Why Chacos Smell So Bad (Here’s the Solution)

So, you’re a proud owner of Chacos and you wear them everywhere. At the end of a long day, you remove them from your feet and notice one of the foulest odors known to man.

The funky odor is a combination of sweat between the sole of the foot and the footbed, which gives rise to an entire ecosystem of stinky microorganisms – and it smells so bad.

If you’re wondering why Chacos make your feet stink, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn how to clean your beloved Chacos and make them smell better in no time.

Why do Chacos smell so bad?

Chacos can smell because of the buildup of dead skin cells on the footbed grooves, as well as grime and trapped moisture coming from the slots where the straps enter and exit the midsole.

If you plug your nose and carefully examine the footbed grooves of your Chacos, you’ll notice a buildup of dead skin cells, especially if you’re been wearing them for a long time outdoors.

Please don’t be grossed out, it’s a fact of life. The odor resonating from the sandals is simply the cells being decomposed by bacteria. All you have to do is simply wash that out.

If your Chacos are still stinky after washing, the smell might come from the slots where the straps enter and exit the midsole. Those slots also catch a lot of grime and trap moisture.

The slots can become sticky and make the straps harder to adjust if left unclean.

How to clean Chacos and make them smell better

I’m not a chemist or a rocket scientist, I just know what works and what doesn’t. So here are several possible remedies to clean your Chacos and make them smell better.

Flossing the straps

Over the course of wear, grit, and sand can get in the channels where the straps enter and exit the midsole, which can create excess odor and cause your straps to stick.

Prior to washing, expose the portion of the strap that is typically underneath the midsole. This part of the sandal holds much of the stink. Do this for both leather and non-leather Chacos.

This is referred to as “flossing” the webbing to expose and loosen the grit from the channels. You can do this by gripping the webbing and pulling HARD.

It takes some effort, but you’ll see the inside webbing come to the outside. You couldn’t put a foot in there, but it’s perfect for cleaning your Chacos.

You can also wet down the straps, then squirt fabric softener into the slot for each strap. Pull the straps back and forth through their channels to clear any excess debris.

Cleaning Chaco sport sandals (non-leather)

Chacos are machine washable. All you need to do is to wash your sandals with a load of laundry on a gentle cycle using a mild detergent or baking soda with cold water.

Don’t wash your Chacos in the dishwasher. The high heat can damage the adhesive cementing the outsoles and cause delamination, where the sole peels off the footbed.

Also, don’t use bleach or use other corrosive chemical cleaners. These can damage the straps. There are more companies that offer environmentally friendly and mild detergents.

Once you’re done with the washing machine, be sure to air dry your Chacos.

Remember, high heat can damage the adhesive and cause webbing fading and stiffness, so don’t place your sandals in the dryer and keep them from direct sunlight while drying.

Your amazingly clean sandals should be ready to wear within an hour.

Bucket soaking sport sandals (non-leather)

Another method to make your Chacos smell better is to use the bucket soak method.

Mix baking soda with enough water to make a paste. Spread the paste out on the footbed of both Chaco sandals and let the paste work its magic for 10 to 20 minutes.

If you prefer using a trusted cleaner instead of baking soda, I recommend using the Nikwax Sandal Wash. It’s water-based and comes with a sponge applicator.

Once you’re done, stick the sandals in a bucket of water and let them sit for a few hours. Scrub off the remaining baking soda and rinse a few times.

You may notice a little white residue from the webbing straps as it dries. This is okay, you just may need to re-rinse the webbing straps a few times.

Baking soda acts as an odor eliminator but it doesn’t kill bacteria. You may want to try a mixture of one part white distilled vinegar diluted with one part water on the footbed to kill the bacteria.

Cleaning leather Chaco sandals

Leather Chaco sandals require more attention than non-leather Chacos. Leather is a material provided to us by nature, so you want to treat it with gentle solutions because it’s natural.

I suggest using a damp cloth with little-to-none solution initially to wipe off residue or excess water on the leather sandal. Gently blot the areas that require cleaning.

Dry the Chaco sandals in an open-air location, however, keep them OUT of sunlight or direct sources of heat. The heat will make the leather brittle and cause cracks.

If more thorough results are required, a specialized leather cleaner can be a great help. Leather conditioners are most favorable for prolonging the life of your leather Chaco sandals.

I suggest a high-quality leather conditioner called “Nikwax Leather Conditioner“.

Pretty straightforward, right? This conditioner will add water-repellent qualities to your sandals, and help soften areas that may have already been affected by age and cracking.

You may notice your sandals will darken during/after you apply the conditioner because it’s rich in moisturizers. Don’t oversaturate the leather because it will need to breathe and dry.

Wash your Chacos once every two weeks

Washing your Chacos once every two weeks is considered a good idea for the sake of the people around you, especially during the peak of the humid summer season.

It’s impossible to overwash Chacos, as long as the treatment solutions are mild. You’ll only increase the durability of the sandal by removing debris that can be abrasive on the straps.

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