How to Clean All Types of Shoes so They Look New Again


Our shoes get dragged through the mud, grass and streets on a daily basis, so dirt buildup and stains are almost inevitable. But when you find a good pair of shoes that’s comfy and stylish, a little routine maintenance is totally worth it.

Keeping your shoes squeaky clean doesn’t have to be a big chore. Most of what you need to remove dirt and stains from shoes is already in your cleaning closet. If you’re going to invest in any new cleaners, prioritize protection. “When you apply a protection cream or conditioner to shoes it prevents stains, cuts down on cleaning time and helps them last longer,” says Carolyn Forté, executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care and Cleaning Lab.

When your shoes and their soles need a good cleansing, follow these steps and you can restore your sneakers, boots and heels to their original glory.

How to clean leather shoes

Durable, breathable and water resistant, leather is a natural choice for shoes of all styles. You’ll have them for the long haul if you follow these steps and remember to condition them regularly.

What You’ll Need:

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Liquid dish soap or leather cleaner
  • Paper towel
  • Water
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
  • Dry, clean cloth
  • Leather conditioner
  1. Remove and clean the laces, if applicable. See below for full instructions.
  2. Brush off loose dust and dirt. Hold the shoe over the garbage or take them outside, then gently move a soft-bristle brush in small circles, working top to bottom, to remove any loose debris. This will prevent your shoes from being a muddy mess when you wipe them with a wet paper towel.
  3. Apply a mild soap or leather cleaner. Mix a few drops of dish soap, like Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, into a cup of warm water, then dip a paper towel into the soapy water and rub all over the leather uppers to remove any remaining dirt or dust. Or you can use a leather cleaner like GH Seal-holder Weiman Leather Cleaner & Conditioner according to the package directions.
  4. Wipe clean with a damp paper towel. Repeat until the soap or residue is completely gone.
  5. Clean rubber sides and trim. Brighten these areas easily with GH Seal star Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. To avoid damage, do not use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on the leather uppers.
  6. Buff dry. Rub a dry, clean cloth over the leather surface to remove excess moisture and restore natural shine. (Don’t air dry outdoors, as sunlight can cause fading and excessive heat can lead to shrinking.)
  7. Condition the leather. If you are using soap to clean, apply a separate leather protector, like Furniture Clinic Leather Protection Cream, to keep shoes soft and supple.

Expert tip: Use a soft cloth or cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to safely and effectively remove ink stains or any dye transfer from denim or clothing.

How to clean white leather shoes

White leather shoes can be whitened and brightened following the same leather shoe cleaning steps above. If you’re dealing with tough stains on white leather shoes, try this cleaning trick: Dip a wet soft-bristle brush or even your fingertip in baking soda and rub gently on the area. Wipe with a clean, wet cloth and let air dry.

How to clean faux leather shoes

Faux leather may not be as durable as genuine leather, but the synthetic surface is as easy to clean. Keep in mind that it is prone to cracking over time and can take on odors, so addressing stains and smells quickly will help your shoes last longer.

What You’ll Need:

  • Soft-bristle brush or toothbrush
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft cloth or cotton swab
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Water
  • Paper towel
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
  • Dry, clean cloth
  1. Scrub the bottoms and soles. Use a soft-bristle brush or toothbrush to remove dirt and debris trapped in treaded rubber soles. Follow with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove scuffs and dirt from any rubber trim.
  2. Wipe down with soapy water. Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to a bowl of water then dip in a soft-bristle brush or toothbrush and use it to gently scrub the shoe uppers.
  3. Follow with a clean, wet paper towel. Repeat until all soap suds and dirt are gone.
  4. Let air dry indoors. Sunlight can also cause faux leather to fade and excessive heat can cause shrinkage.
  5. Condition to prevent cracking. Rub a dab of unscented baby oil or coconut oil onto the shoe uppers to prolong their lifespan.
  6. Sprinkle on baking soda to remove odors. If the faux leather has taken on a bad smell, sprinkle baking soda into the shoe, and let it sit for several hours or overnight before brushing or vacuuming it away.

How to clean white canvas shoes

how to clean white vans


If you own a pair of white canvas sneakers, chances are they’re your go-tos, which also means you know how quickly they get dirty. While it’s tempting to toss them in the washing machine, resist! Hand washing and air drying these shoes is the best cleaning method.

What You’ll Need:

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Paper towel
  • Water
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
  1. Remove and clean the shoelaces. See below for full instructions.
  2. Brush away any loose dirt. Run a soft-bristle brush or cloth along the outside of the shoe, rubber edge and tongue. Rinse the brush clean.
  3. Wash with soapy water and a soft brush. Mix a few drops of dish soap into a cup of warm water. Dip a cloth or soft brush into the soapy water and gently go over both shoes.
  4. Scrub out stains. Dip the soft-bristle brush in hydrogen peroxide or make a paste out of 3 tablespoons of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of water, then scrub until the spot has faded completely.
  5. Rinse in the sink. Run the sneakers under clear water to remove any remaining dirt or soap residue.
  6. Clean the soles and sides. Rub the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser along the rubber areas, turning and wetting the eraser sponge as needed.
  7. Stuff the sneakers with white paper towels. This will absorb moisture from the inside and maintain the shape of the shoe.
  8. Let the shoes air dry. If the paper towels get too wet, change or remove them to speed up the drying process.

Expert tip: Don’t clean white sneakers with bleach. It’s too harsh for use on white sneakers and can create a yellow tint instead of restoring them to their original state. Read more tips for cleaning white shoes.

How to clean running shoes

Dirt is usually the biggest culprit when it comes to mucking up your running and workout shoes. Besides compromising traction, which is important for safety reasons, stuck-on mud can leave messy footprints around your house. Avoid a floor-cleaning marathon with these simple steps.

What You’ll Need:

  • Soft-bristle brush or toothbrush
  • Skewer or toothpick (optional)
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Medium bowl
  • Sponge
  • Newspaper or paper towel
  1. Remove and clean the shoelaces. See full instructions below.
  2. Brush away dirt, mud and grass. If they’re really dirty, take this step outside and rinse with a hose. Use a skewer or toothpick to remove stuck-on mud from the soles, as necessary.
  3. Scrub shoe uppers with soapy water. Mix a few drops of liquid dish soap, like Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, with water in a medium bowl, then scrub the fabric surface with a soft-bristle cleaning brush or toothbrush.
  4. Rinse clean with a warm well-wrung sponge. Frequently rinse the sponge as you work to remove any remaining dirt or soap.

  5. Stuff with paper towels to dry. Keep the shoes indoors away from light and heat sources, which can cause discoloration or warping of the soles.

How to clean suede shoes

how to clean suede shoes

Getty Images

Spotting stains on suede gives most of us a case of the shoe scaries. But fear not! These tips will help you erase fresh stains and old stains from your new (or blue) suede shoes.

What You’ll Need:

  • White paper towels
  • Baking soda
  • Suede cleaner
  • Suede brush or toothbrush
  • Suede eraser
  • Garment steamer
  • Suede protector
  1. Quickly treat new stains with baking soda. Using a clean paper towel, blot (don’t rub) the stain on the shoe’s surface. Then, sprinkle baking soda on the stain and allow it to sit and soak up the stain overnight, then lightly brush away the powder.
  2. Brush or scrape away old stains. With a special suede brush or toothbrush, gently brush in the direction of the fibers to remove the stain from the shoe’s surface. If this doesn’t work, you can try dabbing a suede eraser on the stain to remove it.
  3. If a stain still remains, use a suede cleaner. Our experts recommend the Kiwi Suede Cleaner.
  4. Gently brush the shoes to restore the suede nap. The key here is to brush in the direction of the fibers, not back and forth or in circles, which can cause further damage to the suede. If you applied a suede cleaner, wait until the shoes are completely dry to brush the fibers. If the area is matted, apply low steam for a few seconds using your favorite garment steamer or hold the area above a tea kettle before you brush.
  5. Clean rubber outsoles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Wet the melamine sponge, squeeze out the excess water and rub on the outsole until they are spotless.
  6. Apply a suede protector. Try Kiwi Suede Waterproofer to prevent further stains or water damage to your suede sneakers.

Expert tip: You can use an emery board to buff stains out of suede in a pinch. If the suede is matted, brush in the up direction to lift the fibers and the stain. Read more tips for cleaning suede shoes.

How to clean patent leather shoes

Patent leather shoes are magnets for unsightly streaks and scuff marks, and they’re usually not subtle. Take action at home (or on the go!) with these tips and tricks.

What You’ll Need:

  • Pencil eraser
  • Alcohol
  • Cotton swab
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Liquid dish soap
  1. Erase any streaks or marks. Raid your office supply stash for a pencil eraser and get to work.
  2. Remove stubborn spots with alcohol. For resistant marks, dab with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, then wipe away with an absorbent cloth.
  3. Wash with soapy water to restore shine. Add a drop or two of liquid dish soap to a damp cleaning cloth and wash the patent surface clean.
  4. Buff dry with a clean, soft cloth.

Expert tip: You can shine up patent leather with a little petroleum jelly. Rub a dab on with a cloth and buff well with another dry cloth to remove any excess so it doesn’t feel greasy.

How to clean shoelaces

Let’s not forget about those grimy laces! You can place them in a mesh wash bag and then run them in the washing machine on a cold water cycle, or follow these steps to give them a quick refresh before threading them back through.

What You’ll Need:

  • Liquid dish soap
  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • Toothbrush
  • Hand towel or paper towel
  1. Untie and remove laces from shoes.
  2. Soak in warm, soapy water. Add a few squirts of liquid dish soap to your bathroom sink or a large bowl. Immerse the laces and soak them for about 15 minutes or until clean.
  3. Scrub stubborn spots. Make a paste of baking soda and water and scrub by hand with a toothbrush.
  4. Rinse with fresh water. Run them under the faucet, then squeeze out excess water.
  5. Lay flat to dry. Place on top of a hand towel or paper towel, then flip after a few hours.


Can I clean shoes in the washing machine?

It’s best to clean any shoes by hand, especially if they’re new. If you’re tight on time and want to refresh an old pair, you can try cleaning canvas sneakers in the washing machine but note they may shrink or lose their shape. Place them first in a mesh bag and add a few old towels to balance and buffer the load. Choose a delicate cycle with cold or warm water and a low or moderate spin speed. Stuff with paper towels to air dry away from heat and sunlight.

How do you clean the insoles of shoes?

To remove dirt and odor, remove the insoles and place them in a mesh wash bag, then run in the washing machine on a cold water cycle. If you don’t know if your insoles can be machine washed, you can also make a paste of baking soda and water and scrub them by hand with a soft-bristle brush or toothbrush, then rinse in cold water. Let air dry to prevent shrinking.

How do you get rid of salt stains from shoes?

Make an at-home cleaner by combining equal parts white vinegar and water. Dip a cloth in the solution and dab the stained area of the shoes. Rinse with a water-dampened cloth and wipe with a dry towel. Let shoes air dry.

Headshot of Taryn Mohrman

Taryn Mohrman is a freelance writer with over 15 years of experience writing for major consumer magazines, retailers and digital outlets, including buybuyBABY, Woman’s Day, Parents and Redbook. She also specializes in content strategy and business development for B2Cs and startups, and has served as a consultant for companies in the home, fashion, beauty, tech, kids and gifts industries.


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