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How To Wash Shoes By Hand (Best Results!)

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Shoes tend to get dirty quite easily, especially if you wear them on a regular basis. Regardless of the lifestyle you follow, excess dirt and grime find a way to markup your favorite footwear. Here are simple steps to wash shoes by hand and make them look brand new again.

If you are looking for the best results, then I recommend learning how to wash shoes by hand. Shoe cleaning is a task that is required to maintain your overall fashionable look.

Washing shoes by hand is the safest and easiest method to achieve squeaky-clean footwear every time. Let’s discuss the most effective steps to take in order for you to quickly hand wash shoes at home.

However, there is a quick caveat that I must mention beforehand. Some shoes are simply beyond repair. No matter how much you work on them, they are destined for a better place.

Or maybe it’s just best to clean smelly shoes and use them for outdoor chores and DIY craft projects. Either way, you’re in the right place so let’s get started!

dirty boots soles

How To Wash Shoes In Sink

If you are washing shoes by hand for the first time, then I recommend using a sink or rectangular bucket. The basin will help you avoid spilling the dirty liquid that results from the cleaning process.

Before using a sink to clean your dirty shoes, there are a few preparations to make in advance. Follow the detailed instructions in order so that you don’t miss a step. We are going to cover the ins and outs of the entire process so that you make your shoes look like new once again.

Prepare a cleaning solution: Block the sink drain and fill it with warm water. Add some DIY shoe cleaner and create a soapy solution. The soapsuds help penetrate the exterior as well as the interior of shoes.

Remove and clean shoelaces: Remove the laces and clean them separately. This makes it much easier to fully address the laces, and also get inside the shoe tongue and toe box.

Use the cleaning solution to scrub the shoelaces with a soapy brush. Rinse the laces and hang them to air dry. Wait until the shoes are completely dried before inserting them back into place.

Shoelaces can be the dirtiest part of a shoe. This guide thoroughly details how to clean specific types of shoelaces so that you prevent the accumulation of bacteria, dirt and grime.

Remove and clean insoles: Remove the insoles and wash them separately. When the insole is removed, it is much easier to get inside the toe box of the shoe. In addition, the shoe will dry out much more evenly when there is no moisture trapped underneath the insole.

Use the solution and a rag or soft brush to scrub the insoles gently. Afterwards, rinse the insoles and air dry. Wait until the shoes are completely dried before replacing them.

Brush away dry dirt: Now that the laces and inserts have been removed, it is easy to brush away any dried debris. Wipe the sidewall, tongue and also be sure to empty out the interior.

Use a shoe brush or an old toothbrush with soft bristles to scrub the dirt and grime from the exterior of the shoes. Consider using a toothpick or similar object to scrap hard-to-reach areas.

Soak shoes: Soak your shoes in the shoe cleaning solution for 15-30 minutes. This will loosen the remaining filth.

Pro tip: For specialty footwear like leather, velvet or suede, it is best to skip this step. Soaking in liquid will damage the delicate material. Instead, use a damp brush or rag to clean the shoes by hand.

Scrub the shoes: Use a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub the shoes both inside and outside. Get all corners including the shoe tongue, toe box, sidewall and sole. Scrub repeatedly if the shoes have stubborn stains that are tough to release.

Rinse out cleaning solution: Use warm water and a soft cloth or brush to rinse out the cleaning solution. The water should run clear when the dirty cleaner has been completely removed.

Air-dry shoes: Air-dry wet shoes in a drafty area to ensure quick results. In addition, place shoes upside down in order to fully drain any moisture remaining inside.

Pro tip: Avoid direct sunlight or dryer machine because prolonged exposure can damage your shoes. Furthermore, ensure that the laces and insoles are completely dry before reassembling the footwear.

Now that you understand the basics of how to wash shoes by hand, lets cover a few details to make the process go smoothly.

How to wash shoes by hand

DIY Shoe Cleaner

Fancy footwear is a statement piece that improves overall looks and enhances a stylish personality. Therefore, we should respect our shoes by keeping them clean.

Usually, our shoes get dirty due to grooves and ridges along every angle. Hand washing shoe is a chore that takes time, but it is effort well spent.

Regular shoe cleaning can be quick and easy if you know how to wash shoes by hand using effective DIY shoe cleaners. There are a number of household products that can help us with the process.

How do you clean shoes with Dawn? Dawn is a concentrated dish soap that can also be used to wash shoes by hand. When done properly, Dawn is very effective at cleaning dirty shoes.

Mix a cleaning solution using 2-3 tablespoon of Dawn and 1 gallon of warm water. Remove the shoelaces and insoles, and then soak the shoes in the soapy mixture for 15 minutes. Moisten a rag or old toothbrush and scrub the shoes to release stubborn dirt and grime. Rinse with clean water and air-dry before wearing.

What household products can I use to clean shoes?

There are a number of other household products that work well for cleaning shoes. Reach for any one of these items if you are in a pinch and need quick-thinking relief.

The brief information provided will help you in a jiffy. Here is a quick guide for how to use these DIY cleaners for cleaning shoes.

Baking soda with lemon juice: Dip a toothbrush in lemon juice, and then in baking soda to effectively scrub your dirty shoes. Wipe off the shoes with a clean wet cloth after scrubbing.

Toothpaste: Wet an old toothbrush with water and add a pea-sized drop toothpaste. Use the toothbrush to scour any dirty parts on the shoes with toothpaste. Use a wet cloth to wipe off the shoes afterwards.

Wood cleaner: Take a non-toxic wood cleaner and pour some into the bottle cap. Now scrub the dirty shoes with the help of an old toothbrush. After rubbing it fully onto the shoes, use a wet cloth to wipe off the wood cleaner.

Hair conditioner: Apply 1 tablespoon of hair conditioner onto the surface of the shoes. Rub it into the rubber parts with the help of a rough sponge. Now use a cloth to wipe off excess conditioner after scrubbing.

White vinegar and baking soda: Mix a cup of white vinegar with a cup of warm water to remove the stains and scratches from leather shoes. Dip a rag into the solution and buff gently with a little baking soda.

Nailbrush and file: A nail file and fingernail brush will help clean stubborn stains from hard to reach areas. Use the brush to remove dirt, debris and also for shinning shoes.

Laundry detergent: Its best to stick use a mild homemade laundry detergent when washing shoes by hand. An abrasive detergent or soap can damage the material and construct. 

How To Clean Shoe Insoles

The insoles are generally forgotten about when spot cleaning the exterior of a shoe. However, when deep cleaning your favorite footwear it is beneficial to tackle the insoles at the same time.

Insoles harbor significant bad odor, so washing them is a must. Here are some useful tips for cleaning the insoles of smelly shoes.

Can you wash shoe insoles? After regular use, bacteria thrive in our insoles due to uncontrollable heat and moisture. Since you cannot prevent your feet from sweating, washing shoe insoles every so often is a must. This will help prevent excessive microorganisms build up that causes unpleasant odors.

Wash insoles separately. Start by removing them from the shoes, and never wash them inside. Air-dry them completely before inserting them back into your footwear.

Here are few tricks to help you clean insoles the right way:

  • Use a mild detergent mixed with hot water to remove any dirt from the insoles.
  • Scrub the insole with a small brush.
  • Rinse with clean water.
  • Soak up the excess water with a dry sponge.
  • Air dry completely before placing the insole back inside the shoes.

How do you clean stinky insoles?

Sometime the smell is extra funky, and we need an extra boost to be effective against the pungent aroma. The steps in this guide for cleaning smelly shoes thoroughly detail the process.

A 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water will be effective to clean stinky insoles. Soak the insoles in the vinegar solution for 5 minutes. Air dry completely, then cover the insoles with a sprinkle of baking soda and leave overnight. Shake off the baking soda to reveal refreshed insoles.

This is an effective method to clean and disinfect smelly insoles.

How to wash orthotic insoles?

Orthotics insoles are generally made with waterproof memory foams and structured arch support. They are custom made for your foot, and are also relatively expensive. As a result, it’s best to clean orthotic insoles with a mild approach.

Orthotic insoles are easily washed with a mild detergent or dish soap. Mix 2 tablespoons of soap with 1 gallon or warm water. Use a brush or rag to gently scrub the orthotic insole. Rinse clean and air-dry completely before inserting back into your footwear.

Clean smelling and bacteria-free insoles also determine the general health of your feet. Hygiene should be the primary concern for all of us. Take care of your shoes, and also your insoles as well.

How to Clean Shoe Soles?

Even though the entire shoe looks dirty, there is nothing filthier than a shoe sole. If you do not clean the sole of your shoes frequently, then this can affect the overall lifespan.

Simply because it is in constant contact with the ground, the shoe sole is easily the dirtiest part of your footwear. From mud to grease and grime, here are the best ways to clean shoe soles.

How do you disinfect the bottom of shoes? When the bottoms of your shoes are dirty, then you risk spreading germs throughout your home. Therefore, it is necessary to frequently disinfect the bottom of shoes depending upon your personal lifestyle.

Select a disinfectant like Lysol or make your own with 1 part water, 1 part vinegar or rubbing alcohol, and 5-10 drops of tea tree oil. Spray the bottom of your shoes and let it air dry to kill nearly 100% of the germs.

How do you clean an outsole?

Shoe soles are generally made of two types of materials, leather and rubber. Leather shoe soles typically signify higher quality, but that is not always the case. With proper care and maintenance, shoes will last a long time. Lets dive further into the details of cleaning an outsole.

How to clean the bottom of shoes to look new? Mix 1 tablespoon of dish soap or detergent with a quart of water. Dip an old rag into the cleaning solution and wipe the outsole of the shoe. If the grunge persists, then use and old toothbrush to scour the shoe soles.

Cleaning Rubber Shoe Soles

Rubber shoe soles are more durable and are able to withstand more pressure. When cleaning rubber shoe soles, make a thick abrasive paste comprised of 50/50 baking soda and water.

Start by wiping away loose dirt from the rubber shoe sole. Apply the paste to the sides, crevices, and ridges of the outsoles. Then, use an old toothbrush to scour all of the stains and dirt from the surface. Rinse the soles with freshwater and air-dry.

How to whiten yellow soles on shoes? There are a number of shoe sole whitening products on the market that will make your yellowish soles white again.

For the best results, use rubbing alcohol and cotton swaps to whiten yellow rubber soles on shoes. Moisten the cotton swap, and dab across the surface of the yellowed rubber. The rubber will immediately restore to its original luster.

Cleaning Leather Shoe Soles

Generally speaking, leather shoe soles are not for off-roading and therefore should be much easier to clean. Leather soles should be cleaned often in order to maintain their fashionable appearance.

  • Start by wiping away loose grime and dirt from the surface with a clean cloth.
  • Then, mix equal parts of water and white vinegar in a small bowl.
  • Dip a clean cloth into the mixture and vigorously rub it on all sides of the soles to remove grime and dirt.
  • Dampen another clean cloth with fresh water to rinse the leather sole and remove the vinegar residue.
  • Apply leather conditioner and work it into the leather in a circular motion.
  • Let the leather shoe sole air-dry for at least 30-45 minutes.
  • Buff the outsoles with a dry cloth before wearing the shoes.

How to clean the bottom of shoes to return them

If you want to return the shoes you have bought after trying them on a few time, then at least clean the bottom of the shoes. Mix a tablespoon of Dawn dish soap with a cup of warm water. Dip a washrag in the cleaning solution and scrub the bottom of the shoe. Air-dry, and then you will be ready to return the pair of shoes.

Use patience and follow any of the methods discussed in this write-up, because things can worsen in a haste. By going through the information provided in this write-up, you will learn exactly how to wash shoes by hand at home.

Can I Wash Shoes in Washing Machine

If hand-washing shoes isn’t your cup of tea, consider resorting to mechanical modes of operation. Some people merely do not have time to wash shoes by hand. For those in need of a quick fix, consider a washing machine to freshen up that casual footwear.

Important note, not all shoes types can be machine-washed. The shoes made from delicate materials like leather, satin, silk, suede, velvet or shoes with delicate embellishment will be damaged in the washing machine. Shoes made from polyester, cotton, nylon, PU, PVC and rubber can be machine-washed.

How to wash stinky shoes in washing machine? If your shoes are filled with a pungent aroma, then consider whether or not you can wash them in the washing machine. It’s best to wash your shoes separate from any other dirty clothes.

Remove the insoles and shoelaces in order to wash them separately with a 50/50 vinegar-water solution. Place the shoes in a lingerie bag or pillowcase before putting them into the washer machine. Run the complete washing cycle, and then put them in a sunny spot to air-dry.

How to wash shoes in front load washer

If your shoes are suitable for a washing machine, then a frontload washer is perfect for this purpose. A washing machine is a quick and effective way to achieve clean footwear.

  • Remove the insoles and laces. Place them into a small lingerie bag or old pillowcase.
  • Put the shoes into a separate lingerie bag, and spray with a stain remover.
  • Place in the washing machine without any dirty clothes inside
  • Add detergent and run a complete cycle with cold water and low spin.
  • Remove the shoes from the washer and hang them upside down to air-dry.

Washing shoes in the dishwasher

Washing shoes in the dishwasher can damage the construction and material if washed carelessly. Avoid any high heat settings and stick to a cold water wash without steam.

Before putting your shoes in the dishwasher, scrub away any loose debris with a stiff brush. Then, remove the laces and insoles in order to wash separately. This prevents any chance of them being damaged or tangled in the machine and possibly clogging the drain.

Wash the sneakers exclusively in the dishwasher because you don’t want dishes that smell like dirty shoes. Use a mild dishwasher soap and run a complete washing cycle. Remove the shoes and air dry.

Use caution when you wash shoes in a washing machine. Refrain from any heat treatment options and stick to cold wash settings. It may seem like an easy alternative to hand washing shoes, but the speed comes with a higher risk of damage.

How to Dry Shoes

Washing shoes by hand is the most challenging part of the battle. However, it’s also important to acknowledge how to dry shoes the right way.

When it comes to drying wet shoes, there are a few different ways to consider. Depending upon the type of material and the overall construction, we will discuss the available options and what methods work best..

Can you put shoes in the dryer? Although the dryer appears to be a good source to dry shoes quickly, not all shoes are built for the task. Stick to drying shoes made from cotton or synthetic materials, that don’t contain gelled or hard soles. You cannot use a dryer for athletic shoes with gel-core, Gore-Tex, clogs, and leather shoes.

While using a dryer on synthetic or cotton shoes, you should wrap the shoes in an old towel to disperse the heat evenly around the footwear. Run the dryer at low or medium for 10-minute cycles. Check the shoes after each duration to ensure no damage is occurring to the shoes or dryer machine.

air drying hand washed shoes

Alternative Methods To Dry Shoes

Since the dryer is not the best way to dry shoes, there are a few other options to evaluate. If you looking for alternative ways to dry shoes quickly, then here are the best methods to consider.

Hang upside down to air-dry: Find a drafty location to hang your shoes. This allows them to drip dry and also for air to flow freely around. Within 6-8 hours your shoes will be dry and wearable.

Use a fan: A table or floor fan will be extremely effective at drying shoes quickly. Loosen the laces and remove the insole. Hang the shoe in front of the fan for best result. The forced airflow will expedite the drying process and your footwear will be ready to wear in about 1-2 hours.

Use wrapping paper: Bunched up paper will help to quickly absorb moisture from within a shoe. Crinkle up paper and stuff it inside the toe box and heel of the shoe. In addition, wrap the exterior with paper and use string or rubber bands to hold in place.

When selecting paper for this purpose, avoid pages with pictures and dark colored printing because the ink will bleed onto the shoes. Use plain brown or white paper for this purpose. Change out the paper several times depending upon the extent of wetness of the shoes. Place in a well-ventilated area and your shoes will be dried in 2-4 hours.

Wash shoes by hand and achieve the best results by following the step-by-step information provided in this tutorial. Learn alternative methods to dry shoes quickly and prevent unwanted moisture from lingering inside the footwear. Wear shoes that are spotless and odor free so that you maintain your stylish approach in life.

Do you wash your shoes by hand?
Share your hand shoes cleaning tips with us!

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Monday 11th of July 2022

Thank you for such a thorough guide on how to clean shoes! I've never washed my shoes by hand before and this helped a TON in tackling our sizeable shoe rack this weekend haha.


Thursday 7th of April 2022

Great info regarding washing and cleaning our shoes by hand.