Ultimate Guide: How To Clean Used Shoes And Disinfect Them Properly

Whether you love searching for second-hand shoes, or you avoid them like the plague, one thing is for sure: thrift shopping is fun!

Ultimate Guide: How To Clean Used Shoes And Disinfect Them Properly

In fact, many people enjoy finding one-of-a-kind shoes compared to heading to a fashion store and buying the same sneakers as everyone else.

You can purchase some wonderful shoes that are vintage, or just footwear that hasn’t been seen in stores for a couple of years.

However, buying used shoes means that somebody else has had their feet in them. If this puts you off, then there are many ways to clean and disinfect used shoes.

If you want to take the plunge and buy some thrifted shoes, then look no further. Here you will find the ultimate guide on how to clean used shoes and disinfect them properly.

So, let’s go!

What Things To Think About When Purchasing Used Shoes?

Before you purchase second-hand shoes, there are a few things that you will want to think about first. 

There are a couple of reasons you will be looking at used shoes, and that is the fact it is a great style of shoe, as well as being a great price – though the latter isn’t always the case.

As much as the footwear might appear to be a ‘steal’ at its low price, you will want to take a look at the shoe in its entirety. Over time, especially with leather shoes, the soles will have gradually worn down.

You may even find that sneakers have tears or loose threads, and sometimes there is staining on the fabric.

If the shoes need some repair, then you will want to factor in the extra cost. This is when the bargain price doesn’t seem so good after all.

If you are buying second-hand shoes from a website, then you will need to make a note of how they are labeled. It may say that the shoes are close to brand-new, or have a moderate amount of wear.

This means that the shoes are in good shape, however, if the description is very vague or uses the term ‘well-loved’, then it is often best to pass on these used shoes.

Ultimate Guide: Cleaning Used Shoes

Ultimate Guide: Cleaning Used Shoes

Here is a list of the materials you need and the instructions to follow in cleaning various types of used shoes:

Handwashing Leather Shoes

Leather shoes can be delicate, so for this reason, you will want to hand wash them only. 

What You Will Need

  • Bowl
  • Shoe-based soap or laundry detergent
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush or brush
  • Sponge (optional)
  • Cloth

How To Clean Leather Shoes

1. Fill a bowl with warm water and soap.

2. Once mixed, place the brush or sponge into the mixture and use it to gently clean the shoes.

3. Use the damp cloth to gently remove the mixture from the leather. 

4. Once happy with the result, let the leather shoes air dry. 


Insoles of shoes can be tricky to clean, but with the know-how, you will become a whizz.

What You Will Need

  • Bowl
  • Dish soap or laundry detergent
  • Hard-bristled toothbrush or brush

How To Clean Insoles

1. After removing the insoles, soak them in a bowl filled with mixed soap and water.

2. Once 5 minutes have passed, rinse them thoroughly under room temperature running water.

3. Squeeze out the water and use the brush to remove any stains.

4. Once satisfied with the result, hang them in a well-ventilated area or outside to air dry.

Machine Wash

While you would not machine wash leather, high-heeled, or suede shoes, you can use machine-washing for regular sneakers, fabric, and meshed shoes – or basic shoes with a solid structure.

Here is how to do it:

1. Remove the laces from the shoes and place the shoes in the washing machine.

2. Set on a warm cycle, as well as the most delicate cycle option there is.

3. Use a laundry detergent that has antibacterial properties – though this is only optional.

b4. Once the washing machine has finished, remove the shoes and air dry them outdoors if possible. Never put them in the dryer.

5. If you are worried about creases, add some newspaper to the shoes to help them keep their shape.

How To Disinfect Shoes?

How To Disinfect Shoes?

There are a few ways to disinfect used shoes. Here are some of the best ways to do so:

Rubbing Alcohol

One of the easiest ways to disinfect used shoes is by using rubbing alcohol. It will immediately sanitize the inside and outside of second-hand shoes. 

One way of doing this is by applying a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a cloth that is damp. Wipe the cloth onto every bit of the shoe. You will find that it dries almost instantly.

Bleach And Water

Another option to disinfect shoes is to use a small amount of bleach in some water that can be put into a spray bottle.

However, bleach can only be used on white-colored sneakers, otherwise, you risk ruining the color of the shoes.

Just remember not to use too much bleach, as this can cause the white to go slightly yellow. Once you have sprayed them with water and bleach in a room with lots of air or outside, you can then wipe them clean with a wet rag.

Let the air dry outside. 

Natural Remedies

If you would prefer to not use any of the above, then you can try using some natural-based remedies. 

This includes using a spray bottle with apple cider vinegar and water to act as a disinfectant. Just remember to wipe with a wet cloth after.

For any stains on white sneakers (Also check out How To Clean White Sneakers), baking soda does a great job of naturally removing them. 

Final Thoughts

Buying used shoes is always a wonderful option. If you haven’t bit the bullet of doing so yet, you will find that there are many ways to clean used shoes and disinfect them.

Hopefully, the above guide has helped you on your way to being used shoes savvy!

Jessica White
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