How to Clean Shoes: Quick & Easy

February 05, 2024 • Jamie Dorman

Dirty shoes? No problem! Whatever style of shoes you're dealing with, whether they're canvas sneakers, leather heels, or suede booties, we've got quick and easy solutions to get your kicks looking brand new again in no time. Aside from being important for hygiene and your overall look, keeping your shoes clean goes a long way in maximizing their lifespan. With these hassle-free methods and products for how to clean shoes, you can quickly say goodbye to stains and scuffs. Ready to put your best foot forward?

Important Consideration Before Cleaning Shoes

When asking how to wash shoes, many may tell you that the simplest method is to throw them into the washer. However, this is not advisable. Doing so is incredibly hard on shoes, often breaking down their glue or causing them to lose their shape. Plus, if the wash cycle doesn't completely remove the stains, it can actually set them further into the fabric, making your shoes more difficult to clean effectively. Plus, not all materials can be washed in the washer and require special care to maintain their quality and appearance.

How to Wash Tennis Shoes

Tennis shoes, typically made from mixed fabrics like canvas, rubber, and polyurethane, are extremely comfortable and versatile (why else would so many of us wear them day in and day out?!). However, they also accumulate dirt and stains a little too easily. Luckily, there's a tried-and-true way to clean them that requires just a few minutes and some basic items you likely already have.

Start by removing your shoelaces. You can toss those in with your laundry later or hand wash them as your shoes dry, letting them soak in the same solution you're about to make. Grab an old toothbrush and mix a few drops of mild dish soap with warm water. Even better, tear a strip from a Sheets Laundry Club detergent sheet and use it in lieu of dish soap.

Using short circular motions, scrub dirty spots with the toothbrush. Even if there's just a small dirty spot, it's important to clean the entire upper section. Spot cleaning leads to, well, spots! After scrubbing, wipe the entire shoe with a damp cloth. Avoid putting shoes directly under running water, as this can also lead to uneven drying (i.e.; spots). Finally, use a clean, dry cloth to blot the shoes, absorbing as much moisture as possible and air-drying them, avoiding direct heat.

How to Clean Leather Shoes

Leather, whether it's authentic animal hide or faux leather, requires some special care to stay looking nice. Make a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water, then dampen a clean cloth in it. Wipe the entire surface of the shoes, paying special attention to any notable stains or spots. Let them air dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Once the shoes are dry, it's time to work on removing any scuffs — an inevitable consequence of wearing any type of leather shoes. For genuine leather, it's important to use a designated leather shoe cleaner. Don't use any general household cleaners because these can seriously damage the leather. Follow the instructions on the container, which will vary slightly depending on the type of shoe cleaner you buy. Again, let the shoes fully air dry, then use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to buff out any remaining spots and restore the leather's natural sheen.

If you have faux leather shoes, the scuff-removing process is slightly different. This includes patent leather, which is genuine leather that's been coated with plastic or resin to achieve that signature high-gloss finish. For these, rub scuffs with Vaseline and then buff the shoes with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. If you have patent leather shoes that look a bit dull or cloudy after cleaning, spray them with an alcohol-free, ammonia-free glass cleaner, then buff them once they're dry.

Cleaning Suede Shoes

Suede shoes, and those made from very similar nubuck material, are timeless and sharp-looking, but they require a bit of extra maintenance. Ideally, you should give them a quick brush after every wear to remove any physical dirt or debris. Use a suede brush, which has short, soft bristles designed specifically for this delicate material. Even if you skip this step, it's important to treat stains on suede as quickly as possible.

Start with a basic pencil eraser for any dry stains. Yes, the classic pink eraser on the end of old-school No. 2 pencils! Often, this works really well to literally "erase" scuffs and other marks. However, it's important NOT to use an eraser on stains that appear wet or oily. You run the risk of spreading the stain or setting it further into the suede. For wet spots, blot the shoes with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to absorb the moisture. Let them air dry, then brush the suede and re-assess the spots. Repeat this process if necessary.

If you find an oily spot on suede, cover it with cornstarch or talcum powder and let sit for at least one hour. The longer, the better, so overnight is ideal. Brush the powder off, then use your suede brush to restore the suede. You may need to repeat this process more than once.

Regardless of which method you use for how to clean shoes when suede is involved, your final step should always be brushing the material with a suede brush. This restores the shoes' nap or surface, releasing any additional dirt trapped in it and keeping your shoes looking their best.

Make Cleaning Even Easier With Sheets Laundry Club

Picture this: the same ease and efficiency you applied to cleaning your shoes, but for your laundry. Sheets Laundry Club offers exactly that — a hassle-free shortcut to laundry and other household cleaning. Our liquidless detergent sheets are the epitome of quick and easy, saving you time and reducing the usage of harsh chemicals.

So, if you're ready to simplify your laundry routine, check out our laundry bundles for a variety of options, or take advantage of our subscribe and save program to keep your supplies well-stocked. Don't forget to visit our TikTok page for tons of tips and hacks.