dancing, place your shoes in a mesh bag, or better yet, set them out in the open. This allows the sweat to dry out and evaporate from the shoe. This will increase the lifespan and reduce the odor.
- Keep your feet, tights, and any shoe accessories clean. Keeping both your feet and accessories, such as toe pads and spacers, clean will reduce the amount of bacteria in your shoes, resulting in less odor.
- Use baking soda. You can sprinkle baking soda into your ballet shoes to help with the odor. Baking soda is safe for your shoes and it will absorb the sweat and bacteria, leaving your shoes smelling much better.
- Put your leather ballet slippers or satin pointe shoes in the freezer. The freezer helps eliminate odor by killing bacteria. Seal your ballet shoes in an air-tight bag to prevent any moisture from sneaking into your shoes. Then place them in the freezer to keep them smelling fresh.
- Use deodorizing spray. There are a few brands, such as Nikolay, that make deodorizing sprays for ballet shoes. Just spray a couple pumps into your shoes to eliminate bacteria and help with the odor.
Washing your ballet shoes properly will keep them looking (and smelling) fresh, but proper care needs to be taken to ensure that your shoes are unharmed. Best practice is always to prevent your shoes from getting dirty in the first place, but when you need to wash them, do so with care.
If you are worried about keeping your ballet shoes fresh and clean, be sure to use the tips and tricks in the list to safely wash your shoes. By following the tips above, you will be able to keep your shoes looking (and smelling) beautiful for your upcoming performance.
Did you enjoy this list? Be sure to share this article with all of your dancer friends so they can keep their shoes fresh and clean. Don’t forget to come back and reference this next time you have a question about cleaning and deodorizing your ballet shoes.