How to Disinfect Used Shoes?

How to Disinfect Used Shoes

The demand for thrift shopping has increased and improved drastically. In a way, it is a contemporary form of shopping. You get are a variety of options at half the original price. Sounds like a sweet deal, doesn’t it?

Well, it is till hygiene is maintained. The world became more conscious about sanitation post the COVID-19 outbreak, as they rightly should!

Utmost care is required when you are using used clothing or shoes. Even if your shoes aren’t second-hand, it is vital to disinfect them before their use.

So, if you wish to save money by investing in used shoes, you might as well know how to clean them thoroughly. We have listed down some of the tried-and-tested ways through which you can keep your shoes neat and clean.



Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting

Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting

Before we get started with the different processes, it is crucial to understand the basics. Disinfecting and cleaning are two distinctive terms with separate meanings.

Cleaning is a process of removing impurities, and dirt from the given surface. On the other hand, disinfecting is an intricate process of killing germs from any surface.

Cleaning is considered to be a simple process while disinfecting is a rather complicated one.

You can use one rule of thumb to remember the difference: Disinfecting includes cleaning, but the cleaning process doesn’t need to include disinfecting.

After you clean a surface, you get rid of all the visible dirt, grime, mud, and other substances. However, after disinfecting, the surfaces are free from the germs which further helps in maintaining a sanitized environment.


Process of Disinfecting Used Shoes

Used shoes can contain a plethora of dirt, mud, fungus, bacteria, and much more. You wouldn’t want to wear such shoes without disinfecting them first, would you?

As mere cleaning might not do the trick, there is an elaborated process you need to follow to disinfect your shoes thoroughly. The following is the step-by-step explanation of the same:


Cleaning of shoe

Before we get started with the disinfecting process, it is necessary to get rid of the exterior and excessive dirt and dust particles. This can be done through the following methods:


Wash the Insoles

Wash the Insoles

The foremost step in getting used shoes disinfected is cleaning the insoles. They could be home to a family of germs and bacteria, and hence it is vital to get them sanitized thoroughly.

Gently remove the insoles and wash them under running water. Take a bowl and fill it with warm water. Prepare a mixture by adding laundry detergent.

Take a sponge or cloth and clean the corners of the insoles. Scrub the stains, if any. Once you are done with that, rinse them with water hot and let them dry in shade.

Note: Do not keep them under direct sunlight. You can either keep them on a towel to dry or near the window. But make sure that the insoles are not getting direct sunlight.

Instead of washing detergent, you can also use soapy water to wash the insoles. Make sure that you squeeze the water out of them before letting them dry.

Also Read: Best Orthotic Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis 


Are you worried about the insoles smelling?

insoles smelling

Put the insoles in a plastic bag with some baking soda. Leave them overnight and check the smell. If it persists, soak the insoles in a vinegar and water mixture for a couple of hours.

Remove them and wash them with soap and water. This should completely remove any odor.

Furthermore, after disinfecting the insoles, verify that they have completely dried up before putting them back in the shoes. If you do so, there could be a formation of mold in the shoes. To avoid such a situation, dry the insoles in and out before using them.


Use Washing Machine

Use Washing Machine

Some shoes are washing machine-friendly like sneakers. These can be put in the machine along with warm water and a reliable detergent.

Remove the laces of the sneakers or shoes and put them in the machine. You can even out the weight of the sneakers by adding in a couple of towels, Furthermore, these towels can act as scrubbers and cleaners.

Note: Such an alternative is only applicable to the shoes that have a cloth material, and not plastic or leather.

After having washed them in the machine, you can either put them in direct sunlight or under the fan or let them dry.


Manual Cleaning

Manual Cleaning

If you are worried about losing the quality of the shoes, this method is for you.

Certain shoes are made of delicate materials like leather or suede shoes. It is better to wash these shoes manually to avoid getting the material ruined.

With the help of warm water and liquid detergent, make a soapy mixture. Using a sponge or clean cloth, gently scrub the shoes and get rid of any rancid smell or stains.

Once you are done with cleaning, take a clean rag and wipe the shoes down before rinsing them with water.

If you have suede shoes, you can use a soft-bristled to clean them in downward strokes. Such a technique will help in maintaining the integrity of the material.


Disinfect the Shoes

Disinfect the Shoes

Once we are done with the cleaning process, it is time to disinfect the shoes which can be done through the following techniques:

Bleach and Water

Bleach and Water

The mixture of bleach and water can go a long way in sterilizing used shoes.

It is important to take the proportions in the right manner. A 1:10 proportion of bleach and water is appropriate to disinfect the shoes without affecting their quality.

Spray the solution to the interior part of the shoes. Avoid spraying it on the exterior as that could lead to the shoes susceptible to permanent bleach stains.




Rubbing alcohol can go a long way in disinfecting used sneakers.

Soak your used shoes in rubbing alcohol for a few minutes. Remove them and let them dry. Such a simple solution can easily remove any smell or germs from the shoes.

Note: Only try this solution if your shoes have a cloth material.

If you are hesitant to dip your entire shoe in rubbing alcohol, you can try scrubbing them with a rag dipped in it.


Anti-bacterial Sprays

Anti-bacterial Sprays

There are several anti-bacterial sprays available in the market that have been successfully in disinfecting shoes. You can spray a little bit in the interior of the shoes to get rid of the odor as well as the germs.

After spraying it, leave the shoes to dry for an hour or so.


Disinfecting the Exterior of the Shoes

Disinfecting the Exterior of the Shoes

Besides cleaning the interior of the shoes, it is crucial to disinfect and sanitize the exterior as well.

The outer part of the shoes can accumulate dirt easily along with germs. This can be removed by the following methods:


Leather Shoes

Leather Shoes

Leather shoes have a delicate material and it is necessary to treat them with utmost care. If you need to sanitize used leather shoes, you can prepare a solution by mixing rubbing alcohol and water.

Dip a clean cloth in the mixture and rub it all over the shoe. Once you have covered all the areas of the shoe, leave it outside to dry.


White Sneakers

White Sneakers

You cannot afford to make a mistake while disinfecting white sneakers. A little mistake could lead to your fancy sneakers getting ruined.

Mix bleach and water in a 1:5 proportion and with a cloth, rub it all over the shoes. Leave it to dry.




When it comes to sandals or wedges, soap and water can do the trick.

Dip a cloth in the mixture and wipe down your footwear. You can add rubbing alcohol to the water to dab on the shoes to remove the stains. Leave them for a few hours to dry and they are good to go!


Useful Tips for Disinfecting Used Shoes

Disinfecting used shoes might seem like an easy task but it could go wrong if done in the wrong manner. To avoid doing so, adhere to the following tips:

  1. While cleaning the insoles, do not scrub too hard as it could affect their quality. Moreover, clean the area around the toes and heel as they could be the dirtiest.
  2. Dabbing toothpaste can remove stubborn stains on the shoes.
  3. After cleaning and disinfecting leather shoes, using a leather conditioner is recommended to maintain their quality.
  4. A mixture of equal amounts of baking soda and water can remove the scuff marks on leather shoes.
  5. Cornstarch can remove oily stains from the pseudo boots.



How do you kill bacteria in shoes?

The accumulation of bacteria can result in your shoes smelling funny. To get rid of it, you can put the shoes in a plastic bag and freeze them overnight. You can also pull in some baking soda to completely get rid of the shoes. This can help in getting rid of the bacteria in used shoes.


How do you disinfect shoes with fungus?

If you see the growth of fungus in your used shoes, you can use an anti-bacterial spray. To avoid such a situation in the future by washing your feet daily. Along with that, make sure that you dry your feet before wearing your shoes. The trapped moisture can lead to such issues.


Does rubbing alcohol kill the fungus in the shoes?

Rubbing alcohol and disinfectants are known to kill the fungus in the shoes. You can also dip your shoes in hot water to get rid of the fungus.


The bottom line

Thrift shopping can be a great way to get the latest fashion at the cheapest price. But it is our responsibility to clean, disinfect, and sanitize the items, especially if they are boots or clothes.

We hope that the aforementioned tips, methods, and techniques prove to help disinfect your used shoes.

Prioritize your safety and before you use those stylish shoes, do not forget to clean them.


Also Read:

How to Take Good Care of Your Feet

Side Effects of Wearing High Heels

How to Cure Plantar Fasciitis

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