How to Wash & Clean Shoes [Step By Step Guide]

Washing Shoes

It would be like a dream come true if we never had to wash our sneakers or shoes, that they would remain squeaky clean till its complete usage. But sadly, the world does not work in such a fashion. Maintenance is a must, especially for our shoes.

Footwears are the essential layer between us and the dirty floor or surface. It protects our feet from any external injuries. Eventually, they are bound to get dirty in the process. It is our duty to keep them clean, tidy, and ready-to-use for their elongated practice. So, if you are having a tough in washing and drying your shoes, read along and learn the right techniques.



How Often Should You Wash Your Shoes?

Wash Your Shoes

Washing your shoes might sound like a challenging task as it requires time and a little bit of elbow grease. However, you need not wash your shoes every day.

Generally, you must wash your shoes, boots, and sneakers once in two or three weeks. This can vary according to the usage. If you use them regularly, you will have to wash them more frequently. If they have been shoved at the back of your cupboard, saved for special occasions, you can skip a wash or two.

Shoes need proper cleaning whenever they get dirty or muddy. If you have traveled in the rain and your outsoles are carpeted with mud, dust, and grime, you must wash them immediately before placing them in the shoe rack.

Even if you have not worn your shoes for an extended period, they might be laded with dust. You must wash them before their next use.

You must also keep an extra pair of shoes handy. This will allow your shoes to dry out completely and quickly. Moreover, it will be more convenient for you to rotate the shoes out.


Washing And Drying Your Shoes

Washing your Shoes

You can wash your shoes in two ways- in a washing machine or manually. You can choose any alternative as per the type of shoes in question. For a better and broader understanding, we will explain both techniques.

Let us start with Manual Washing.

Some shoes have a delicate fabric, or the material might not be resistant to water. Whatsoever the reason, such boots need to have some hand washing.


Which Shoes Require Manual Washing?

Which Shoes Require Manual Washing

Leather or Suede shoes do not work well in a washing machine. As leather is not a waterproof material, too much water or moisture can lead to the formation of cracks. Hence, it is better to wash leather or suede shoes with precision.

The Process

  1. Remove the insoles and the laces. You will have to clean them separately with different intensities and techniques.
  2. Start with scrubbing the laces with some soapy water and a brush. Rinse them and let them dry naturally.
  3. Prepare a cleaning mixture of warm water and a liquid detergent. Wash the insoles with the solution and a soft-bristled brush. Rinse them thoroughly and let them dry. You can also use a dry sponge to remove any excess water or moisture.
  4. Take a toothbrush and brush off any dirt or debris stuck on the outsoles or around the edges. If you are worried about compromising the material, you can also use Q-tips to reach remote places.
  5. You can buy a premium quality cleaning solution from the market to wash your shoes. However, if you want to save yourself some bucks, you can prepare it at home by mixing liquid detergent and warm water.
  6. Scrub the shoes’ exterior surface with the solution and a sponge or cloth. You will have to do some extra spadework to clean your shoes if they have been in muddy regions.
  7. Allow the solution to sit for a few extra minutes to remove the stains.
  8. Once the shoes are cleaned, remove the excess and visible solution with a sponge.
  9. Place the shoes, insoles, and laces in a ventilated area and let them dry.

Note: Do not put them in a dryer as it could fabricate the material.

Next is cleaning your shoes in a Washing Machine.

Except for leather, suede, dress shoes, and heels, most of the footwear can be cleaned in a washing machine.


Which shoes can be washed in a washing machine?

Shoes with a canvas construction can be easily machine-washed without degrading their quality.

The Process

  1. Do not commit the mistake of throwing the entire shoe in the washing machine. The shoes, insoles, and laces are meant to be washed separately. Washing your shoes with the insoles intact can leave them water-soaked.
  2. Scrub your laces separately with liquid detergent and warm water. You can use a brush if the laces are dirty. If they have started shredding, you must consider replacing them. However, if you want to wash them in the washer, place them inside a pillowcase and put that in the machine. This will prevent it from getting stuck in the drain holes.

Note: If you have white laces, do not put them in with other colored laundry. Similarly, if you have white shoes, put them with other white laundry.

  1. After wearing your shoes for hours at a stretch, your insoles might get a stench. This can be eliminated by cleaning with soapy water. You can either use a toothbrush or a soft-bristled brush. Clean the solution with a clean or a sponge and let them dry.

Note: If the smell persists, sprinkle some baking soda over your shoes and leave them overnight. Or else, soak the insoles in a solution with a 2:1 proportion of vinegar and water. Soak them in warm water mixed with baking soda and any essential oil of your choice.

  1. If your shoes have been exploited in a dirty or muddy region, they might have traces of grime and dust. You must remove them before directly popping your shoes in the machine. Use a clean brush to remove these dust particles. If there are any stains left behind, clean them with some warm water and cream cleaner. Alternatively, you can also use a toothpick or Q-tips to clean those hard-to-reach places.
  2. Take a pillowcase and place your shoes inside them before placing them in the machine. Pin half of the pillowcase with a few pins. Make sure that there is enough space for the water to flow in and out. If you want to wash your laces along with your shoes, tie the ends together and place them in the same pillowcase.
  3. Place two or three towels with the pillowcase in the washing machine. Try using some old towels as the new ones will have dyes that can potentially damage the shoes.
  4. Priotorize using liquid detergent instead of powdered detergent. You can also use some vinegar if you are dealing with stinky shoes.
  5. Turn on your washing machine and set it to a delicate setting, slow, cold temperature, and tumble dry. Anything otherwise can damage or ruin your shoes’ fabric.
  6. After the shoes are washed thoroughly, remove them and place them in an open area. This will allow them to dry naturally. Most of the shoes do not work well with the dryer, so do not take that chance.
  7. Relace your shoes and place the insoles. There you have it, renewed, cleaned, and fresh-smelling shoes!


Ways to Remove Stains from Shoes

Remove Stains from Shoes

Just like your favorite white shirt or top, your shoes are prone to getting stained. It could be accidental, or they can even get stained during the washing process. Some stains can be removed easily with a simple mixture of soap and water. However, certain stubborn stains require a few extra steps.

If your shoes are stained, pay heed to the following techniques. They have been segregated according to the source of the stains.


Water Stains

Water stains are a common sight, especially on the shoes that are not entirely waterproof, like suede or leather.

You can remove them in the following manner:

  • Sprinkle some water all over the shoes. You can spread it evenly with the help of a brush.
  • You can retain the shape of your shoes by stuffing their interiors with newspapers.
  • Place the shoes in the open and well-ventilated area to let them dry overnight.
  • Use a brush to rub-down the shoes.


Coffee Stains

Coffee stains are one the toughest stains to deal with. But you can try the following method to get spotless shoes:

  • Prepare a mixture of vinegar and warm water in a 2:1 proportion.
  • Dab the mixture on the stain with a clean cloth. Blot it till it lightens.
  • You can stuff the shoes with some newspapers to maintain their shape.
  • Once the stain starts fading off, clean the shoes with a dry cloth and let them dry.


Mud Stains

If your work requires you to walk through a forest region or work in a construction site, your shoes will get laded with mud and dust particles. This can leave behind a trail of stains that can be removed in the following manner:

  • Remove the dry mud and dust particles from the shoes’ exterior surface with a brush.
  • Prepare a solution with detergent and water.
  • Dab a clean cloth in the mixture and blot it on the stains.
  • If the stains persist, make a similar mixture with bicarbonate of soda.

Note: The technique mentioned above is not advisable to be used on leather or suede shoes. Scrub the shoes with a soft-bristled brush instead to avoid any water stains.


Oil Stains

 Oil stains can be a real pain if you do not act promptly. They might last forever if you do not treat them almost immediately.

  • As soon as you stain your shoes, sprinkle some powder or salt.
  • Brush off the powder with a brush.
  • Repeat the process till the stain fades off.


Grass Stains

Grains stains are more prominent on canvas shoes and white sneakers. You can remove them in the following manner:

  • If you have grass stains on your rubber soles, rub alcohol on the stains in circular motions. Continue the process a few more times to get spotless shoes.
  • Prepare a mixture of baking soda and water in a 1:1 proportion. Scrub the solution on canvas shoes with a toothbrush to get rid of the stains.


Snow Stains

Snow stains are imminent in the winters. They can be treated through the following technique:

  • Prepare a solution of vinegar and water in a 1:2 proportion.
  • Dab the solution on the stain with a cotton ball.
  • Damp a cloth and remove any excess vinegar.
  • Use a dry cloth to clean the shoes.


Ink Stains

It can be a nightmare to see ink stains on your shoes, especially on your white canvas. However, not worry as they can be removed in the following way:

  • Prepare a solution by mixing one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar, one tablespoon of a liquid dishwasher, and 2 cups of water.
  • Mix well and apply the solution to the stained area using a cloth.
  • Let the solution sit for half an hour.
  • Rinse the shoes and let them dry.

If you have leather shoes, go for this method instead:

  • Take some amount of sunscreen on a piece of clean cloth.
  • Dab the cloth on the stain and let it stay for a few minutes.
  • You can also rub it in a circular motion to fasten the process.
  • Rinse the shoes with some water and let them dry.


Ways to Prevent Stains on Shoes

Cleaning the stains can be a real headache. But you can take the following steps that could prevent your shoes from getting stained.

Stain Repellant

Stain Repellant

There are several stain repellant sprays available in the market that works wonders in keeping the shoe sustain-free. These sprays work well for white shoes as well.

Shake the spray bottle and gently apply a thin layer over the entirety of the shoes. You can also spray on the insoles and the laces.

There are different sprays available according to the shoes’ fabric, for example, leather spray repellant.

Most of the stain repellant sprays will work on canvas or fabric shoes.


Water Repellant

Water Repellant

After applying the stain repellant, you must spray your shoes with water repellant. It will help in protecting your shoes from water and snow.

Like the previous type of spray, shake the bottle and apply a thin layer over the shoes. Let the boots dry before you start using them.

Repeat the process once in five-six weeks.


Drying your Shoes

Drying your Shoes

After cleaning the shoes, the process of drying them is crucial. You cannot wear damp shoes. Not only will that be highly uncomfortable, but it can also wreck the shoes’ quality.

You can dry your shoes through the following methods:


Dry Naturally

Some shoes are made with a thin fabric that gets dried up quickly. You can place the shoes in a well-ventilated area. Choose a room that has more amount of windows or doors. Do not keep the shoes in direct sunlight.




The power of a standard fan can be enough to dry your shoes. A typical table fan has the required intensity to dry canvas and fabric shoes. However, this might not be the best idea for leather shoes.

Remove the insoles from the shoes and place them separately. Take an old wire hanger and cut them into two 6” pieces.

Bend them in a way to form s-shaped hooks. Hook the smaller side of the fan and keep them at least 9 inches apart. Try the shoes and leave the fan on medium for two-three hours.


Clothes Dryer

Clothes Dryer

Note: This technique will only work for canvas, cotton, or synthetic type of shoes. Do not try this on leather shoes.

Place some clothes or towels in the washing machine along with the shoes.

Untie the laces and loop them over the top of the dryer door by keeping the shoes hanging inside. Set the machine setting to medium and let it run for sixty minutes.

This will completely dry your shoes for immediate usage.




If you do not want to put in any extra effort in drying your shoes, just stuff them with some olf newspapers.

Make sure that it has minimal pictures or dark ink printing. Stuff some crumpled-up papers inside the shoes. Wrap the shoes with a separate newspaper and tie them together with a string.

Place it near a window and let them dry. If the newspapers seem to be getting soaked with water, replace them with a fresh paper piece.




Fill a bucket or box with rice. Make sure it is large enough to accommodate your shoes. Place your shoes in the middle and leave them overnight.

The rice will absorb the moisture, and you will wake up to freshly dried up shoes.


The bottom line

Shoes are a crucial addition to anybody’s wardrobe. They are useful for protection, but they are considered a fashion and style statement in the present times. We must clean and maintain them to reap maximum benefits from a pair of shoes.

We hope that you are well-equipped with multiple ways to clean, dry, and keep your shoes stain-free. Ensure that your shoes’ material works according to the method in question. If you have any queries, you can contact the retailer or manufacturer about the same. Do not take any chances when it comes to shoes and clean them regularly so that you can use them for an extended period.

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