How to Clean Used Shoes: Best Disinfecting Methods

Written By Sunny

In most cases, used shoes need to be cleaned (of course!) along with the cleaning; they also need to be disinfected as coming off another person’s feet; they’re sure to contain unwanted guests.


To avoid an unwanted experience with your new footwear, better you clean and disinfect them. There’re plenty of ways to clean your shoes and disinfect them. You must be wondering, what are the easiest and most effective ways?

Worry not! By the end of this article, I bet you’ll get all the answers you’re looking for.

Why Should You Clean Used Shoes Before Wearing Them?

It’s essential to clean second-hand shoes before wearing them because they regain their new looks and freshness. The previously accumulated fungi, bacteria, and other viruses within the insoles are wiped out for good, too.

Better to stay on the safe side, eh?

Directions To Clean Used Shoes

Cleaning used shoes will ensure proper foot health, the shoes will get a new lease of life (in terms of looks), plus you’ll get an added level of confidence. In short, it’s a win-win.

Follow these techniques to clean used shoes properly.

Related content you should read about how to Clean HOKA Shoes?

Method-1: Start With The Insoles First


A vital component of any shoe that requires constant maintenance is the insole. You should be notably more careful about this part than the others as it has the unwanted potential of turning into a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.

Constant usage without cleaning the insoles results in the accumulation of fungus and bacteria. When it comes to your new (second hand) shoes, it’s an obligation.

Items Required :

  • Large bowl
  • Hot water (not boiling)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Nail brush (any stiff-bristled meeting could do as well)

Here’s what you should do to clean the insoles:

  1. Take the insoles out of your shoes first.
  2. If there’s any extra dust, brush them off.
  3. Fill up the bowl with hot water, add a few detergent drops and swirl until completely dissolved.
  4. In the mixture, place the insoles and let them soak for a minute or two.
  5. To work the mixture throughout the insole, squeeze them a few times.
  6. Now that the insoles are soaked take one of them at a time and start scrubbing them.
  7. When the insoles reach your desired cleanliness, wash them thoroughly in cold water to remove the soapy consistency.
  8. Rub the insoles using a towel or any clean, dry cloth to soak up excess liquid.
  9. Keep the insoles in an area that ensures proper sunlight and air.
  10. Completely dry them before placing them back in your shoes.
  11. Fungus and bacteria thrive in semi-dry/damp insoles, and you don’t want that, trust me.

Points to remember:

  • If you plan on using regular detergent, add in some lime juice as the lime juice’s acidity gives the detergent an extra kick, and you’ll get a better result.
  • It’s better if you can sun dry your insoles as the insoles get a crisp drying and get natural disinfection as the ultraviolet rays from the sun kill bacteria.
  • Let’s say you’ve come across some stubborn stains in this case, don’t be afraid to scrub harder. Keep an eye out for the heel and toe area as these are the areas prone to tough stains.
  • Toothpaste has a rapid response on tough stains, applies toothpaste to these areas, and sees the magic without worrying about any side effects.
  • Insoles tend to mold themselves according to a person’s feet if used over a prolonged period. When you come across such kinds, you better replace them; otherwise, you’ll come across an uncomfortable experience.

Some more guide on Clean White Mesh Shoes.

Method-2: The Washer Treatment

Particular shoes are cleanable in the washer without having to worry about anything. These shoes include sneakers, canvas, fabric, and running shoes. To be on the safe side of things, check your shoes’ labels to ensure they won’t be affected by the washer.


  1. Remove the laces from your shoes.
  2. Placing the shoes in the washer set the warm cycle option with a slow spin.
  3. Use a strong detergent for better results.

Points to remember:

  • It’s better to sundry the shoes as the washer’s heat tends to net the shoes’ smells. There’s also the chance of your shoes shrinking.
  • Use a laundry bag to protect them from the washing machine; they also work as additional scrubbers.

Follow our guide to know how to Stop Leather Shoes From Squeaking.

Method-3: Use Your Safe Pair Of Hands


You can’t clean every footwear in the washing machine. Materials such as leather, suede, and other delicate fabrics need a careful way of cleaning. Thankfully, cleaning these types of footwear is much easier with your hands.


  • Warm water
  • Large container/bowl
  • Soft brush/rag/sponge
  • Liquid laundry detergent/ dishwashing liquid
  • Clean cloth and towel

Here’s how you should clean used shoes with your hands:

  1. Mix water and few drops of any of the liquids (at your disposal) in the container/bowl properly
  2. Dip the brush/rag/sponge in the mixture and start scouring your shoes. Scour every area of your footwear, including the inside.
  3. Gently wet the clean cloth and wipe your shoes to remove excess soap from your footwear.
  4. Using the clean towel, gently wipe your shoes to soak up as much water as possible.
  5. You can use tissues to dab your shoes for better absorption of water (optional)
  6.  Let them dry in an open area with abundant air and sunlight. You can fan dry air as well; just leave your footwear under any running fan overnight.

Points to remember:

  • Have you got an oily stain on your suede shoes? Gently sprinkle some cornstarch over the color and leave it overnight. The powder does because it absorbs the paint and can simply brush off the powder the next day. Now, your shoes are good as new.
  • You can use a suede eraser or a regular eraser on suede fabric to remove dry stains.
  • To remove salt stains, mix one-part white vinegar one part water in a small bowl. Take a dry cloth and dip a portion of it in the solution and gently scrub to clean.
  • Suede is a delicate material and requires extra care. Always rub in one direction being gentle and use the least amount of soap/detergent solution you can.
  • While handwashing leather, you can use the least amount of water and go with a soft brush or sponge. Finish off the whole process using a leather conditioner.
  • If you’re unsure how to clean your suede shoes, it’s better yougo to a professional.

Check out the easiest way to Clean and Care Your Clark Desert Boots.

Method-4: Clean White Sneakers

White sneakers are quite versatile and popular fashion trends that need to be handled more carefully than other shoes.

Here are the steps to clean white sneakers properly:


  • White vinegar/nail polish
  • Gloves
  • Toothbrush
  • Cotton balls

Here’re the steps to clean white sneakers:

  1. Take a cotton ball and soak it in either white vinegar or nail polish
  2. Using the cotton ball, scrub the stained area
  3. If there’re large sections of stains, use a toothbrush to scrub the area
  4. Once you get your desired result, complete the process by rinsing the cleaned areas with water.

Points to remember:

Avoid direct contact with bleach at all costs.

Follow our guide to know how to Clean Velvet Shoes?

Method-5: Clean Flip Flops


You’ll find at least one pair of flip flops in every household. It’s worn casually and if you need to go to a place nearby, you can jump into your flip flops and make a move. It’s perfect for the beach as well.

Like other footwear, flip flops catch dirt too. Luckily cleaning them’s relatively easy and takes almost no time at all.


  • Warm water
  • Baking soda
  • Toothbrush
  • Clean cloth

Here’re the steps to clean flip flops effortlessly:

  1. Submerge the flip flops in warm water and keep them for a while
  2. Now remove them from water and sprinkle baking soda on the stained areas
  3. Using the toothbrush, scrub them clean
  4. Once done, wash them off with clean water
  5. Using the clean cloth soak up excess liquid
  6. Now let them dry in an open area

Points to remember:

  • Don’t be afraid to scrub harder if the stains are stubborn
  • You can use lemon juice with detergent and hot water depending on the material of your flip flops

Check out my new post on how to Clean The Bottom Of Shoes.

Guidelines To Disinfect Used Shoes

Disinfecting your shoe is very important as there might be leftover germs, and they’re unwelcomed. These unwanted guests cause odor and spread across your whole shoe. You may even come across fungal infections.

Method-1: The Bleach Treatment

Bleach is a strong chemical that makes them an excellent disinfecting tool. Always remember never to apply them directly and on colored shoes. Always dilute them with water before using them.

Fill up a spray bottle with water then add a spoon of bleach; shake the bottle correctly to mix well. Now, spray inside your shoes. Do keep in mind not to spread them on the outer part as you will end up with bleach stains.

Method-2 Use Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another solution to your problem. Can you use it on all sorts of footwear? Pretty much all.

Let’s say your footwear is a pair of sneakers or something made of cloth. How do you disinfect them? Just soak them in a large bowl of rubbing alcohol. After an hour remove them and let them dry in an open area.

If your shoes consist of a delicate material, then take a clean cloth, wet a portion of the fabric with rubbing alcohol, and gently wipe the inside and outside of your footwear. You may also spray this particular material onto your footwear.

Method-3: The Antibacterial Spray

Another way of getting the job done is by using an antibacterial spray. They shouldn’t be hard to find and are relatively easy to use.

Carefully spray the insides of your footwear while paying extra attention to the insoles. Allow them to dry properly before you put them on. Sprays such as Clorox and Lysol are quite good and should be readily available.

Deodorize Used Shoes Using Household Items

At times, just cleaning isn’t enough to deodorize your shoes. In such cases you need to add an extra element to your cleaning concoction or use a different item separately.

Here are some easy hacks to deodorize your shoes correctly.

Add Vinegar

Vinegar is well known for killing odors out of things, yes shoes included!

While washing your shoes with soap/detergent water add a small amount of vinegar to the mixture and you should be fine. For better results take a clean cloth or a rag, wet a portion with pure white vinegar and rub your shoes with it once your shoes have been cleaned.

Use Dryer Sheets

As good as they forgive clothes a crisp new scent they’re also excellent for freshening up used smelly shoes. You have to place two dryer sheets in each of your shoes and leave to do their job for a few days.

It should improve the scent of your shoes to a great extent. Just remove the sheets before you jump into your shoes.

Although you can use this particular item for all sorts of footwear, it’s especially recommended for dress shoes as soaking in vinegar will harm them.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a handy tool for killing odors. You can quickly deodorize your shoes using this humble item. Just put 2-3 spoons full of baking powder in each of your shoes and give them a gentle shake so they spread across the inside evenly.

Leave them overnight and allow them to do their job. Pour off the excess powder the next day, and you should be ready to go.

Tailor-Made Products For Cleaning And Disinfecting Used Shoes

The items mentioned above for cleaning used shoes are everyday household items. If you’re willing to spend some extra cash, why not give these products a try?

Disposable Wet Wipes For Shoes

With these disposable wipes at your disposal, the first thing you should when you go home is wipe your shoes down with them. They come in a handy pop-up package; just pull one up and use it to clean your footwear. They deodorize your boots as well.

Even though your shoes won’t be deodorized entirely, they’ll be free of germs accumulated on the surface. They’ll get an excellent shine and be free of scuff marks.

Clean Pro Adhesive Sticky Mats

You can describe these mats as a type of lint roller, only for shoes that is! You should roll your boots’ soles and sides on this mat before putting a step into your house. The non-toxic adhesive will effectively remove any dust particles and other remains from the surface of your shoes.

Clean Pro claims that the mats have the ability to contain airborne contaminants and up to 95% of particles at a range of 0.3 micron range.

It’s like using a lint roller pad, simply peel off the layer used up and start a new one.

10 Seconds Shoe Disinfectant And Deodorizer Spray

This particular item was manufactured to disinfect and deodorize your shoes only. Grab a can of this fantastic spray and carefully spray the inside of your shoes. This spray guarantees the elimination of the bacteria and the growth of mildew and mold.

SteriShoe Essential Ultraviolet Sanitizer

The SteriShoe Essential Ultraviolet Shoe Sanitizer possesses the power of UVC light to kill germs up to a whopping 99%. Once your shoes are inside the house, you just have to pop one of these products inside your shoes and let them do their job.

The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends it for its effectiveness against bacteria and odor.

Stinkboss Shoe Deodorizer, Ozone Sanitizer, And Dryer

It’s made for heavy-duty footwear, which soils heavily. Footwear, like cleats, skates, or boot, may consume a lot of time for the entire process of cleaning, drying, and deodorizing. That’s when a machine of the caliber of StinkBoss comes to your rescue.

The device distributes ozone molecules throughout the pores of your footwear which sweep up odor-causing bacteria then clean your footwear inside out. Using its heat, it can kill germs as well. StinkBoss guarantees the elimination of 99% harmful bacteria with its warmth and ozone combo.

The entire process takes as much as 30 minutes. You can even use this device to dry and deodorize your bags and other sports equipment as well.

Common Questions People Ask

How Do You Sanitize Orthotic Shoes Naturally?

You can use mild detergent or soap along with a soft sponge or rag. Once clean, allow them to dry thoroughly on sunlight. Sunlight is a natural sanitizer that kills bacteria with its UV rays. You should clean your orthotic shoes and inserts them regularly.

Can You Disinfect Shoes Naturally?

No, but you can sanitize them. Sunlight is a natural sanitizer, just keep your new shoes out in the sun for a few hours and you’ll be all good to go. If you buy your shoes at a yard sale on a hot summer day, chances are they’ve already been sanitized as they’re baking out in the sun for hours. Not bad, eh?

Can you use Clorox wipes to clean your shoes? 

Yes, you can. Contrary to popular belief, Clorox wipes do not contain chlorine bleach. As a result, they’re a brilliant option when it comes to freshening up used shoes.

Wipe your shoes inside and out carefully and leave them to dry. It’s very popular among sneakerheads.

Can Hand Sanitizers Be Used To Clean Shoes?

Yes, you can use a mixture of hand sanitizer and water to clean your shoes. Hand sanitizers contain alcohol that can clean scuff marks. Apply the mixture on to your shoes and scrub them clean.

Is It alright To Wear Second-Hand Shoes?

People who have a reduced ability to fight off infections should think twice before using second-hand shoes. On the other hand, gently used shoes, accordingly cleaned and deodorized, shouldn’t harm a new owner’s foot health.


Buying and using second-hand shoes are fine as they save you some money and in many cases, the money from your pocket is used to help underprivileged people. However, don’t be too excited and slide into your new footwear immediately.

Before you rock them, carefully clean and disinfect/sanitize them. You don’t want an unhealthy foot, do you? With the methods mentioned in our guide Clean Used Shoes and Disinfect Them Properly, we hope your job of cleaning your shoes has been made easy.

Leave us a comment below and let us know about your experience. We’d love to hear from you too. Cheers!

About The Author
Sunny is all about action and activities. He finds it difficult to contain himself. Be it motorcycling, playing football, or exploring the great outdoors, he loves to keep his legs busy.Sunny quickly realized the importance of footwear to keep himself going healthily. This was when he decided to share all his knowledge and expertise regarding different footwear and their significance.Now, he’s on a mission with this humble platform by his side. With time he plans on doing bigger and better things.Apart from his writing and other hobbies, he loves spending time with his cat Sophie. He loves to cook for his friends and family too.

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