how to clean inside of shoes

Fresh Steps: A Complete Guide on How to Clean Inside of Shoes

We often overlook the interiors of our shoes, yet they are crucial for foot health and comfort. Learning how to clean inside of shoes is not just about eliminating unpleasant odors; it’s also about maintaining hygiene and extending the life of your footwear.

This article will guide you through effective methods to keep the inside of your shoes as fresh and inviting as the day you bought them.

Understanding the Need for Cleaning Shoe Interiors

Shoe Interiors

The interior of a shoe is a hidden area that plays a critical role in foot health and overall comfort. Over time, shoes can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi due to the accumulation of sweat, skin cells, and external dirt. This can lead to several issues:

1. Foot Odor

One of the most common problems associated with unclean shoe interiors is foot odor. This is primarily caused by bacteria breaking down sweat, leading to an unpleasant smell. Regular cleaning of the inside of shoes can significantly reduce this issue.

2. Bacterial and Fungal Infections

Warm and moist environments, like the insides of shoes, are ideal for bacterial and fungal growth. Athlete’s foot, a fungal infection, is a common result of wearing dirty shoes. By keeping the insides of your shoes clean, you reduce the risk of developing such infections.

3. Material Degradation

Dirt and moisture trapped inside the shoe can accelerate the wear and tear of the material, shortening the lifespan of the shoe. Regular cleaning maintains the integrity of the shoe’s interior materials.

4. Allergen Accumulation

Shoes can also accumulate allergens like dust and pollen, which can be problematic for individuals with allergies. Cleaning the inside of your shoes can help minimize these allergens.

5. Discomfort and Blistering

Grit and dirt inside a shoe can cause friction against the foot, leading to discomfort or blistering, especially during prolonged wear.

6. General Hygiene

Footwear is an extension of personal hygiene. Clean shoes reflect a commitment to overall cleanliness and health.

In summary, cleaning the inside of shoes is not just about eliminating odors; it’s a crucial practice for foot health, comfort, and extending the life and appearance of the shoes. Regular and proper cleaning can prevent a variety of problems and contribute to a more hygienic lifestyle.

Preparation for Cleaning


Properly preparing your shoes for cleaning is an essential step in the process. By doing so, you can ensure a more thorough clean and avoid damaging your shoes. Here’s how to get started:

1. Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

  • Soft brush or toothbrush: For gently scrubbing the interior surfaces.
  • Mild detergent or specialized shoe cleaner: Choose a cleaner suitable for your shoe’s material.
  • Clean cloth or sponge: For applying cleaning solutions and wiping down.
  • Warm water: Helps in loosening dirt and debris.
  • Baking soda (optional): For odor removal.
  • White vinegar (optional): Useful for tough stains and odor elimination.

2. Remove Loose Dirt and Debris

  • Tap the shoes together above a trash can or outside to dislodge any loose dirt.
  • Use a dry brush to gently sweep away any remaining dirt from the interior.

3. Remove Laces and Insoles (If Applicable)

  • Take out the laces to ensure you can clean every part of the shoe interior.
  • Remove insoles for separate cleaning; this allows better access to the shoe’s inside and helps in thoroughly cleaning the insoles themselves.

4. Prepare the Cleaning Solution

  • Mix a small amount of mild detergent with warm water. If using a specialized shoe cleaner, follow the instructions on the product.
  • For natural solutions, mix baking soda and water to form a paste or dilute white vinegar with water.

5. Test the Cleaner

Before applying the cleaning solution, test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the shoe to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration or damage.

6. Set Up Your Cleaning Area

Lay down some newspaper or a towel to protect the surface where you will be cleaning your shoes.

7. Wear Gloves (Optional)

If you have sensitive skin or are using harsher cleaning agents, consider wearing gloves to protect your hands.

By following these preparation steps, you’re setting yourself up for a successful and efficient cleaning process. This ensures that the cleaning is as effective as possible and helps in maintaining the condition of your shoes.

Cleaning Methods Based on Shoe Material

Cleaning Methods

Different shoe materials require specific cleaning techniques to ensure effective cleaning without damaging the shoes. Here’s how to approach various materials:

1. Leather Interiors

  • Tools Needed: Soft cloth, leather cleaner or mild soap, conditioner.
  • Method: Use a soft cloth with a small amount of leather cleaner or mild soap. Gently wipe the interior surfaces. Avoid soaking the leather. After cleaning, apply a leather conditioner to keep the interior soft and prevent cracking.

2. Canvas or Fabric Interiors

  • Tools Needed: Soft brush, mild detergent, cloth, baking soda (for odor).
  • Method: Create a mixture of mild detergent and warm water. Dip the brush into the solution and gently scrub the interior. For odors, sprinkle baking soda inside, leave it overnight, and vacuum it out the next day. Allow the shoes to air dry.

3. Synthetic Materials

  • Tools Needed: Sponge or cloth, mild detergent, water.
  • Method: Mix a small amount of detergent with water. Use a sponge or cloth to gently clean the interior surfaces. Be careful not to over-saturate, as some synthetic materials are sensitive to water.

4. Suede Interiors

  • Tools Needed: Suede brush, suede cleaner, eraser.
  • Method: Use a suede brush to gently lift the fibers and remove dirt. For stains, apply a small amount of suede cleaner and use the brush gently. For small marks, an eraser can be effective.

5. Mesh Interiors

  • Tools Needed: Soft brush, mild detergent, water.
  • Method: Use a soft brush dipped in a solution of mild detergent and water to gently scrub the mesh. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth and air dry.

6. Wool Interiors

  • Tools Needed: Mild detergent, sponge, water.
  • Method: Dip a sponge in a solution of mild detergent and water, and gently blot the wool interior. Avoid rubbing, as this can damage the fibers. Rinse with a damp cloth and let air dry.

7. General Tips

  • Always air dry shoes away from direct heat or sunlight to prevent material damage.
  • Stuffing shoes with newspaper can help maintain shape and absorb moisture while drying.
  • For persistent odors, consider using a shoe deodorizer spray after the shoes have dried.

Each material has its unique properties and cleaning requirements. It’s important to follow these guidelines to ensure your shoes are cleaned effectively while preserving their material integrity.

Deep Cleaning Techniques

Deep Cleaning

For shoes that require more than just a surface clean, deep cleaning techniques can help tackle tough stains and persistent odors. Here’s how to perform a deep clean on your shoes:

1. DIY Cleaning Solutions

  • Baking Soda and Vinegar Paste: Mix baking soda and vinegar to create a paste. This mixture is excellent for removing tough stains and neutralizing odors. Apply the paste to the stained area, leave it for a few hours or overnight, then gently scrub and rinse.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda: For white interiors, a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can help brighten and clean. Apply the mixture, let it sit, then scrub gently and rinse.

2. Steam Cleaning

If you have a garment steamer, you can use it to steam the inside of your shoes. The steam helps to loosen dirt and kill bacteria. Be cautious with materials that are sensitive to heat and moisture.

3. Enzyme Cleaners

Enzyme cleaners are particularly effective in breaking down organic matter like sweat and skin cells. Apply an enzyme cleaner as directed, usually by spraying or dabbing it onto the affected area, and then allow it to work before wiping it off.

4. Odor-Eliminating Techniques

  • Coffee Grounds: Place dry coffee grounds inside the shoes and leave them overnight. Coffee is excellent for absorbing odors.
  • Essential Oils: Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a cotton ball and place it inside the shoes for a few hours to freshen them up.

5. Targeting Mold and Mildew

If your shoes have mold or mildew, mix a solution of water and vinegar (equal parts). Apply it to the affected area, then scrub gently. The vinegar helps kill mold and mildew spores.

6. Thorough Rinsing and Drying

After using any cleaning solution, make sure to rinse the interior of the shoe thoroughly with a damp cloth to remove any residue. Dry the shoes completely before wearing them. Use a fan or air-dry them in a well-ventilated area.

7. Conditioning (for Leather and Suede)

After deep cleaning leather or suede, apply a conditioner to keep the material supple and prevent cracking.

Remember, always test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it does not damage the material. These deep cleaning techniques can help revive even the most worn-in shoes, making them look and feel fresher.

Drying and Post-Cleaning Care

Post Cleaning

Image source: Pinterest

Proper drying and post-cleaning care are crucial to maintain the shape, material integrity, and longevity of your shoes. Here are steps to ensure effective drying and care:

1. Drying Shoes

  • Absorb Excess Moisture: Before drying, remove as much water as possible. Gently pat the interiors with a dry towel to absorb moisture.
  • Stuff with Newspaper or Paper Towels: This helps absorb moisture from the inside and maintain the shoe’s shape. Replace the stuffing as it becomes damp.
  • Air Dry: Place the shoes in a well-ventilated area away from direct heat and sunlight. Direct heat can warp or crack certain materials.
  • Position Correctly: If possible, lay shoes on their sides to allow air to circulate inside and outside.

2. Avoiding Heat Sources

Do not place shoes near heaters, stoves, or in direct sunlight. Excessive heat can damage the materials and cause shrinking or warping.

3. Using a Fan or Air Mover

Positioning a fan nearby can help circulate air and speed up the drying process. Ensure the fan is not too close to avoid damage from direct airflow.

4. Post-Cleaning Care

  • Leather Care: Once leather shoes are dry, apply a leather conditioner to restore moisture and flexibility.
  • Suede Care: For suede shoes, once dry, gently brush them with a suede brush to restore the nap.
  • Fabric Care: If shoes are made of fabric, ensure they are completely dry before wearing to prevent mold growth.

5. Odor Prevention

After the shoes are dry, consider using a deodorizing spray or insert to keep them smelling fresh. You can also place cedar shoe trees or sachets inside the shoes for a natural deodorizing effect.

6. Regular Maintenance

Regularly air out your shoes and clean them as needed to maintain their condition.

7. Storage

Store shoes in a cool, dry place. Avoid damp or unventilated areas to prevent mold and mildew growth.

By following these drying and post-cleaning care steps, your shoes will not only be clean but also well-maintained and ready for continued use. Proper care extends the life of your footwear and ensures ongoing comfort and hygiene.

Preventive Measures

Preventive Measures

Image source: Pinterest

To maintain clean and fresh interiors of your shoes and reduce the frequency of deep cleanings, consider implementing these preventive measures:

1. Moisture Absorption

Use moisture-absorbing inserts or silica gel packets in your shoes when not wearing them. This helps in keeping the interior dry and prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi.

2. Foot Hygiene

Maintain good foot hygiene by washing your feet regularly and thoroughly drying them before wearing shoes.
Consider using foot powders or antiperspirant sprays if you have sweaty feet.

3. Rotating Shoes

Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day. Rotating between different pairs allows each pair to air out and dry completely between uses.

4. Proper Storage

Store your shoes in a cool, dry place. Avoid leaving them in damp, humid areas like basements or garages. Use shoe racks or organizers to keep shoes off the floor and in an airy environment.

5. Using Protective Insoles

Replaceable insoles not only provide additional comfort but can also be taken out and cleaned separately, keeping the shoe interiors cleaner.

6. Cleaning After Each Use

Wipe the insides of your shoes with a dry cloth after each use to remove any moisture or dirt.

7. Antibacterial Sprays and Deodorizers

Use antibacterial sprays or shoe deodorizers periodically to keep the interiors fresh and free from bacteria.

8. Avoid Barefoot Wearing

Wear socks with your shoes to absorb sweat and reduce direct contact between your feet and the shoe interior.

9. Immediate Care for Wet Shoes

If your shoes get wet, dry them immediately using the appropriate drying techniques to prevent the onset of odors and bacteria growth.

10. Regular Inspections

Regularly check your shoes for signs of wear and tear, especially the interior lining, to catch any issues early on.

By taking these preventive measures, you can greatly extend the life of your shoes, maintain a higher level of hygiene, and enjoy a more comfortable wearing experience. Regular upkeep not only keeps your shoes looking and smelling better but also contributes to overall foot health.


By following these simple yet effective steps on how to clean inside of shoes, you can ensure your footwear remains a comfortable, hygienic, and integral part of your daily wardrobe. A little effort goes a long way in maintaining the quality and comfort of your shoes.

Similar Posts