How to Wash Shoes: Easily Clean Your Shoes [DIY]

How to wash shoes - faverie

Your outfit can be made complete by the perfect pair of shoes, but dirty shoes can ruin the entire outfit. In the following chapters, we’re going to talk about the importance of washing your shoes, how to wash shoes and how you can store them properly. 

We’re also going to cover the different materials that your shoes may be made of and how that can affect the process of washing them. After you read through this article, you’ll be ready to tackle some of your messiest pairs of shoes.

Let’s get started!

Prevention & shoe care

Your shoes are designed to withstand some pretty heavy-duty wear and tear, but they can become dirty over time. While the integrity of the shoes might still be intact, their cleanliness can affect how nice they look.

Luckily, most shoes have the ability to be cleaned. The type of shoes that you have will determine the process that you use. Not knowing the right products or processes to use can end up causing damage to your shoes if you’re not careful.

Hand cleaning training sneakers

In this article, we’re going to discuss different tips for caring for your shoes and some storage ideas that will provide protection to your shoes.

How to take care of your shoes

It might seem difficult to care for your shoes, but this is actually a very doable task if you know the right steps to take. First, you’ll want to determine what material your shoe is, as this will affect the cleaning process. 

From there, a couple of good products and tools can make it easy to care for your shoes. Let’s take a look at some tips that can help increase the life span of your shoes and help you take proper care of them.

Determine the material of your shoes

It’s really important that you know what your shoes are made out of before you try to clean them. Certain materials are more durable than others. Water alone can sometimes damage a certain type of shoe if you’re not careful. 

You can usually determine what kind of material a shoe is made out of by inspecting a tag on the shoe or reading the information on the outside of the shoe’s original box. If you still can’t figure out the material, try finding that shoe online. The manufacturer’s information should say what kind of material you’re dealing with.

Material such as suede shouldn’t be subjected to large amounts of water at once. This material should be periodically treated with a waterproofing product to protect it against water damage.

Leather is the most common material used for shoes. It’s very durable and holds up well to water and the elements outside. You can also clean leather shoes using special products or simply a little soap and water.

Alternate your shoes

If you wear the same pair of shoes each day, you’ll likely have to replace them at least once per year. The frequency may be more often if your shoes are seeing a lot of wear and tear. If you have multiple pairs of shoes that you switch between, this will lengthen the life span of your footwear. 

Make sure you’re wearing shoes that are appropriate for the weather outside. If you’re wearing ballet flats out in the middle of winter, you can expect them to wear down faster as they’re exposed to a lot of moisture, road salt, etc.

Treat them well from the very beginning & they’ll look good as new

It’s much easier to care for a pair of shoes when you’re careful with them right from the beginning. If you wait until your shoes are a few years old and then attempt to take care of them, you may not be able to achieve the quality that you want. 

Treating them well and cleaning them each time they become dirty is the best long-term option. You’ll find that they look new for longer periods of time when you’re not ignoring their care.

Follow the manufactures instructions

Woman cleaning shoes reading

Most manufacturers will include some kind of care instructions with their shoes. If you don’t see anything on the shoe itself, check the company’s website. A lot of shoe brands actually sell their own cleaning products that can be used to remove dirt, stains and protect the material over the course of many years.

Clean them frequently

Shoes shouldn’t be cleaned once or twice during their life span. They should really be cleaned each time they become dirty. It’s tough to give shoes a deep clean when they’ve been abused for months and months. You can give your shoes a quick wipe down when you return from an outing that resulted in them getting messy. Shining a pair of dress shoes is something that should just become routine for you.

Address dirt quickly

The longer you leave dirt on a shoe, the harder it’s going to be to clean it off eventually. If you’ve gone out and come home to find that your shoes are dirty, take a few minutes to clean them. They’ll look brand new again the next time you’re ready to put them on. Stains occur when dirt has the time to really set into a material.

Don’t Let People Borrow Your Shoes

The only feet that should go into your shoes are your own. Letting other people borrow your shoes can result in a stinky shoe mess. You’re also trusting that the person using your shoes isn’t going to step in a muddy puddle or drop something on them.

Have a Dedicated Spot for Your Shoes

Your shoes should be stored in an area of the home that’s dedicated to shoes only. This may be in your own personal closet, in the front hallway closet, or in a mudroom. This dedicated space aims to keep your shoes away from anything that could cause them to become dirty or damaged. 

The garage isn’t a good spot. While you might have extra space there, the humidity levels fluctuate too much, and it’s a dusty and dirty area that can damage your shoes even when they’re inside boxes.

Avoid Dirty Areas

If you can successfully walk around a puddle or dirty area, this is a great way to preventatively keep your shoes clean so you don’t have to worry about the mess later on.

Shoe storage tips

Properly storing your shoes is an important part of caring for them. Unfortunately, this is a step that a lot of people neglect. If you leave all of your shoes in a messy pile at the bottom of your closet, they can become dirty, lose shape, or incur damage. If you have leather shoes or other porous materials, they can even absorb odor and moisture. 

Let’s take a look at some shoe storage tips that will help you remain organized while also caring for your shoes properly.

Put away shoes you don’t wear often

We all have shoes that don’t get worn on a regular basis. They may be dress shoes that are only appropriate for a special event, or shoes that aren’t appropriate for the weather most of the year where you live. 

But they look cute, so you keep them around. If you have shoes that you’re not wearing often, you should store those shoes away for the time being. This will keep them from getting dusty, from fading, or becoming dirty when they’re thrown into a pile with other shoes.

Keep your shoes in boxes

Shoes should always be stored in boxes when they’re not being worn. Boxes protect your shoes from the elements, so they look brand new when you go to wear them next. There are specific storage boxes that you can purchase for shoes, which provide much better protection than the cardboard version that they originally were sold in. You can label the boxes, attach a photo of the shoe to the outside and keep them neatly stacked in your closet.

Store your flats in over the door organizers

If you have a large number of flats, they can take up a lot of space if you’re using boxes for storage. Try hanging an over-the-door organizer in your closet. These organizers come with various pockets that you can slide shoes into. Flats fit perfectly into these compartments, and you’ll be able to quickly see what shoes you have available when you’re getting ready to go out.

Avoid leaving your shoes on the floor

After a long day, it’s tempting to throw your shoes onto the floor and walk away when you come in the door. Unfortunately, someone else can come in and throw their shoes right on top of yours. This is how shoes often become damaged or dirty. Take a few extra minutes to place your shoes in a safe location where they will be protected.

Interior modern hall shoes stand

Avoid using baskets where everyone in your household piles their shoes all together in one spot. This can make for a dirty and stinky shoe mess quite quickly.

Don’t store your shoes dirty, clean them

You should never put your shoes into a storage area while they’re still dirty. That just allows the dirt to set into the material, causing a stained surface that you won’t be able to clean later on. Take the time to clean your shoes and let them dry before putting them away into storage.

Don’t store wet shoes

If you’ve cleaned your shoes and are prepared to store them, make sure that you don’t put them away while they’re wet. If moisture is trapped on the shoe, it can lead to mold growth or water damage. Always leave your shoes out to dry overnight and put them into storage the next day.

Keep your shoes in categories

For ease of finding the shoes that you want in a hurry, keep your shoes stored in categories. This can include a section for athletic shoes, heels, flats, sandals, boots, etc.

Store Your Boots Flat

Boots should be stored in an upright or flat position. Never fold them or crush them into a box or area where they don’t fit. This could ruin the boots or leave permanent marks on their exterior that ruin their look.

Keep everyone’s shoes separate

You can keep a few commonly worn pairs of shoes in your home’s front foyer or in the hallway, but each individual person’s shoes should be kept in their own closet. This will prevent an organizational nightmare that results in not being able to find the shoes that you need when you’re in a hurry.


Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of washing, caring for, and storing your shoes, we’re going to move on to some other related topics. 

In the next few chapters, we’re going to talk about how to wash your shoes by hand, how to wash them in the washing machine, and how you can clean super-smelly shoes.

How to wash shoes by hand

When you’re not sure how a shoe is going to react to being cleaned, it’s a good idea to stick with hand washing the item. This is the best way to ensure that your shoes aren’t going to get ruined. You don’t have to completely submerge the shoes in water. Rather, you can use a spot treatment process to get them clean.

In this chapter, we’re going to be talking about the proper process to use when washing your shoes by hand. When you’re done reading, you’ll be able to bring back some life to worn-out shoes that you own while also lengthening the life span of your current shoe collection.

Cleaning Your Shoes by Hand

You probably have a large collection of shoes that include athletic sneakers, leather dress shoes, canvas, sandals, and even suede boots. All of these types of shoes should be cleaned periodically, but the process of doing so will vary quite a bit. 

Whether your shoes are messy from normal wear and tear, or you dropped something greasy on them, you don’t have to think about tossing them in the garbage. There are plenty of ways that you can correct the mess so that your shoes still look brand new.

Cleaning your shoes by hand can also be done as a preventive measure. You shouldn’t wait until your shoes are dirty and grimy to bring out the cleaning products. Maintaining your shoes is a lot easier, and your outfit will look well put together when you can rely on a clean pair of shoes.

In the tips that we’re about to discuss, you’ll learn some techniques that you can use for various shoe types and materials. They provide a thorough cleaning without causing any permanent damage.

Prepare the materials and space where you are going to clean your shoes

Before you get started, prepare the area where you will be working in. You should have plenty of space to work, and the area should be free of any additional dirt that could get onto your shoes. Make sure you have all of your supplies ready and have a clean space where you can safely put your shoes when they are done getting cleaned.

Remove and clean shoelaces

Leaving your shoelaces on your shoes will only result in them getting wet and dirtier than they were, to begin with. You can run your shoelaces through the washing machine to get them sparkly clean. You can also hand wash them in the sink with a little bit of dish soap or laundry detergent. Allow them to hang dry or lay flat while drying completely.

Remove the insoles and wash them separately

The insoles of your shoes can almost always be removed, and they should be taken out of your shoes if you’re going to be performing a cleaning. Your insoles should be washed separately in a sink filled with soapy water or detergent. 

Man hands putting insoles shoes

You can also use a bucket or basin. Many people forget to wash their insoles, but this is the main part of your shoe that gets stinky and dirty with prolonged wear. Always let the insoles dry completely before you place them back into the shoes. In some cases, you may need to wait until the next day to replace your insoles.

Brush dirty spots

Before you get anything wet or wipe your shoes down, brush off any dirty spots that are present. The goal is to get off any of the solid debris that’s on the shoes prior to washing them. It allows for a cleaner process overall. You can use a soft-bristled brush for this process or grab a clean toothbrush that you will use for the sole purpose of cleaning your shoes.

Soak your shoes

Soaking your shoes may be necessary if they’re very dirty, but it’s important to note that not all shoes can be submerged in water. The ability to soak your shoes depends on the material of the shoe. If you have high-quality leather shoes or shoes made of suede, you’ll want to skip this step.

You shouldn’t have to soak your shoes for longer than 15 to 30 minutes. The soaking process is designed to loosen up any dirt on the shoes so you can come back and easily scrub them. If your shoes are very dirty, you may need to change out the water a few times during the process.

Scrub Your Shoes

You should never be aggressive with scrubbing your shoes, but there will likely be some areas on the soles that need a little attention in order to get them clean. You can use a soft-bristled brush, toothbrush, or soft rag to wash off any dirty spots. Make sure that you’re rinsing your tools clean periodically to prevent dirt from being spread to other areas.

Rinse your shoes

Always rinse your shoes thoroughly when you’re done soaking and cleaning them. If you leave any soap or dirty residue behind, the shoes can end up looking worse than they did when you started. Use room temperature water to rinse the outsides and interior of the shoes. Make sure all the water drains out of the shoes before setting them aside to dry.

Allow them to air dry

You should never place your shoes in the drier. Instead, place them somewhere clean to air dry. Avoid putting them out in the sun to dry. This can speed up the process of drying your shoes, but it can also cause discoloration. 

Make sure that your shoes are completely dry before you replace the insoles or laces. They should also be totally dry before you put them into their storage containers. A minimum of 24 hours is needed for dry time. It might be more if your shoes were very saturated with water.

Be Careful of Your Tools

The tools that you’re using to clean your shoes should be soft enough that they won’t cause damage but abrasive enough that you can get your shoes clean. It’s better to choose a softer material that requires you to use a little extra elbow grease for the process. This will ensure you don’t see any scratches once the shoes have dried.

Spot Test Products

Before you use a shoe cleaning product on the entire area of your shoes, do a spot test on an area that’s not highly visible. The interior side of your foot is the best spot. The goal is to determine if a product is going to cause the color of your shoes to change or if it will affect the quality of the material.


We’ve covered a number of ways that you can wash your shoes by hand when they’re dirty, or you want to keep them clean before packing them away. Hopefully, you’ll know the right tools and products to use in order to get this process completed. 

In upcoming chapters, we’re going to look at the process of washing your shoes in the washing machine, how you can take care of a pair of smelly shoes, and different methods of cleaning for different material types.

How to wash shoes in the washing machine

Washing your shoes by hand is necessary for certain pairs, but there is the option to wash your shoes in the washing machine as well. Keep in mind not all shoes will survive this process, so make sure that you’re assessing your shoes before throwing them in. It might be more time-consuming to wash by hand, but certain materials and certain styles require it.

When you step out of the house to go to work or out with friends, you should look your very best. Your outfit may be stylish and attractive, but a dirty pair of shoes can ruin the entire ensemble. Luckily, cleaning your shoes doesn’t have to be a difficult process if you know what you’re doing. 

Woman hands shoes mesh laundry bag washing machine

If you happen to have a pair of machine washable shoes, you can use that process when they become dirty. Just make sure that you stay on top of cleaning your shoes. Waiting until you’re about the go out isn’t the right time to clean them in the washing machine.

If you’re going ahead with washing your shoes in the washing machine but are nervous that you’re going to do the wrong thing, there are some steps and tips we can share with you to ensure a thorough wash while also protecting your shoes.

Look at the wash instructions

The washing instructions for your shoes may be listed on a tag on the inside of the shoe, or more information may be included on the shoebox that they came in. Make sure that you read these instructions thoroughly before putting your shoes in the washing machine. Shoes that can be washed in the washing machine are usually made of cotton, nylon, canvas, and polyester. A durable athletic shoe is going to hold up well.

There are some other types of footwear that shouldn’t be placed in the washer. This includes shoes made of materials such as suede, leather, rubber, and vinyl. More specialized care should be taken, such as washing these shoes by hand. Also, keep an eye out for shoes that have delicate stitching or beading. These details can become ruined in the washing machine.

Pre-clean your shoes

Before placing your shoes in the washing machine, pre-clean any spots that have caked on mud or other debris. This will allow the washing process to be more effective since there won’t be a bunch of dirt being washed over the shoes on the inside and out. It only takes a few minutes to give your shoes a quick wipe to remove the majority of the mess.

Remove the laces and the soles

Before washing, remove the laces from your shoes. Most laces will get pulled very tight during the process of washing the shoes, which can damage the shoes or damage the laces. You can wash them separately and let them dry until your shoes are ready to be worn again.

The interior sole of the shoes should also be removed. These don’t hold up well in the washing machine, though you can wash them by hand if they’re stinky or dirty. Let them air dry overnight before putting them back in your shoes.

Use a mesh bag or pillowcase

To protect your shoes from getting caught up in the interior of your washing machine, you can use a mesh bag or pillowcase to keep them contained. These are the same kinds of bags that you would use for your other delicate laundry items. To protect the washing machine as well, a bag will keep the shoes from banging around in there.

Wash the shoes with something else

Washing your shoes with other items in the machine will also prevent the shoes from getting banged around. You would be surprised how much damage can occur from your shoes being moved around during the wash cycle for 15 to 30 minutes. Other items that can be washed with your shoes include towels and blankets. Avoid putting your clothing in with the shoes. If you have very dirty shoes, you could end up transferring that mess onto your nice clothing.

Use the gentle cycle

The gentle cycle of your washing machine moves a lot less than the regular cycle, protecting your shoes. It may take a little longer to run the gentle cycle, but it’s worth it. Read the options on your washing machine to see what the other cycles may be. Some machines are equipped with a bulky item setting, which would also be appropriate for shoes.

Use a cold wash

Cold water will prevent colors from running, the shoe material from shrinking, and cold water also gets stains out easier. If you use hot water, this can actually end up making a stain more permanent on your shoes.

Add liquid detergent, not powder detergent

Liquid detergent works better for shoes in the washing machine because it will rinse away nicely. If you use powdered detergent, some of the powder can become stuck in your shoes’ different cracks and crevices and not rinse out well. Make sure you’re not using a detergent that contains bleach, which could cause damage.

Allow them to air dry

It’s not recommended that you dry your shoes in the dryer unless you have a unit that’s equipped with a drying rack. This would prevent the shoes from being tossed around. It will take at least 24 to 48 hours for your shoes to fully air dry. To make sure that they’re completely ready to be worn again, place your hand inside the shoe to see if there’s any residual moisture in the interior toe area.


Now that you know the proper way of washing your shoes in the washing machine, you can use this process to get your shoes nice and clean. Just make sure you take proper precautions to prevent damage to your shoes. In the next chapter, we’re going to talk about cleaning smelly and very dirty shoes.

How to clean dirty or smelly shoes

Have you ever bent down to put your shoes on and were embarrassed by how they smelled? Some people just deal with smelly shoes more than others. You don’t have to simply apologize and tolerate the smell. Instead, we have some steps you can take to wash your stinky shoes to eliminate the odor. When you’re done with this chapter, you’ll know all the steps that you can take to almost completely eliminate that nasty shoe odor.

When your feet get sweaty in the summer months or when you’re very active, this can lead to your shoes starting to sweat. The inside of your shoes is a perfect location for the growth of bacteria. That bacteria feeds off the sweat in your shoes leads to that stinky smell that you’re noticing. You don’t have to try and mask the smell with fragrance. Washing your shoes and taking care of them can prevent and eliminate a bad odor.

Let’s take a look at some helpful tips that you can use to wash stinky shoes.

Spray the interior of the shoes with a disinfecting spray

Woman spraying shoes cleaning

Disinfecting sprays can be sprayed into your shoes that will kill the bacteria that is inside of them. This can also help to prevent foot issues like the athlete’s foot or fungal infection. Always make sure that you’re wearing a clean pair of socks when you put your feet into your shoes after you’ve disinfected them. The goal is to prevent new bacteria growth from forming.

Clean your smelly shoes with baking soda

Baking soda is a pretty powerful product that can be used to neutralize odors inside your shoes and other places. The process is pretty simple, not to mention affordable. You can purchase a box of baking soda for under $1. Pour the baking soda into your shoes and let it sit in there until the next day. 

The powder is going to absorb any moisture that’s inside of the shoes while deodorizing any bad smells. If you would like to make your shoes smell fresher, you can add a few drops of essential oils to your baking soda mix. Dump the baking soda into the trash once it has sat in your shoes overnight.

Use white vinegar

Vinegar is another potent ingredient that can be used to kill bacteria and remove odors from your shoes. You can use it in a few different ways. The first way is by pouring one cup of white vinegar into your washing machine when you’re going to be washing your shoes that way. If you’re washing your shoes by hand, use a mixture of white vinegar and water to wash the inside and outside of both shoes.

You can also sprinkle a bit of baking soda into each shoe and add ½ cup of vinegar to each shoe. Let them fizz for about 30 minutes before rinsing with cold water.

Remove the insoles and run them through the wash

Check to see if your shoes are what smell, or is it the insoles? If you only notice the smell on the insoles that directly touch the bottom of your feet, remove them. You can run these insoles through the washing machine or wash them by hand. For persistent odors, let your insoles soak in a mixture of vinegar and water for about an hour. Rinse them thoroughly before letting them air-dry overnight.

Use homemade foot and shoe deodorizers

You can purchase a deodorizing sachet to slip into your shoes when you’re not wearing them. These products usually contain baking soda. You can even make your own by dumping a container of baking soda into an old pair of socks and tying the ends closed. They can be placed in your shoes when you’re not wearing them to soak up any odors that are present.

Stuff shoes with newspaper to absorb sweat

Don’t recycle those morning newspapers just yet. Did you know that crumpled-up newspaper in each of your shoes can reduce moisture and odor? To really freshen your shoes, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the newspaper. You’ll be removing moisture and odor, but your shoes will also smell fresher than ever before.

If your shoes are washable, throw them into the washing machine

In the previous chapter, we talked about the process of washing your shoes in the washing machine. This is a very efficient and effective way of cleaning your shoes while removing any bacteria and odors that are in them. Check to see if your shoes are washable. If they are, place them in your washing machine on the delicate cycle. Use cold water with a small amount of detergent.

If you would like more information on washing your shoes in the washing machine, head back to chapter three.

Change your socks often to avoid smelly bacteria

Your socks should be changed anytime you feel they’re sweaty. You should also be wearing a new pair of socks every day. If you keep wearing a dirty pair over and over, this promotes the growth of bacteria in your shoes and on your feet. We recommend keeping an extra pair of socks in your purse or bag at all times so you can change as needed.

Keep Your Shoes Dry

If you’re outside and happen to walk through a deep puddle that saturates your shoes, this can stimulate the growth of bacteria that was otherwise under control. If you do get your shoes wet outside or when you’re washing them, leave them in a location with proper airflow so they can air dry. It can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for your shoes to dry, so be patient.


Your stinky shoes don’t have to be a bother anymore now that you’ve read through all of our tips. You can wash your shoes and use these methods to keep your shoes and feet smelling fresh all day long. In the next chapter, we’re going to discuss the methods of cleaning different types of shoes, such as leather shoes, canvas shoes, and athletic shoes.

How to clean different types of shoes

You wash your clothes regularly, but do you pay attention to the condition of your shoes? While there isn’t the need for washing your shoes each time that you wear them, it’s crucial that you periodically clean them when they become dirty. This will help protect the quality of your shoes, so they last longer and look nice.

You may be prepared to clean out your shoe collection, donating pairs that you think don’t look very new anymore. Why not give them a little TLC and wash them? You might be surprised how nice they turn out. You may even get a few more years of life out of them.

White shoes kit gray background

Before you throw your shoes in the washing machine or start scrubbing away, it’s important to note that not all shoes can be washed the same way. There are materials and different types of shoes that need to be cared for very specifically in order to prevent them from becoming damaged.

Different types of shoes require different cleaning processes, usually because of what they’re made out of. For example, real leather shoes can be delicate. They wouldn’t hold up well to being banged around in your washing machine. This is one type of shoe that would benefit from hand cleaning. 

On the contrary, athletic shoes and other casual shoes that are made from durable materials can often withstand a thorough cleaning. Always check the care label on your shoes to determine how you should safely proceed.

How to clean canvas shoes

Canvas shoes are very comfortable and casual, but they can get dirty pretty quickly. Luckily, putting a little bit of time and effort into cleaning your canvas shoes can bring them back to life in no time! 

Canvas is a pretty durable material, so you might be tempted to throw this type of shoe in the washing machine. While they might make it, this is a risky process. The canvas can become quite stiff, even when they’re dried properly. They can also become discolored in some spots.

Before you start, remove the laces and insoles from your canvas shoes. Soak them separately in cold water and a little bit of detergent, and then let them air dry after you’ve rinsed them off. 

Meanwhile, brush off any dried dirt that you see on the surface of your shoes. Fill up a container with cold water and detergent, or you can add a bit of baking soda to the water. Submerge your shoes in the water and let them soak for at least an hour.

Soak washing cleaning sneakers

Once you pull your shoes from the water, use a soft-bristled brush to scrub off any remaining dirt. You should then rinse your shoes under cold water until they are clean and have no remnants of soap on them. 

Let them air dry until no moisture is left on the surface or interior of the shoe. Let your insoles and laces air dry as well, replacing them when your shoes are ready to be worn again.

How to clean vinyl shoes

Vinyl shoes are made of a very durable synthetic material that contains polyester fibers that are coated in vinyl. Because of this plastic-like exterior, it’s generally pretty easy to clean a vinyl shoe. Not to mention, they tend to stay clean longer than something like canvas or suede.

Check your vinyl shoes and wipe off any dirty spots that you see with a damp cloth. Dirt and dust should quickly come off. If you see any stubborn spots that aren’t easily removed, you can try using a Magic Eraser on your shoes. 

Test a small section first to ensure this process isn’t going to discolor your shoes. You may also be able to use a little bit of nail polish remover on your vinyl shoes if the shoes are light in color. Dark colors may become damaged, so test spot a section before cleaning the entire shoe with this chemical.

Wipe off your vinyl shoes completely once you’ve removed any stains that you see. If the shoe’s interior didn’t get wet, you can wear the shoes immediately. Otherwise, let them air-dry overnight.

How to clean white shoes

A crisp and clean pair of white shoes is functional and stylish. However, they quickly lose their appeal when they become dirty. Not to fear, there are a few different ways that you can clean your white shoes, so they look new again. 

Before you get started, you’ll need to assess what kind of material your shoes are made of. We’ve talked about cleaning canvas and vinyl. There are other delicate materials that require caution when cleaning. Let’s look at the most common and somewhat gentle method of cleaning your white shoes by hand.

Remove laces and insoles to be cleaned separately. If possible, think about replacing them. If you’re going to keep them, scrub them gently with cold water and a little bit of baking soda. Ensure that you rinse all baking soda out of the laces.

On the outside of your shoes, rinse off any accumulated dirt or debris. If you have stubborn stains that need more attention, use a toothbrush with a little bit of baking soda as an abrasive cleanser. Rinse thoroughly.

If you feel the shoes will hold up in the washing machine, place them in a garment bag and wash them on a delicate cycle with a small amount of detergent. Let them air dry when you remove them.

How to clean leather shoes

Leather shoes need to be cleaned every now and again, but they should also be conditioned in order to keep the leather protected and looking nice. Remove the laces and insoles before cleaning your leather shoes. Remove any debris that’s stuck to the outside surface of your leather shoes. 

Make a mixture of cold water and dish soap. Use a clean rag dipped in the mixture to wipe off the exterior of your shoes. Leather usually wipes off quite easily, and you usually won’t have too many stains to deal with. 

Use another rag with clean water to wipe off the surface of your shoes when you’re done cleaning them. Dry them with a towel completely before using any kind of conditioning product.

Man hands cleaning shoes

Leather conditions can be applied to your leather shoes in order to keep them clean, protected, and shiny. Just be careful with the product that you’re choosing. Some leather products come tinted. 

You would want to make the tint to the pair of shoes you’re treating. Wipe off any excess product, and you can wear the shoes as soon as you’ve cleaned and dried your insoles and laces.

How to clean suede shoes

Suede shoes can be tricky to clean because they shouldn’t be submerged in water. This could damage their fuzzy finish. A soft-bristled toothbrush or a suede cleaning brush should be used on dry shoes to clean off any dry dirt or debris. You can use a damp rag to wipe off any dirt, and there are suede erasers that you can use to clean your shoes.

Once your shoes are clean and completely dry, you can use a suede protector spray. These sprays usually function as a water sealant that will also prevent stains from setting in.

Check our “How to clean suede shoes” article for a complete step-by-step guide.

How to clean sneakers

Most athletic sneakers can be thrown right into your washing machine. Just make sure that you’re removing the laces and insoles before doing so. You should also brush off as much surface dirt and dust as possible. 

If you have a garment bag, this will keep your shoes protected while they’re being washed. Wash your sneakers in cold water with just a little bit of detergent. Make sure they’re rinsed thoroughly before letting them air dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Many sneaker types can be sprayed with a water protector spray. If you’re wearing your shoes outdoors in all kinds of elements, this spray can help increase the life span of your shoes.

How to clean boots

Boots generally see a lot of wear and tear since you’re probably wearing them in cold weather when a lot of precipitation is on the ground. You may also be walking through dirt, slush, ice, snow, and road salt. Clean your boots periodically when they start to look messy. 

Most boots can simply be wiped off with a damp cloth and a little soap if necessary. You should skip putting your boots into your washing machine. They probably won’t hold their shape very well through the process and could end up tearing.


In this chapter, we’ve talked a bit about how you can wash different types of shoes. Now that you know some specifics about the process, you can set up a schedule for cleaning your shoes. 

A beautiful outfit can be ruined with a dirty pair of shoes, so always make sure you take care of any messes before putting your shoes away for a bit. Coming up in the next chapter, we’re going to talk about the do’s and don’ts of cleaning your shoes.

Shoe cleaning do’s & don’ts

A new pair of shoes is the perfect accessory to an outfit, whether you’re wearing something casual or dressy. If you put on a pair of old shoes that are dirty, this can bring your whole outfit to a lower level of style.

You can prevent this from occurring by keeping your shoes as clean as possible. This isn’t easy, seeing as how you wear your shoes outside, but routine cleanings can keep your shoes looking nice. This will also make it easier to clean them in the future. 

In this chapter, we’re going to talk about the do’s and don’ts of cleaning your shoes. Reading through these tips will ensure that you will be able to clean your shoes without damaging them.

Dirty white shoes
Source: Valeriia Miller on Unsplash

You’ve selected the perfect pair of shoes that fits well, looks great on you and protects your foot. What do you do when those shoes get dirty? This doesn’t mean that they’re ruined forever. You just need to have a good shoe cleaning process in place. 

Quickly cleaning any major messes that end up on your shoes will keep them looking as new as the day that you bought them. Whether you’re dealing with dirty dress shoes made of real leather or a pair of casual canvas shoes that need attention, here are some do’s and don’ts that need to be followed to prevent further damage.

Your shoes are bound to get dirty the more that you wear them. You shouldn’t be shocked or disappointed when this happens. Athletic shoes and winter boots are just some of the shoe options that can see a lot of wear and tear. Have a shoe cleaning kit ready to go when you notice a shoe mess needs to be addressed.

Shoe cleaning do’s

Check out the following do’s to ensure your shoes look as good as new:

Do remove laces

The laces of your shoes can get pretty dirty as well. Unfortunately, the method you use to clean your shoes can end up damaging your laces. Take the laces out of your shoes so they can be cleaned separately. Depending on the material of the laces, you may be able to wash them in your washing machine. If you’re doubtful that’s a safe option, opt for soaking them in a soapy water bath for a couple of hours before rinsing them and allowing them to air dry.

Shoelaces tend to be pretty affordable unless they’re some sort of designer lace that must be sourced from the manufacturer of your shoes. Look into the cost of replacing your laces for a fresh and clean look.

Do use a soft-bristled shoe brush to remove loose dirt

Before you wash your shoes in the washing machine or even when you’re washing your shoes by hand, you’ll want to have a soft-bristled brush on hand to remove any loose dirt you see. Skip any brushes that are too abrasive. You don’t want to scratch or damage the exterior material of the shoe. Leather especially can end up with some unsightly marks if you use something too rough to clean them.

Do use a soft cloth

If you’re washing your shoes by hand, use a very soft cloth that is used only for your shoes. You usually don’t need to rub your shoes too roughly in order to get them clean. A soft wipe with a cloth and some water/soap is usually all that you need. You just want to make sure that you’re not grabbing a rag that has been used for other cleaning projects. There could be abrasive materials left on the cloth, or it could be dirty. This could end up scratching the surface of your shoes.

Do wash the soles

Woman bathroom washes sneakers water

The soles of your shoes are probably the dirtiest part of the shoe. You can trek a lot of dirt and grime into your house when the bottoms are caked up with mud. Always make sure that you start by washing the soles of your shoes. If you’re putting them in the washing machine, you don’t want all of that mess to end up in the machine that you use to wash other clothing items. You also don’t want any dirt from your soles to end up on the top of your shoes when you go to clean the rest of them.

Do clean the insoles to reduce shoe odor

The insoles of your shoes absorb a lot of sweat over the course of one wear. Accumulation of this sweat can lead to the growth of bacteria, which makes your shoes smell. Clean your insoles periodically to keep this smell from leaching into the rest of your shoes. Most insoles can be removed. 

You can place them in the washing machine or soak them in a mixture of water and baking soda before rinsing them thoroughly. Let them dry completely before you put them back into your shoes. If possible, consider replacing the insoles entirely with a new pair.

Do allow your shoes to air dry

You should always let your shoes air dry after you’ve cleaned them. Placing them in the dryer can damage them by shrinking the material they’re made of, causing discoloration, or damaging the fabric. Pull them open as much as you can to promote proper airflow.

Place them somewhere in your home where they will have plenty of time to safely air dry. This can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. Always check your shoes before placing the insoles and laces back in. The inside toe is usually the last place to dry, so slide your hand all the way into the shoe to check for moisture.

Do use baby wipes

Baby wipes are a handy item to keep with you. If you drop something on your shoe or step through a mess, you can use the baby wipes to provide a temporary cleanup. If you need to clean your shoes further when you get home, you’ll have less of a mess to deal with.

Do clean your shoes regularly

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of cleaning your shoes on a regular basis. Ideally, you should clean any messes that occur the same day. This prevents stains from developing. If you store certain pairs of shoes when you’re not wearing them, make sure you’re not packing away dirty shoes. They should always be cleaned before storage.

Shoe cleaning don’ts

Let’s check aspects you should prevent from happening:

Don’t wash all types of shoes in the washing machine

Not all shoe materials and styles can be washed in the washing machine. Most dress shoes and heels should be washed by hand. The same goes for shoes made of real leather, canvas, and suede. 

Check the washing instructions on your shoes before you proceed with cleaning them. If you can’t find any information on the shoe or shoebox, refer to the manufacturer’s website for cleaning instructions. If all else fails, use your best judgment regarding whether or not you think shoes should be washed in the machine or by hand.

Don’t keep your shoes dirty for long periods of time

The longer you leave dirt and messes on your shoes, the more they will become stained and damaged. If you know that your shoes are dirty, tend to the mess as soon as you arrive home that day. It’s good to get into a habit of keeping your shoes clean at all times.

Don’t rinse suede shoes with water

Closeup woman shoes cleaning brush

Suede is a material that should never be submerged in water. The water will damage that soft and fuzzy exterior. If you have to clean suede shoes, you should use a minimally damp cloth to gently wipe the area. They also sell suede brushes and suede erasers that are made from a safe material.

Don’t put leather shoes in the sun

You might be tempted to place your shoes in the sun once you’ve cleaned them. After all, this should reduce the drying time in theory. Unfortunately, the sun can cause your leather shoes to change color. The quality of the leather could also be damaged.

Don’t push too hard to remove mud

A little elbow grease can go a long way when you’re cleaning your shoes, but don’t be too aggressive. Rubbing dirt into the surface of your shoes can cause them to become scratched or damaged. You want to gently wipe away the mess to remove it.


By now, you should be an expert on cleaning your shoes. We’ve provided you with plenty of information on how to clean your shoes, how different materials affect the cleaning process, and how to safely store your shoes. What are you waiting for? Go check your shoe collection to see what needs to be cleaned.

Conclusion

Now that you’re an expert on the process of washing shoes, you can go through your shoe collection to determine which pairs need to be cleaned. Don’t be afraid to refer back to these chapters you’ve just read as a reference for the different materials you’re working with. If you’re concerned that a pair of shoes may be damaged by cleaning them, go with a gentle hand washing to get them clean.

As for storing your shoes, make sure they are completely dry before you pack them away. Utilize some of the storage tips that we covered in our first chapters. You’ll have a long-lasting shoe collection that will be the perfect complement to many of your outfits.

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