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Shoe Cleaning/Protection Guide

July 12, 2023

Shoes are probably the article of clothing that gets the dirtiest. We wash our other clothing regularly or after each use but shoes don’t get the same treatment. We’re going to let you in on the easiest ways to protect and clean your shoes so they stay looking brand new! 

Disclaimer: Use these methods at your own risk: test a spot, check with your shoe manufacturer.

When you buy through our links, we may earn a small commission. 

Canvas/Athletic 

Most sneakers and running shoes are made of materials like nylon, cotton and polyester. These materials are durable so it’s safe for you to throw them in the washing machine.

Machine wash how to:

1. Brush/rinse off any excess dirt if they’re muddy.

2. Remove laces and place in a mesh garment bag.

3. Spray any stains with stain remover if they’re especially dirty.

4. Grab some old towels to balance out the wash load.

5. Throw shoes, laces and towels into the machine with powdered Tide® and OxiClean® to removes stains. Set the machine to delicate and to low/no spin and start.

6. Once done, take shoes and laces out and set them down to air dry (Place in a sunny area or on a vent dryer (USA) (Canada) to dry quicker).

If your sneakers are valuable, you may want to consider hand washing them. 

Hand wash how to:

1. Bring sneakers to a sink or tub.

2. Grab some powdered Tide®, a scrub brush/toothbrush and a microfibre cloth.

3. Find a bowl and fill it with hot water and about half a tsp of powdered Tide®.

4. Dip your brush in and scrub the sole of the shoe. A Magic Eraser® will do the trick as well.

5. Dunk the cloth into the Tide® and wipe the material of the shoe. If it’s really stained, gently use a clean scrub brush.

6. Grab a new cloth with just hot water and wipe down the shoe entirely to rinse the Tide®, or rinse directly under the tap.

7. Lay them out to dry.

Leather

It is extremely important to clean and properly take care of your leather shoes and boots. Leather dries out and needs to be conditioned regularly and sprayed to protect the material against harsh weather conditions. But first, you’ll want to clean them so that you aren’t sealing dirt into your leather. Begin by using a horsehair brush (USA) (Canada) to get rid of any dirt and debris. You don’t want to use any harsh cleaners or chemicals so just use water! Wipe the exterior with a damp cloth then follow with a dry cloth. Always follow with a leather conditioner. This leather conditioner kit (USA) (Canada) is our favorite.

Suede/Uggs

Suede shoes are risky business. They get dirty and wrecked VERY easily, especially when you live in a rainy or snowy climate. It’s extremely important to invest in a proper spray to protect them and to spray them regularly. Our personal favorite is this suede and nubuck kit (USA) (Canada). It comes with a cleaner, a protector and brush. Use this to clean and protect your suede shoes so they last longer than a season.

In all honesty, our favorite method for cleaning suede shoes is to take them to a dry cleaner. They come back looking brand spanking new.

We’ve also read that a 50/50 ratio of water to vinegar sprayed onto your nubuck does a good job of cleaning it, so we’ve been testing that out. It seems to work well, but proceed with caution and always test in an inconspicuous spot first.

Rubber

Rubber boots are easy peasy to clean! Make a small batch of powdered Tide® and hot water and grab a microfibre cloth. Wipe down the outside of the boots and they should look brand new!

Cork (Birkenstocks) 

Sarah is a huge birkenstock fan so you know we had to include how to clean them. Birkenstocks have a cork sole that can get damaged and worn out very easily. It is very important to protect your cork soles by using a cork renew (USA) (Canada), which will protect the material from water and prevent any cracking or flaking. Do this regularly depending on how often you wear them. For the leather part of the shoe, follow the leather method above.

If you need some help cleaning your other articles of clothing, check out this blog where we go through it all! 

-Georgia @GoCleanCo

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