How to Clean Shoes

How to Clean Shoes

Discover simple cleaning tricks for tennis, suede and leather shoes.

By: Jennifer LIfford

No matter how careful you are, it’s inevitable: Shoes get dirty. Follow these simple cleaning tips to keep your tennis, suede and leather shoes looking their best.

Tennis Shoes
Remove dirt, debris and scuffs easily with this quick three-step method for hand washing or throw them in the washing machine for an easy solution.

3-Step Hand Washing Method

  1. Begin by removing the laces. Use a cotton swab to remove the build-up in the lace holes.
  2. Brush away loose dirt or debris. Use an old toothbrush to remove any mud and dirt embedded in the grooves on the sole as well as for scuffmarks or other stubborn stains along the sides of the soles.
  3. To clean the upper part of a tennis shoe, use water mixed with dish soap or detergent to remove any stains, Rinse clean. Wipe your shoes off with an old towel and set them out in direct sunlight to dry.

Tip: Scrub the sole with an old toothbrush using rubbing alcohol or a thick paste made from baking soda and water. Rinse with water and repeat as necessary.

Washing Machine Method
Give tennis shoes a thorough cleaning by tossing them in the washing machine.


  1. Remove the laces and brush to remove any loose dirt from the edges or soles.
  2. Place the shoes and laces in the washing machine along with a few towels. Put the shoes and laces in a pillowcase to prevent any marks on the machine’s drum.
  3. Add laundry detergent as usual. Add a cup of vinegar to help disinfect and reduce any odour.
  4. For black or coloured canvas shoes, wash with cold water to avoid fading. Otherwise, wash on warm.
  5. When the wash cycle ends, set your shoes out in the sunlight to dry. Stuff the inside with paper towels to absorb excess water and sprinkle some baking soda over the insoles to help with any odour.

Suede Shoes
Easily clean up suede shoes with a suede brush (found at any department store) and some white vinegar.


  1. Gently brush off dirt using a suede cleaning brush, brushing in one direction rather than back and forth.
  2. Use a gum art eraser or a little white vinegar on a cloth (make sure to blot carefully over the stain rather than rub) for tough stains.
  3. Follow all cleaning with another gentle brushing using a suede cleaning brush (again, moving it in just one direction).
  4. Dry with a sponge or microfiber cloth. It is best to apply a suede protector following each cleaning.

Leather Shoes
It’s best to use a cleaner specifically made for leather (available at most department stores) to not risk damaging the shoe’s quality. Use a soft towel with the cleaner to gently wipe across the leather.

Tip: Do not place leather shoes in the sun to dry, as this causes discoloration.

Tip: For salt stains, mix up a solution of equal parts water and vinegar and blot the solution over the salt marks with a soft cloth until the stains are gone.

Don’t forget about cleaning shoelaces! Soak them in a bowl of water with equal parts baking soda and dish soap for about five minutes. Scrub the laces with an old toothbrush or nail brush. Rinse in water and let dry.

By spending a little extra time to clean your shoes regularly, you can extend their life. Additionally, there’s nothing like donning a new pair of shoes — unless they’re ones that have already been broken in!

Jennifer is the author of the blog Clean & Scentsible, where she shares her passion for organizing, crafting and home décor. She is a mom of two boys and enjoys coming up with fun activities to celebrate the holidays and everyday life with her family.


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