Shoes are symbols. We can tell from a person’s feet something about their personality, what they do for a living, their status, their coolness. With your shoes acting as a message to the world, you probably don’t want dirty ones. Clean shoes are part of the first impression, so keep your kicks clean inside and out with our tips.


How to Clean Shoes


Leather Shoes

It’s always a good idea to first brush off any loose dirt. Use a toothbrush or any other non-abrasive brush. For dirt and stains, baby wipes work well on leather. Just gently wipe. Let the shoes dry (away from heat) before wearing them.


Suede Shoes

Suede is not the same as regular leather. Suede is made from just the underside of an animal’s skin, which makes it softer than leather and more difficult to care for.

Avoid using water. Water will stain suede and getting caught in the rain might be why you’re cleaning suede shoes in the first place. Instead, try brushing. Special suede brushes are available at many big-box and department stores. First fill the shoes with newspaper to give them some shape, then brush shoes first in one direction, then another. If this doesn’t work, many suede cleaning kits come with a suede eraser. Try that next.

If brushing doesn’t work and the stain is deep-set, lightly mist the affected area with water. Try to cover the area evenly and brush the shoe lightly while it’s damp. Let the shoe dry then brush it again. The water stains will disappear!


Rubber Boots

The humble rubber boot might be the exact opposite of the suede shoe. To clean it, all you need is soapy water, a sponge or a clean cloth, and to scrub until the boots shine. Be sure to let your boots dry thoroughly before wearing them. Odor-causing bacteria love a nice wet shoe with a toasty warm foot inside. To maintain an odor-free boot, combat moisture by wearing socks and storing your boots in a ventilated place with crumpled up newspaper inside. It takes a bit of scrubbing to get clean shoes; specially shoes made out of rubber.


Corduroy Shoes

First let’s get rid of dirt. You can do that by brushing, as we mentioned above, or by vacuuming. Remove the laces and vacuum the outside of the shoe using the brush attachment. You should vacuum in the direction of the nap. (Don’t know how to tell which way that is? Rub your hand back and forth on the shoes. In whichever direction the fabric feels softer, that’s the direction of the nap.)

Once your shoe is vacuumed, it’s time to wash. Fill a bowl with warm soapy water. Wet a toothbrush or clean cloth with the water and gently scrub in the direction of the nap. Don’t be too rough; you don’t want to crush the pile of the corduroy. To rinse, go over the shoe with a cloth dampened with clean water until you’ve removed all the soap residue. Blot the shoes with a dry towel to get out as much water as possible. Then let the shoes air dry completely before wearing them.


Satin Shoes

You want to be careful not to accidentally rub in dirt while you clean satin shoes, especially if they are very light in color. First gently brush away loose dust and dirt. Use a cloth dampened with clean water to blot dirty spots. Don’t rub or scrub! If you have stubborn stains, apply a tiny bit of dish soap to your damp cloth, rub into a lather, and blot some more. After the stain is gone, rinse by blotting with a cloth and clean water. Dab wet areas dry and, if possible, speed up the drying process with a fan or a hair dryer on its cool setting.


Canvas Shoes

Again, we start by brushing away the loose dirt. (With these shoes, you could also just bang the soles together outside if that’s more your style.)  Remove the laces and set aside. Use a wet toothbrush and soapy water to scrub the canvas. Rinse by scrubbing with a cloth dampened with clean water. Let dry.


How to Remove Gum

Method 1:

Place the shoe inside a bag (you don’t want to get your freezer dirty) and put the whole thing inside. Wait for a while until the gum is frozen. Once it is, you should be able to pry it right off with a butter knife.

Method 2:

Skip the freezer and cool down the gum yourself. Place ice on the gum and keep it there until the gum is frozen. From there, it’s the same thing.

Method 3:

Spray the gum with WD-40 and wait. In a few minutes, the WD-40 will have loosened the gum and it should come off easily.


Clean Shoe Insoles

Of course, one benefit of having clean shoes is that you look good. Another is that you smell good. Eliminate foot odor and shoe stink by removing the insoles and placing them in a bowl full of warm soapy water. Use a soft bristled brush to clean the insoles. Place them on a towel to dry.


Wash the Laces

Most people just throw dirty laces out, but maybe you’re attached or they have a super cool design. If you want completely clean shoes and have decided to clean the laces, here’s how: remove them and place them in a bowl full of warm soapy water. Let them soak for 5 minutes before scrubbing with a toothbrush. Let them dry on a towel or hanging up.


Confident with Clean Shoes

Now your shoes are ready to show off! Use these tips each time for clean shoes. If you have questions about cleaning certain shoe materials, see if our other cleaning tips might help.