How to Clean Your Shoes

Shoes are incredibly dirty. They’re constantly in contact with dirt and germs, they get wet, and they’re soaked in sweat. Often, they start to smell. Giving your shoes a good cleaning can remove stains and smells, bringing them back to life.


For Non-Leather/Non-Suede Shoes
  1. Wash them.
    • For most shoes, you can run them through the washer, or you can soak in a bucket with detergent. This will help to get the initial dirt off. You can wash with regular laundry to help quiet the load, but this load may need to be rewashed if the shoes are particularly dirty.
  2. Scrub them.
    • Use a cloth or brush to scrub out off any dirt and debris left over after the initial wash. You can scrub any tough stains with a stain remover like Oxiclean.
  3. Soak them.
    • If you have the ability to soak in your washer, you can soak them there. Otherwise, soak in a bucket. Treat this like a deep clean. Soak in hot water with a good strong detergent, and an enzyme cleaner like Oxiclean White Revive or Biz to help with any odors and stains. Soak until the water is cool.
  4. Dry them.
    • Most shoes will do best if left to air dry. Leaving them out in the sun will help them dry more quickly, but inside will work as well. If the soles aren’t sewn in, they may need to be glued back down. Depending on the type of shoe, you may want to just form it after coming out of the wash. Small ballet flats have a tendency to get crumpled and lose their shape.


For Leather/Suede Shoes
  1. Scrub them.
    • Most leather or suede shoes can’t be washed without risking ruining the material. Use a damp cloth with a gentle soap or a special leather/suede cleaner to scrub off dirt and stains.
  2. Brush them.
    • When they’ve dried, you may need to brush the leather/suede with a dry cloth or a brush to bring back the nap. You may treat the leather/suede with a protector, as well.
  3. Remove odors.
    • Since they can’t be soaked, removing odors can be a bit trickier in leather/suede shoes. Sprinkle baking soda inside and letting it sit can help. If the odor is particularly bad, you may need an odor eater spray or powder in order to fully rid the shoe of smell.


Additional Tips
  • To prevent odor, be sure to let shoes dry thoroughly between wears. You can spray with an odor eater spray, or sprinkle baking soda between wears.
  • Wear socks with sneakers, or little coverlets with slip ons.
  • Knock out and remove any dirt after wearing.


By Chelsea Whidden