- 09 Apr 2020
How to Clean Ballet Shoes
When The Nutcracker is in season, the New York City Ballet troupe goes through over 500 pairs of ballet shoes!
It's one thing to replace a well-loved pair of ballet shoes due to a worn sole or flattened box. It's another to replace a new pair simply because the shoes are dirty.
Knowing how to clean ballet shoes is almost as important as knowing how to select the pair that's right for you. Both skills will cut down on the number of pairs you go through every season!
Read on to find out more about how to clean the different styles of ballet shoes.
How to Clean Canvas Ballet Shoes
Canvas ballet shoes are more low-maintenance than others. In fact, they're the only ones that you can machine wash.
You will need a lingerie bag to contain the ballet shoes and keep them from tumbling all over the washing machine. You will also need a gentle detergent that preferably does not include a bleach or fabric softener.
You will need to run a cold, delicate cycle for your canvas ballet shoes. It is recommended that you don't wash them with anything other than a few delicates such as tights and leotards.
Once the cycle has finished, lay the ballet shoes on a dry towel so that they are flat on their soles. Do your best to reshape them by hand and allow them to dry away from harsh sunlight.
When they are a bit damp, you can put them on to conform them to the shape of your feet. Remember to limit your walking, as they are more likely to attract dirt and other grime while wet.
How to Clean Satin Ballet Shoes
Satin ballet shoes are more delicate than canvas shoes and must be hand washed. You may use the same gentle detergent that you would use for canvas shoes or, alternatively, you may use a gentle dish detergent.
Fill a bucket or a clean sink with cold water and add a few drops of the detergent to create suds. Submerge your satin ballet shoes in the water but do not twist or crumple them.
When you notice that the detergent has lifted the stains, empty the bucket or sink and refill it with clean cold water. Submerge the ballet shoes again to rinse away the detergent. Continue this process until the water dripping from the shoes is suds-free but remember, do not twist or ring your satin ballet shoes!
Follow the same drying and reshaping process as you would for canvas shoes.
A Note on Pointe Shoes
If your ballerina has not yet reached the age of pointe, you can skip right over this section. However, if she is between the ages of 11 and 13 and getting ready to begin pointe lessons, it's important to know that pointe shoes are different than regular ballet shoes.
The main difference is that pointe shoes have a block in the toe to support the ballerina when she moves into pointe positions. This block is made from compressed cardboard and paper stuck together with glue. For the sake of the block, pointe shoes should never be submerged in water.
Instead, dab a small amount of detergent onto the stains and rub them gently with a clean rag or toothbrush. Then, use a lightly dampened rag to clear away the detergent. At no point should the pointe shoe be wet all the way through.
How to Clean Leather Ballet Shoes
Like satin ballet shoes, leather ballet shoes must be hand-washed, as well. Because leather is less porous than canvas and satin, you may be able to get light stains and scuffs off with a damp rag, alone. For a deeper clean, you may want to mix detergent into the water you're dipping your rag into.
You can substitute leather cleaner for the detergent but make sure that you are also applying a leather conditioner after each cleaning. The leather cleaner, alone, will dry out the leather, leading to cracks and other unsightly marks. The conditioner will help to keep the leather supple and crack-free.
Tips to Follow Between Washes
While an occasional deep clean can lengthen the life of your ballet shoes, too much aggressive cleaning can cause the materials to weaken and separate. Keeping up with spot cleaning can reduce the number of times you have to perform a deep clean while still keeping your ballet shoes looking like new!
Spot Clean with Baking Soda Paste
Baking soda is a great stain remover because it is an alkali that can actively dissolve grease and dirt!
Mix one part water with two parts baking soda. In other words, if you were to use 1/2 a cup of water, you would need 1 cup of baking soda. This will create a paste that you can brush onto the stains on any type of ballet shoe.
Let the baking soda paste dry over a period of 12 or so hours. When it is dry, you will be able to brush away the majority of the powder. You may need to use a dampened rag to remove any remaining residue.
You will notice that most stains will be visibly lighter, if not completely gone!
Reduce the Odor
Sometimes, we want to give our ballet shoes a good washing not because they're stained, but because they're stinky! Fortunately, baking soda can come to the rescue with this issue, too.
After practice, sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of baking soda into each shoe. This will help to absorb any moisture and eliminate the particles causing the odor to linger!
Where to Find Great Ballet Shoes
Whether you're new to ballet or past the point of cleaning, we've got you covered!
Check out our online collection for ballet shoes as well as other dance-related accessories.