Stepping Up: How to Keep Your Shoes Clean

Our shoes take us from the grocery store to the gym to across the country. They slog through rain, flip-flop through sand, and pick up bits of dirt and dust walking across the parking lot. From your trusty sneakers to your fancy going-out shoes, here’s how to keep your shoes clean.  

Hand Washing Saves Your Sole

Don’t even look at the washing machine—no matter how convenient it seems. Many shoes will be ruined by the agitation. Instead, every few days, keep your shoes looking sharp by wiping off dirt with a dry shoe brush or microfiber cloth. For shoes that water won’t harm, submerge in warm soapy water and scrub with a toothbrush or cleaning brush.

Be sure to remove any laces to handwash them separately—try putting them in a salad spinner with soapy water and pumping the salad spinner a few times. The salad spinner provides a gentle agitation that helps shake loose dirt, just like a mini washing machine.  

How to Keep Shoes Clean on the Inside

If you have insoles, remove and handwash them separately in soapy water. Once insoles are removed, gently scrub the inside of the shoe just like you scrubbed the outside. Spritz a mixture of half vinegar and half water in the inside of your shoe (vinegar is a natural disinfectant). If your shoe smells, sprinkle some baking soda in and let sit overnight.

Soak your insoles in a mixture of two parts vinegar and one-part hot water for a few hours. Then, dump two teaspoons of baking soda in a gallon plastic bag, place insoles in the bag and shake. Let sit overnight.

Boot Up for Different Materials

Here’s how to keep your shoes clean that are made from different materials.


  • Wipe off dirt with cold water mixed with white vinegar or dish soap.
  • For a stain that won’t come off, try a Magic Eraser® or a leather conditioner.  


  • Keep a suede eraser with you so you can quickly remove marks and scuffs as soon as they happen.
  • If you get an oil stain, shake baby powder on it to absorb the oil.
  • A soft-bristled brush is best for gently removing dirt and dust. Go with the grain, not against.
  • For a super hard-to-get-out stain—dip a cloth in white vinegar and gently scrub in different directions.


  • Dip a toothbrush in soapy water and scrub off the dirt and stains.
  • For a stubborn stain, make a baking-soda-and-water paste and let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse. Pat with a towel and let air dry.


  • These are the one pair of shoes you can safely throw in the washer. Use the delicate cycle with cold water and air dry.

Kick Up the Clean

These ideas show you how to keep your shoes clean inside and out. From running errands to dancing the night away, your shoes will be ready to sparkle and shine.