Make-It Monday: Birkenstock maintenance

Anybody who’s known me longer than 10 minutes probably already knows how I feel about Birkenstocks.

These are my dress Birkenstocks. My daily drivers were on my feet.
These are my dress Birkenstocks. My daily drivers were on my feet.

Birkies, once broken in, are the most comfortable thing in the known universe. I have two pairs, both clogs — a tan suede pair I bought back in 2000 to relieve a back problem caused by my unfortunate platform-heel phase of the late ’90s, and a dark charcoal-gray felt pair I bought in 2012 to comply with the dress code where I worked.

My older Birkenstocks, which are my daily drivers, serve as house slippers, garden clogs, work shoes, vacation companions and good-luck charms. They’ve moved with me at least three times, joined me on a couple of successful job interviews, and come along on too many road trips to count.

Birkies don’t ask much in return, but a little maintenance now and then helps extend their life.

By “maintenance,” I mean you should seal the cork once in a while when it starts to look dull. This takes about five minutes.

Birkenstock makes its own cork sealer, which I’ve used in the past, but I lost my last jar in a move, and the guy at Shawnee Trails told me Barge Cement — which is cheaper — actually works better and lasts longer. Shawnee Trails has been selling Birkenstocks for decades, so I’m inclined to trust their recommendations.

Barge Cement comes with all sorts of terrifying warnings on the label. I’m pretty sure most of the warnings are just there to discourage people from huffing glue, which is probably pointless, because if you’re huffing glue, the fact that it’s carcinogenic isn’t likely to discourage you, but if you’re worried about it, you can wear rubber gloves while you work. I’m not, so I didn’t; I just used a paintbrush to apply the glue and kept my fingers out of it. Anyway, as the police dispatchers say on the scanner: Proceed at your own discretion.

To seal your Birkenstocks, do the following:

1. Clean them. If they’re ridiculously muddy, hose them off; otherwise, you can just wipe them down with a wet paper towel.

2. Let them dry completely.

Squeeze a little Barge Cement on there.
Squeeze a little Barge Cement on there.

3. Squeeze a little bit of Barge Cement onto the cork and use a cheap foam paintbrush to spread it over all the exposed cork surfaces. If you notice cracks in the cork, work some of the adhesive in there, and if the insole is peeling up, be sure to glue it back down.

Smoothed out.
Smoothed out.

4. Let the cement cure overnight.

Repeat whenever the cork starts to look dull.


P.S.: As always, nobody paid me or gave me free stuff to get me to write this blog. But please feel free to contact me if you would like to give me free Birkenstocks.

5 thoughts on “Make-It Monday: Birkenstock maintenance”

  1. Hah! I just got my first pair at Shawnee Trails and came home to look up care information and here you are.

    1. I’ve never used Kelly’s, but I can’t see a big difference between Barge Cement and Birkenstock’s own product, except that Barge Cement is usually cheaper and easier to find, and I think the Birkie brand has a slightly different finish when it dries.

  2. I’ve used Barge to glue straps before and it is much stronger than any cork sealant. The cork sealers are more like Elmer’s glue, while Barge is industrial strength Elmer’s. But I’m looking for something a little stronger than cork sealer – which Barge definitely is. It doesn’t dry gooey at all? Does it attract dirt? I may havve to try Barge!


    1. It’s not gooey. It takes a little while to cure out, though. I let them dry at least overnight. It’s been my experience that any sticky substance will attract dirt while it is wet. The top of the fridge is a good place to let them cure out; it’s warm up there and more or less protected from dust, lint, pet hair, etc. If you’re not 100% sure, you could always get a piece of cork and smear some on it to see how it works in your climate. I started using it when I lived a mile from the Mississippi River. I don’t remember it ever taking more than a day or so to cure properly. Here in New Mexico, overnight is usually sufficient.

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