How to wash those Kim Kardashian-inspired ‘joots,’ according to fashion experts

(Photo illustration by Julia Binswanger/MEDILL)

By Julia Binswanger
Medill Reports

Kim Kardashian and the models on the Balenciaga runway don’t need to worry about cleaning their “pantaboots” (aka “joots”). But those who are buying them (for $325 through Agolde or $2,990 through Saint Laurent) will need to think about how to eliminate that wine stain.  But how?

“I don’t know of a cleaner who would touch those,” said Ann Hargrove, director of events and special projects at the National Cleaners Association.

Dry cleaning is not an option

Although Damien, a Saint Laurent representative who declined to give his last name, advised customers to take their joots to the dry cleaner, the answer is complicated. 

Like home washers, dry cleaning machines rotate clothes in a perforated cylinder and spin them dry. But they use chemical solvents instead of water. Unfortunately, joots – like those from Saint Laurent – have a cotton denim fabric sewn onto a leather shoe. The tumble process warps the leather, and the chemicals remove the cow hide’s natural oils and dry it out. So, dry cleaning joots is out of the question. 

Spot cleaning is (soft of) an option

Garments labeled “spot-clean only” are made with at least one piece or section too delicate for machine washing and dry cleaning. Think of joots as similar to a hand-beaded dress.

Alas, spot cleaning does very little. “It’s just steaming,” Hargrove said. “You steam out whatever spots are in there, and it’s not a real cleaning.” It cannot make joots good as new. What’s more, even if a cleaner is convinced to take on the garment, it’s going to be costly, and the garment may not come back in one piece. “A cleaner is going to have (their customer) sign a release if they even attempt to attempt it,” she said. After all, most have never worked with joots.   

Let nature do the work

David Shuck, managing editor/partner at Heddels, an online magazine dedicated to the raw jean movement (which celebrates authentic, untreated fabric), recommends an out-of-the-box, free alternative to spot cleaning: laying pantaboots in the sun. Exposing denim to UV rays for a couple of hours kills bacteria. “The sun would be a decent method if you want to avoid water touching them at all,” he said. Still, it won’t remove any dirt or debris.

Shuck is more concerned about the leather than the cotton-denim. He recommended waiting a couple of days between wears and airing out the leather soles by folding down the pant portion. “The leather needs time to dry out from all the sweat that your feet made,” he said.

You could also just … not

Levi’s recommends washing regular jeans at least once every 10 wears to maintain a good fit. But, if someone is sitting most of the day, they can go longer. And let’s be honest, how active are people really going to be in joots?  Small stains can be removed with a damp cloth and mild soap. What’s more, after 10 wears, those joots may not even be a trend anymore.

Hargrove is skeptical that pantaboots should be cleaned at all. “That’s a great look, but it’s wearable art,” she said. Julia Fox cut her joots after wearing them and turned them into regular boring boots. Perhaps she just didn’t want to clean them!

If you must, hand wash

 If a professional cleaner isn’t willing to take on the challenge, hand cleaning is a last- ditch, imperfect option. “Holding them up by the heel and hand washing in a bathtub works,” said Marissa Sparrow Hawk, a fashion reviewer and proud owner of pantaboots.  Do so very, very carefully. Here’s how:

Step 1. Wash your bathtub 

Make sure no hair or shampoo residue is sticking around. Work with a clean surface.

Step 2. Pick a detergent you trust

When washing jean material, use laundry detergent, such as The Laundress’s Denim Wash, designed for dark clothing to prevent fading.  

Step 3. Use cold water

Fill the tub with a couple of inches of cold water to submerge the pant part of the joots. Washing a garment changes its fibers and color. Cold water won’t fade the colors, and it prevents shrinking. Imagine the horror of a line revealing exactly where the water stopped touching your joots!

Step 4. Add detergent – and soak

Add a few drops of detergent. Submerge the pant area, and keep the leather above water, either by holding the heels or draping them over the tub. Let the fabric soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Make sure the leather doesn’t touch the water. You don’t want it to dry out and crack.

Step 5. Rinse

As with regular jeans, drain the soapy water and rinse the joots by filling the tub with cold water. Repeat this process until there are no more suds. 

Step 6. Dry

Don’t wring and twist. This can damage the fibers. Unzip any zippers and unbutton buttons, and lay the jean material flat on a drying rack with the leather shoe elevated. Wait until dry and voila, you’re done!

Julia Binswanger is a Magazine Specialization graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @juliabinswanger