How To Clean Used Shoes: Reviving Your Kicks

Understanding how to properly clean used shoes begins with knowing what materials make up your footwear and choosing the right cleaning products and techniques. While some shoes, such as canvas or leather, may require specialized care, most can be cleaned effectively with everyday household items like soap, water, and a brush. It’s essential to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning tools that could damage delicate materials or finishes.

Key Takeaways

  • Cleaning used shoes depends on the materials and requires appropriate cleaning products and techniques.
  • Choose suitable cleaning materials based on the shoe type to prevent damage.
  • Drying and deodorizing techniques are essential for maintaining the appearance and freshness of used shoes.

Preparing to Clean Your Used Shoes

Stylish Shoes with Untied Laces on Blue Background⁠Stylish Shoes with Untied Laces on Blue Background⁠

Remove Laces and Insoles

When it comes to cleaning used shoes, the first thing I suggest doing is to remove the laces and insoles. By doing this, you’ll be able to give them a thorough, individualized cleaning. You can toss the laces in a mesh laundry bag and run them through a gentle cycle or simply hand-wash them with mild soap and warm water. As for the insoles, some people prefer to replace them entirely, especially if they’re not in the best shape. However, if you decide to keep them, you can also clean them using a similar method to the laces; just be sure to scrub them with a toothbrush to get into any small crevices.

Brush Off Loose Dirt

Next, you’ll want to brush off loose dirt from your used shoes. Trust me, this small step will make the cleaning process so much easier and more effective. Simply take an old toothbrush, a soft-bristled brush, or even a dry cloth and give the entire shoe a once-over. Make sure to get into those hard-to-reach areas, like the space between the upper and the sole. If the dirt is really stubborn, you might need to use a bit of water and gentle soap to help loosen it up. And remember, always be gentle! You don’t want to damage the shoe material.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Materials

Wash the Sneakers Shoe

Selecting Detergents and Soaps

  • Leather and Suede: Opt for a gentle detergent or specialized shoe cleaner to protect the delicate nature of these materials. Avoid harsh chemicals that can damage or fade the material.
  • Canvas and Fabric: A mild detergent or dish soap can work well for these materials. A soft-bristled brush or old toothbrush can be used to scrub away dirt and stains.
  • Synthetics: Mild detergent is appropriate for synthetic materials like mesh and rubber.

Natural Cleaning Solutions

  • Baking Soda: This versatile cleaning agent can help remove odors and stains. Sprinkle some baking soda inside your shoes and let it sit for a few hours. Afterward, remove the baking soda by tapping the shoes or using a vacuum cleaner.
  • White Vinegar: Mix equal parts water and white vinegar to create a cleaning solution for getting rid of stubborn stains and odors on materials like canvas and fabric. Dip a soft brush into the mixture, gently scrub the shoe surface, and air dry your shoes.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: This natural cleaner possesses antimicrobial properties that can help kill bacteria and sanitize your shoes. Mix one part apple cider vinegar with two parts water and apply it to the shoes using a soft cloth or brush.

Remember, it’s important to always test any cleaning solution on an inconspicuous part of the shoe to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage or discoloration.

Cleaning Techniques by Shoe Type

Close-Up Shot of a Person Holding a Shoe Brush⁠

Revitalizing Leather Shoes

When it comes to cleaning leather shoes, I always start by removing any loose dirt or dust with a soft-bristled brush. Then, I create a cleaning solution by mixing equal parts water and mild dish soap. I gently apply the soapy solution to the shoe’s surface using a soft cloth and wipe in circular motions. After cleaning, I wipe off any remaining soap with a damp cloth.

It is essential to protect your leather shoes, so I highly recommend applying a leather conditioner after they have dried. This step keeps the leather soft and prevents it from cracking.

Refreshing Suede Footwear

When dealing with suede shoes, I always start by brushing them with a soft suede brush to remove any loose dirt. If the shoes have any stains, I use a suede eraser or a clean pencil eraser to gently rub them away. For deeper cleaning, I mix equal parts white vinegar and water, then dip a clean cloth into the solution and gently dab onto the stained areas.

Just a friendly reminder: Make sure to brush the suede in one direction after cleaning to maintain its nap. And to keep your suede shoes looking fresh, I suggest using a suede protector spray once they are completely dry.

Brightening Canvas Sneakers

Cleaning canvas sneakers is relatively easy, and I enjoy doing it. I start by removing the shoelaces and brushing off any loose dirt with a soft-bristled brush. Next, I create a cleaning solution with warm water and mild detergent, maintaining a 1:2 detergent-to-water ratio.

I like to use a toothbrush or small brush to scrub the shoes’ surface gently, paying particular attention to stained or soiled areas. For the shoelaces, I either wash them with the rest of my laundry or soak them in the same cleaning solution for a few minutes before rinsing and air-drying.

Don’t forget to let your shoes air dry after cleaning – it’s essential for preserving their shape and longevity. Check out this guide for more helpful cleaning tips for various shoe materials.

Drying and Deodorizing Techniques

Old tennis shoes drying outside⁠

Proper Drying to Preserve Shoe Integrity

After cleaning used shoes, it’s crucial to let them dry properly to avoid damaging the shoe materials or causing mold growth. I prefer to air dry my shoes in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight, which can cause discoloration or shrinkage. If you are in a hurry, you can use a hairdryer at a low heat setting to speed up the drying process. Remember, always remove the insoles and let them dry separately to ensure every part is thoroughly dry.

Eliminating Odors and Bacteria

To get rid of those pesky odors and bacteria lurking inside your used shoes, I recommend using a few deodorizing and antibacterial methods. Here’s a little checklist I follow every time:

  1. Baking soda: Sprinkle some baking soda in your shoes right after cleaning, and let them sit overnight. Baking soda absorbs moisture and neutralizes bad odors.
  2. Essential oils: Adding a few drops of essential oils like tea tree or lavender inside your shoes can give them a pleasant aroma. These oils also have antibacterial and antifungal properties to help combat bacteria and fungi.
  3. Antibacterial spray: You can also spray the inside of your shoes with an antibacterial spray. This will not only eliminate odor-causing bacteria but also keep your shoes fresh for a longer time. Disinfect your shoes using a rubbing alcohol solution or a store-bought disinfectant.
  4. Sunlight: An hour or two of sunlight exposure can work wonders in killing bacteria and odor in your shoes. However, avoid prolonged exposure, as excessive sunlight can cause discoloration or damage to the shoe material.

My Final Thoughts

Overall, I hope my experiences and these tips help when you clean your used shoes. Remember, practice makes perfect, and soon, you’ll be a pro at reviving those thrifted gems! Happy cleaning!

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