How to Clean Shoes: For All Types of Footwear

Shoes are required almost everywhere you walk, they’re the unsung heroes of day-to-day life. They are irreplaceable and as a result, there aren’t going to be many places you’ll be without wearing a pair.

Be it running shoes, walking shoes, formal shoes, sandals, slippers, the list goes on of all the different types of shoes that exist for all the different activities we do in our lives. But you have to ask, with all the beatings they take, how do we show our love back?

Our shoes do so much for us, and oftentimes, it shows. Our shoes get scuffed, marked, dirty, stained, you name it, a shoe has been it. 

Beyond just wanting to care for the shoes that have been with us through so much, walked so many miles, seen so many adventures, it can’t be stressed enough that the condition of our shoes serves as a representation of yourself.

Dirty or beat up shoes show signs of lack of caring, lack of hygiene, or overall bad signs – because if we don’t care to keep something so basic in good condition, what must the rest of our life be like? If you really want to get serious about your footwear, you could use a dedicated shoe cleaning kit to get the job done. Otherwise, household items can also do a commendable job.

It goes without saying we want to impart good impressions on others, and respect ourselves and our belongs. A first good step is to properly take care of and clean our shoes, pun intended. 

Things to Consider Before Cleaning Your Shoes

To begin, let us bring up a few things to absolutely not do to your shoes in general, before even mentioning cleaning processes associated with a variety of shoe types.

  • Avoid washing machines: For canvas, knit or mesh shoes, the washing machine is practically deadly. Contrary to popular belief, even the most gentle of washing machine cycles can damage or destroy the glue that keeps these types of shoes together, and at the very least, makes your shoe look more worn-out in general.
  • Lack of air: Similar to our own skin, decent airflow is helpful to a shoe’s longevity and looks. Letting the material breathe is crucial, so avoid storing them in ziplock or plastic casings.
  • Overuse: Probably the most obvious tip thus far, overusing a single pair of shoes can cause an irreversible amount of damage – to the point that no amount of cleaning can rectify. Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes over and over without a break, and try to rotate your selection of shoes often enough so they get the break they deserve.
  • Avoid wet feet: Wearing shoes while your feet are drenched is never a good practice because moist or damp feet can cause not only a plethora of health hazards (mold, fungi, etc) but also wear down the shoes from the inside out, eating them alive so to speak.
  • Remove foreign substances ASAP: All forms of liquid or semi-liquids like mud or plaster should be wiped off your shoes as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of some remnants sticking around longer than needed. This is especially true for shoes made of leather.
  • Avoid excessive heat: It is sometimes suggested that to make sure more comfortable you apply some heat to them, often via a hairdryer. If you want to keep the shape of your shoes intact, the opposite is true – avoid heating up your shoes. Even wet shoes should not be exposed to a heat source, air drying passively is often the best course of action.

With all that out of the way, let’s go through a list of various shoes and how to properly clean them up!

Canvas Shoes

Some of the most popular shoes on the market, perhaps in part because canvas shoes are relatively easy to clean.

A key trick is to use a quality foam cleanser that is specifically formulated for this type of material. Alternatively, you can use laundry detergent mixed with water to form a cleaning solution. 

Method of Cleaning (1):

  1. Use a brush with firm bristles or a toothbrush (Steel brushes are not recommended), and lather the surface until the entirety of the canvas shoe is adequately covered in foam. 
  2. Wipe off the foam with a damp and clean microfiber cloth. 
  3. Leave it in an airy place to dry off passively. 
  4. It is not recommended to submerge canvas shoes totally in water, as this can cause the sole to crack and loosen the glue holding the shoe together firmly.

Method of Cleaning (2):

  1. Baking soda and water paste can be an alternative to detergents, applying them to the stains and left on for anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes. 
  2. Dip a scrubbing brush into lukewarm water and try working the paste into the shoe to definitely get it in there. 
  3. Wipe it with a damp microfiber cloth and leave the shoes to air dry.
  4. Cheaper end sneaker scuff cleaners often get chalky after drying so it is better to invest in a specialty cleaning product if you’re going to look past your kitchen for cleaning solutions.

Leather Shoes

Similar to other skins, leather’s color and luster are best kept in pristine condition through conditioning. 

Method of Cleaning:

  1. Before you begin, confirm that the upper part of the shoe is cleaned by wiping a damp microfiber cloth across it.
  2. If there is a persistent stain on the pair of shoes, consider a weak organic solution of vinegar and water, rubbing the stain gently, ideally lightening it up. 
  3. Allow any affected areas to dry and then use quality leather cream or food that matches your shoe to seal it.
  4. Also, we recommend using a polish or wax on full grain leathers at least once a month. 
  5. If you want to get the best shine out of your shoes, try some rolled up nylon when polishing your leather shoes up.

Suede Shoes

We recommend before you even try taking suede out for a spin, to seal the leather with a water-resistant spray that is silicone-based, because once suede gets wet, it’s game over. No fixing that level of damage. The best you can do is get a bunch of newspapers up, ball them together, and stuff them into the wet shoes to try and absorb the water and keep its shape.

Method of Cleaning:

  1. If your suede shoes get dirty, a rubber eraser or suede block can be used to try and lift the dirt off gently. 
  2. Try brushing it in one direction using a non-wired suede brush, ideally soft-bristled. If you brush it in various directions, it can create inconsistency in the color. 
  3. After your rubbing and brushing treatment, seal the suede again with a silicone-based suede spray.
  4. We also recommend testing out any new suede sprays out on the least visible part of your shoe and leaving it for a few hours to see if there are any unwanted changes before you take the plunge in spraying down the entire shoe.

Sheepskin Boots

Compared to other leathers, sheepskin is often not as durable so it is recommended that you protect them with a sealing spray before taking them out, similar to suede. Also similar to suede, with light stains you should use a rubber eraser and rub the stain gently, followed by brushing in a single direction with a suede brush.

Method of Cleaning:

  1. If your sheepskin boots are really dirty, wet a towel with warm water and dampen the outside of your shoes. 
  2. Use a solution of 2 to 1, water and vinegar respectively, and gently scrub away stains with the aforementioned towel. 
  3. Wipe the solution off when you’re done with another second damp towel.
  4. Stuff your shoes with newspaper and dry them in an airy place away from excess heat or sunlight.

Running Shoes

Often enough running shoes consist of a mesh or knit as an upper material, so to take care of them is fairly straight-forward. First and foremost when it comes to taking care of running shoes, taking them off and put them on gently, loosening the laces as much as you can, and sliding your foot in/out to prevent excessive stress and creasing to the material.

Air them out after each wear and actively avoid putting damp feet into your shoes as that has the potential to become a breeding ground for fungi or mold. 

Method of Cleaning:

  1. Clean them with laundry detergent diluted with water and scrub the shoes until the foam covers the shoe in its entirety. 
  2. Rinse them down with cold water and avoid heat drying them 
  3. Rest them on a drying rack to air dry them passively. 
  4. As for stains on white runners, you can try nail polish remover or a vinegar/water solution and a cotton ball to remove it.


We have covered an extensive list of tips and methods to clean a variety of shoes, from running shoes to sheepskin boots, all the major shoe types are here and we hope this sound advice will get rid of your shoes’ stains and messiness as soon as possible. Try some of these out and see for yourself. And finally, remember that taking care of one’s shoes is more than just hygienic, but a sign of respect for oneself and their belongings.






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