Expert Advice

How to Clean and Wash Your Shoes

We all have a favorite pair of shoes that we wear absolutely everywhere. They always have our backs – or rather our feet – and have been with us for miles and miles. All that wear and tear can take its toll on our shoes, leaving them looking less than ideal. Whether you have scuff marks, need to remove gum or even worse dog poop, don’t worry, getting your shoes back to their former glory couldn’t be easier. Here are a few tips on how to clean all your favorite shoes and get them back into tip top shape using household products you likely already have at home.

How to Clean Suede and Leather Shoes

How you clean your shoes will depend a lot on what they’re made of.  We’ll start with suede and leather, which are a couple of the touchier materials you’ll find shoes in. For these, you’ll want to use a suede cleaner and as little water as possible. Too much water can damage suede and leather, so when it’s time to rinse out the suede shoe cleaner, keep your cleansing cloth as lightly damp as possible. It’s a similar story with leather and sheepskin shoes: look for shoe cleaners that are designed specifically for those materials. Once your shoes are clean, it’s not a bad idea to apply a waterproofing spray over the exterior of your shoes to make sure that your suede knee high boots or leather mid calf boots look just as incredible all season long. Waterproofing is also a great idea for leather Birkenstock sandals and other suede summer styles that might get wet while you’re lounging at the beach.

How to Clean Canvas and Fabric Shoes

For canvas and most fabric shoes, you don’t need to be quite as careful when it comes to water. You also likely have everything you need to clean your fabric shoes in your home already! For small amounts of dirt, you can spot clean the problem areas with a mild detergent or dish soap and let dry overnight. For muddy shoes, smelly shoes, or white shoes that turned yellow, you can put canvas shoe styles, such as women’s canvas boat shoes, in a mesh bag and toss them in the washer with your towels or jeans. Some shoes, like Skechers Bobs, will say right on them that they’re machine washable, so make sure to always check your new shoes for cleaning instructions to see what kind of care the designers recommend.

How to Wash White Shoes

Though there’s no proof that white shoes get dirty faster than shoes of any other color, white shoes definitely look dirty much faster. Luckily, there are a ton of different “at home” methods you can use to keep your white shoes at their whitest even after years of wear, and you likely already have a couple of these ingredients in your kitchen! Our first cleaning hack is a simple mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. This is great for canvas shoes especially but can be used on all sorts of other styles including women’s white dress shoes, women’s white sandals, white mules, and women’s white ankle boots. All you have to do is mix a tablespoon of hot water with a tablespoon of white vinegar and a tablespoon of baking soda to create a paste, then apply the mixture to your shoes using a toothbrush and scrub gently in a circular motion. Then, let your shoes air dry for a few hours before brushing and shaking off the dried paste. Another method you can try is heavily diluted bleach. In a well-ventilated space, and while making sure you’re protecting your skin and eyes, create a solution of one part bleach and five parts water. Work it into the shoe using a toothbrush in a circular motion, then wipe clean with a damp cloth and leave to dry for at least 5 hours. Don’t forget to also clean the soles of shoes as those can get quite dirty as well, but be careful not to use too much bleach, though, as it can turn your shoes yellow.

Should You Take the Laces Out When Washing Shoes?

No matter which method you use to wash your shoes, it’s probably a good idea to take the laces out first. If you’re going the machine-washing route, you can toss your shoelaces into the same cycle as your tennis shoes like your favorite white New Balance shoes, but you might want to wash them by hand to make sure that all of the little nooks and crannies are thoroughly cleaned. If you do want to wash them with your shoes, though, we recommend putting them into a mesh lingerie or laundry bag to keep them from getting tangled. If you don’t have one of these, a knotted pillowcase will work just as well.

How to Wash Shoelaces

To wash your shoelaces by hand, start by grabbing that toothbrush you used to scrub your shoes earlier to remove any stuck-on dirt or grime. Next, if there are any problem areas, such as grass stains, treat those areas with a laundry detergent or spot treatment. Once these spots have been dealt with, put your shoelaces into a mesh bag (you can use the knotted pillowcase for this trick too), and soak them in a solution of warm water and a little bit of detergent. If you need to clean white shoelaces, you can swap the detergent for a little bit of bleach, just be careful if you’re using a pillowcase. Fully submerge the bag and laces in the solution for about 20 minutes, then rinse them out and let them air dry for a few hours. Once they’re completely dry, you can stick them right back into your athletic shoes and you’re good to go!

Do you have any other tips on how you wash and clean your shoes? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to tag us in your photos on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest!