When performing in a ballet, it’s essential to look your best—and your ballet or pointe shoes are a huge component of your overall look.
Ballet is all about poise and beautiful lines, and dirty shoes can detract from your performance. If you’ve noticed dirt on your dance shoes, we’re here to help. Whether you’re looking for advice on cleaning leather shoes or need specific help with your pointe shoes, here’s everything you need to know about how to wash ballet shoes.
How to wash ballet shoes
The safest way to wash your ballet shoes largely depends on the material of the shoe. For example, canvas ballet shoes can be cleaned through the washing machine, whereas satin and leather ballet shoes cannot.
Spot treatment is often the best way to clean all types of ballet shoes to ensure that you don’t accidentally damage the shoes. Regardless of your ballet shoe’s material, it’s advised that you follow these best practices for spot treating your shoes:
- Use minimal water to avoid water marks
- Clean with a solution that will not damage the material
- Start with a small amount of solution and add as needed
- Gently dab the shoes—don’t scrub
- Ensure shoes are fully air-dried before using
Find detailed instructions below on how to wash your ballet shoes according to the shoe’s material.
How to clean satin ballet shoes
Satin shoes are a popular choice for ballet dancers, as they offer a lovely, sleek aesthetic and a shine that is flattering for dance. Many ballet and pointe shoes are constructed using satin—particularly shoes for dance performances.
Satin ballet shoes, however, are the trickiest to clean, as watermarks from cleaning can affect the appearance of satin and dull the shine. Satin isn’t the most durable material; it can mark easily but also can’t withstand heavy washing. Satin shoes should never be put through a washing machine, as water can be detrimental to the shoe. Instead, you can spot clean satin ballet shoes with a specialist solution or baking soda. Use minimal water to avoid marking and dab the shoes very gently rather than scrubbing at the marks.
How to clean canvas ballet shoes
Canvas ballet shoes are a great everyday choice for dance, especially if you’re looking for a practical shoe for dance classes and rehearsals. They’re breathable and don’t mark as easily as satin shoes. They’re also comfortable and one of the more affordable ballet shoe options. Plus, canvas ballet shoes are often the easiest to clean, as this material can withstand machine washing.
If you’re putting canvas ballet shoes in the washing machine, always run them on a delicate, cold-water cycle. Wash them in a laundry bag, or even inside a pillowcase, to keep them protected during the cycle. Once they’ve been washed, you should reshape the shoes by hand and let them air dry.
While canvas can be washed, it isn’t the most durable of materials. You may notice that the material weakens after a few washes, meaning you may need to replace your canvas ballet shoes more frequently—so only wash them when they really need it.
If you’re wondering how to clean canvas ballet shoes by hand, the best option is to spot clean them with a mixture of water and gentle detergent. Simply dab at any marks or stains or rub gently to remove more stubborn dirt. After spot cleaning your canvas ballet shoes, ensure they’re fully air-dried before you next wear them.
How to clean leather ballet shoes
Those looking for a durable ballet shoe that will last should consider leather ballet shoes. Leather is a great, resistant material that doesn’t mark as easily as satin and has a longer life than canvas. Leather can also stretch and will adapt to a dancer’s foot the longer the shoes are worn, making them an extremely comfortable option for dance. Because of this, they’re often more expensive than their affordable canvas counterparts—but the cost difference is reflected in the longevity they offer.
If you’re looking to clean your leather ballet shoes, be very careful not to damage the material. Spot cleaning is best for leather ballet shoes, as it helps remove marks without affecting the overall look or quality of the shoe. You can also wipe leather ballet shoes down with a damp cloth to remove light dirt and dust from everyday use.
To spot clean leather ballet shoes, apply a damp cloth to the mark and very gently rub if needed. You can also use a mixture of mild detergent and water on more stubborn stains. Remember, water can affect leather and cause the material to break down more quickly, so only clean leather shoes with water when needed and always use as little liquid as possible.
How to clean pointe shoes
So, what about cleaning pointe shoes? Are there any differences from cleaning regular ballet shoes? Most pointe shoes and demi-pointe shoes are made with satin, so you can follow the standard recommendations for cleaning ballet shoes for surface cleaning.
However, pointe shoes may require a little more care when you’re cleaning them. Pointe shoes are designed to last a limited amount of time, so excessive cleaning—especially with water—can be detrimental and cause the shoes to break down more quickly. Water can damage pointe shoes, especially if it comes in contact with the glue in the toe box. And when the toe box breaks down, the pointe shoe can’t be used.
For general advice on how to extend the life of pointe shoes and keep them performing at their best, we’ve put together a guide on maintaining pointe shoes.
How to clean toe pads for pointe shoes
Toe pads and pointe shoe cushions can usually be washed with dish soap or mild detergent and water, depending on the material. Fabric toe pads can sometimes withstand a cycle in the washing machine – but double-check the washing instructions for your specific toe pads for more information on washing and care. The good thing about toe pads is they can also be replaced at a more affordable price than replacing the entire pointe shoe.
Can you use soap to clean ballet pointe shoes?
Soap can affect the appearance of some materials, including satin, so always be extra careful when cleaning your pointe shoes. For stubborn marks, you can use a tiny amount of baking soda mixed with a minimal amount of water. Remember, less is best! Use a small amount of water and mix it with a soap that is as mild as possible. You can always go back over dirty marks if needed, but if you watermark or stain your shoes, you’ll struggle to return them to their initial condition and the shoes may need to be replaced, especially if there is water damage to the box.
How to clean pointe shoe ribbons
Pointe shoe ribbons can withstand washing better than the body of the shoe. To clean pointe shoe ribbons, soak them in warm, soapy water before air drying. You can also spot clean any smaller marks as you’re cleaning the rest of the shoe. When cleaning pointe shoe ribbons, be extra careful that the pointe shoe itself does not come in contact with any liquid.
While cleaning your ballet shoes can sometimes be time-consuming, you need to be as careful as possible to help maintain the overall look and structure of your shoes. It’s also important to understand when your pointe shoes need replacing. If you have older ballet or pointe shoes that have seen better days, explore our ballet shoes and pointe shoes collections at BLOCH to discover your new dream pair.