How to Clean Shoes

When it comes to taking care of your footwear, regular cleaning is essential not only for maintaining their appearance but also for prolonging their lifespan. Whether you have leather dress shoes, canvas sneakers, or suede boots, each type of shoe requires specific cleaning methods to keep them looking fresh and smelling pleasant. In this article, we will guide you through the process of cleaning different types of shoes effectively and efficiently.

Why Cleaning Your Shoes Regularly Is Essential?

Shoes are exposed to various elements daily, such as dirt, mud, and environmental pollutants. If left uncleaned, these contaminants can damage the shoe material and cause it to deteriorate over time. Additionally, dirty shoes can harbor bacteria and unpleasant odors, affecting not only the shoes’ longevity but also your foot health.

Types of Shoes and Their Cleaning Requirements

Different shoes demand different cleaning techniques due to their materials. Let’s look at how to clean various shoe types:

Leather Shoes

Leather shoes require gentle cleaning to preserve their quality. You’ll need a soft brush, mild soap, and a damp cloth to wipe away dirt and stains. Remember to apply leather conditioner afterward to keep the leather supple and prevent cracks.

Canvas Shoes

Canvas shoes are more versatile and can usually be machine-washed. Before washing, remove laces and insoles, and place the shoes inside a mesh laundry bag. Use a gentle cycle with cold water and let them air dry afterward.

Suede Shoes

Cleaning suede shoes can be tricky as water can ruin their texture. Instead, use a suede brush or an eraser to remove stains gently. For tougher stains, apply white vinegar or rubbing alcohol with a soft cloth.

Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes endure a lot of wear and tear. To clean them, remove the insoles and wash them separately. Use a mixture of mild soap and warm water to clean the shoe’s exterior, and let them air dry completely.

Preparing Your Shoes for Cleaning

Before you start cleaning, gather all the necessary supplies, including brushes, cleaning agents, and cloths. Check the manufacturer’s instructions, as some shoes may have specific cleaning guidelines to avoid any damage.

General Steps to Clean Most Shoes

  1. Start by removing laces and insoles to clean them separately.
  2. Use a soft brush to get rid of loose dirt and debris on the shoes’ exterior.
  3. Clean the shoes with a suitable cleaning agent depending on their material.
  4. Deal with stubborn stains by spot-cleaning or using appropriate stain removers.
  5. Eliminate odors by sprinkling baking soda inside the shoes overnight.

Cleaning Specific Types of Shoes

Cleaning Leather Shoes

  1. Wipe the shoes with a damp cloth to remove dirt and stains.
  2. Apply a small amount of mild soap on a damp cloth and gently clean the shoes.
  3. Use leather conditioner to keep the leather soft and prevent cracks.

Cleaning Canvas Shoes

  1. Remove laces and insoles and wash them separately.
  2. Place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag and use a gentle cycle with cold water.
  3. Air dry the shoes completely before reassembling.

Cleaning Suede Shoes

  1. Use a suede brush or eraser to remove stains gently.
  2. For tougher stains, apply white vinegar or rubbing alcohol with a soft cloth.
  3. Let the shoes air dry and brush them again to restore the texture.

Cleaning Athletic Shoes

  1. Remove insoles and wash them separately.
  2. Use a mixture of mild soap and warm water to clean the exterior of the shoes.
  3. Allow the shoes to air dry completely before using them again.

Drying and Storing Shoes Properly

After cleaning, it’s essential to dry and store your shoes correctly to prevent damage and maintain their shape.

  1. Air dry your shoes instead of using direct heat, which can deform them.
  2. Consider using shoe trees to maintain their shape during storage.

Tips for Maintaining Clean Shoes

  1. Clean your shoes regularly to prevent dirt buildup.
  2. Use a protective spray on your shoes to repel water and stains.
  3. Rotate your shoes to allow them to air out and reduce wear.

Dealing with Special Situations

Mold and Mildew

If your shoes have mold or mildew, clean them immediately to prevent further growth. Use a mixture of water and vinegar, and ensure the shoes are completely dry after cleaning.

Salt Stains

To remove salt stains from your shoes, make a solution of water and white vinegar and apply it to the affected areas. Wipe off with a damp cloth and let the shoes dry naturally.

Can I machine-wash leather shoes?

No, machine-washing can damage leather shoes. Use a damp cloth for gentle cleaning.

How often should I clean my shoes?

It depends on how frequently you wear them. As a general rule, clean them at least once a month.

Can I use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process?

It’s not recommended, as direct heat can warp the shoes’ shape. Air drying is best.

Are there any eco-friendly shoe cleaning methods?

Yes, you can use baking soda, white vinegar, and lemon juice for eco-friendly cleaning.

Can I use bleach to clean my white canvas shoes?

It’s not advisable, as bleach can weaken the fabric and cause discoloration. Opt for mild soap instead.


Cleaning your shoes regularly is a simple yet crucial practice to maintain their appearance, durability, and overall hygiene. By following the appropriate cleaning methods for each type of shoe, you can ensure your footwear stays in excellent condition for a long time. Remember to use the right cleaning agents, tools, and techniques, and your shoes will always look and feel brand new.

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