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How to Clean Shoes

Posted by Andres Jimenez on
natural cleaning products

When is the last time you cleaned that trusty pair of shoes?  We’ll give you a second there to think… We wash our clothes regularly, but many of us neglect our shoes, which we tend to wear far more often than our favorite t-shirt or our sweats.  Maybe part of the reason why we aren’t as good about cleaning our shoes as we could be is because it’s often not as simple as throwing them into the wash with our load of clothing.  And, to make things even trickier, each type of shoe has its own unique cleaning needs – for instance, you can’t throw your suede boots in the washing machine.

dish soap for shoes

So, we’re here to help you out by talking about how to clean most types of shoes depending on their material.  Fortunately, as you’ll see, no matter what type of shoes you have, cleaning them isn’t nearly as difficult or time-consuming as you may have thought.

Fabric Shoes

Non-athletic shoes made from fabrics like canvas, denim, satin, etc., shouldn’t go into the washing machine.  While you may think that these fabrics are machine-washable since they’re the same materials from which most of your clothing is made, the bottom line is that the laundry is too aggressive for your shoes.  Not only that but can cause so much abrasion, the materials wear down quickly.  This can also warp your shoes, making them completely unwearable.

Mix together a cup of warm water and a few squirts of a gentle dish soap.  Now, take a toothbrush and dip it into the soapy water, before gently scrubbing small sections of your shoes at a time, using small, circular motions.  Make sure to cover the entire shoes, otherwise you’re just spreading dirt from one section to another.  Then, blot the shoes dry with a cloth or paper towel, and let them dry somewhere dark and cool to avoid warping.

The same technique can work for shoes made from cork or rope, but these materials tend to get a bit dirtier, so you may want to add a little bit of white vinegar into the cleaning solution first, which will break up tougher stains and discoloration.

Leather/Faux Leather Shoes

Leather and faux leather shoes are a lot easier to clean then we typically give them credit for.  The best method is to create a solution of equal parts water and distilled white vinegar.  Dip a paper towel or cloth into the solution without soaking it, and then rub your leather or faux leather shoes down completely.  This will get rid of most stains and any residue that’s causing the shoes to become dull.  It also removes outdoor salt that coats the sidewalks in the winter.  If your shoes are scuffed up, you can find a polish made specifically for leather/faux leather.


Finally, we have athletic sneakers – you know, the kind you wear to the gym or when you go on a run.  Luckily, most of these shoes are made to be machine washable.  Still, you’ll need to treat them like you would with “delicates”, using the delicate cycle to avoid causing any kind of damage.  And, you’ll need to use a gentle laundry detergent for the same reason.  If necessary, use a stain remover as well.

best delicate laundry detergent

Keep in mind that you should NEVER put sneakers in the dryer.  While a lot of people do, basically, the dryer’s heat is gonna cause gradual damage to your sneakers, wearing out the material.  Not only that, but this makes it highly likely that the shoes will warp.  Again, meaning, they won’t fit you properly anymore.  Just let them air dry instead.

Clean Your Shoes Properly to Make Them Last

There is no type of shoe that can’t be completely cleaned in order to look brand new again.  It’s just a matter of knowing the right way to clean each type of shoe in your collection.  As you can see, none of these methods take up a lot of time, so you can keep your entire collection nice and sparkling with minimal effort.

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