How to Wash Shoes So They Look Brand New
With just a little bit of elbow grease and the right tools, your favorite pair will be sparkling clean.
It’s time to admit it—your beloved pair of shoes is in desperate need of a cleaning. It might seem like a boring task that you’re trying to avoid, but just keep in mind that soon enough your shoes will look like new in no time. You won’t have to feel self-conscious about your dirty shoes at work or when you’re out and about on the weekends.
And, no, it's not hard. We have the tips to show you how to wash your shoes in less time. But not all shoes are created the same, of course. Whether you’ve got leather dress shoes, suede booties, or canvas sneakers, there’s a cleaning method for each that you should adhere to. You may be able to throw your white sneakers in the wash, but you wouldn’t want to put suede boots in there. Here, the experts break it down for us by shoe material. Take a look at the instructions, gather the supplies, and get to work.
Photo by emapoket/Getty Images
You might be tempted to throw them in the washing machine, but Smallin Kuper doesn’t recommend it. “Machine washing may get the shoes clean, but the agitation breaks down the special construction of the shoe, thus shortening its life,” she says. You’ll want to hand wash these—remove shoelaces (you can wash these in the machine!) and insoles first. “Fill a dishpan or bucket with warm water,” cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper says. “Dip the shoe in the water just to wet it and place it on newspaper. Squirt a bit of dishwashing liquid on a nylon scrubbing sponge and use it to scrub the shoe inside and out. Rinse with running water.” To clean the insoles, dip in the water, scrub with the sponge and soap, and rinse. Smallin Kuper recommends stuffing the shoes with white paper towels to help them retain their shape during the drying process. Let both the shoes and insoles dry naturally.
Daily upkeep is key when caring for your leather shoes—that’s one mistake people make with this material. “They wait too long to clean them,” David Mesquita of New York City’s Leather Spa says. “You should inspect your shoes after you wear them, not before you want to wear them.” For daily cleanings, use a cloth to wipe off dirt and dust and a spot cleaner for stubborn spots. For bigger cleanings, you can use a leather shampoo and conditioner or special soap, then let dry and condition with polish or cream. If you have deeper stains (like ink or oil) or the leather is extremely soft or delicate, leave it to an expert. For synthetic or faux leather, water and a gentle soap should do the trick.
For daily cleanings, just use a suede brush or suede eraser to brush off any dirt or remove stains. For bigger stains or very dirty shoes, use a suede cleaner. “You just brush it in with a soft brush and use a cloth to wipe off the soap foam,” Mesquita says. When you buy suede shoes, take some precautions and apply water and stain repellant to avoid bigger stains and prolong the life of your shoes.